Thursday, August 9, 2012

Security for a larger tomorrow

SreeNair | 6:35 AM |

The most complex but flawless touch down of ‘Curiosity’, the inter planetary mission of US on Martian surface, heralded as ‘the engineering miracle’ marks ,a fete of outstanding achievement in robotic spaceflight and is a matter of pride for the whole world. The car-sized, one-ton, six-wheeled rover has descended at its targeted destination about 6.2 miles from the foot of Mount Sharp, three miles from the floor of Gale Crater located near the planet's equator in its southern hemisphere, shortly after 10.30pm Pacific time on Sunday (0530 GMT) .

The landing moments were tortuous for the NASA staff and were christened as the ‘seven minutes of terror’mission control engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Los Angeles were greatly relieved as the nuclear-powered rover fulfilled its eight-month journey traversing more than 350 million miles (57 crore km) with a speed of 13,200 miles per-hour (21,243 kilometers per hour), ie 17 times the speed of sound.

"I can't believe this. This is unbelievable," Allen Chen, the deputy leader of the rover's descent and landing team was quoted as saying. The blue shirts at NASA believe that the feat stands out unique in the history of robotic spaceflight, and is the harbinger of a new era in inter planetary exploration. President Barack Obama hailed the accomplishment as a historic "point of national pride."

The landing was a major initial hurdle for the project. In the final stage of the wheels down, the spacecraft fired up eight retrorockets to slow its descent, before its "sky crane" lowered the 900kg (1,984lb), to the ground on nylon ropes. Close to the ground, the vessel was slowed down further by a giant supersonic parachute. The rover was grounded at 1.5mph landing on its six wheels. Within seconds the rover beamed its first images back to Earth, greatly relieving the engineers at the mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.

The two-year and $2.5 billion Curiosity project is NASA's first astrobiology mission since the Viking probes of 1970s. Rover, the one-ton, six-wheeled, nuclear powered vehicle cost Rs.13,750 crores and is regarded as the first full-fledged mobile science lab sent to another planet. After the excruciating “seven minutes of terror “the rover transmitted a picture, relayed by another Mars orbiter called Odyssey, showing one of Curiosity's wheels on the planet's surface.

It all went squeaky clean ,perfectly timed and exquisitely executed.
Curiosity is the mission to find the presence of life on the pink planet. Curiosity powered by radioactive plutonium and lithium-ion batteries will over the next 687 Earth days(98 weeks) – or one Martian year –scout around the 154 Km wide ancient Gale crater lying close to the Mars equator .It will collect rocks and soil from the shallow sides of the mountain with its robotic arm having a scoop and drill and examine for the geological tips that could establish that the planet was once habituated.

Five years back on the triumph of ‘Phinix’ ,the NASA scientists proclaimed that the mission was the forerunner for the human footing on Mars. This triumph is also to be viewed in the same vein. Recently India had great strides in the Chandrayan mission. India also aims at missions for Mars. This NASA victory shall be an impetus for the Indian scientists. As such this victory is a great leap forward by mankind which will accentuate the efforts to frame a new world order based on collectivism and peace.


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