Curiosity has landed on the Red Planet. NASA officials decided to spend Curiosity’s first weekend on Mars to push a software update that would give the rover pointers on how to drive on Mars. These updates will prepare it for tasks it will be performing going forward that includes driving and the use of its robotic arm.
The software update began on August 10th and ended on August 13th, and included the installation of a new version of the software on both the rover’s redundant main computers. The Mars surface operations software was uploaded into memory during the flight from Earth.
According to the chief software engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory mission at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Ben Cichy, the mission had been designed to upgrade the software in different phases of the mission.
He said that the flight software version Curiosity had was really focused on landing the vehicle and included many capabilities not needed now. He added that the software gives the “basic capabilities for operating the rover on the surface, but we have planned all along to switch over after landing to a version of flight software that is really optimized for surface operations.”
The new software update comes with image processing capabilities that have the ability to check obstacles, giving Curiosity more autonomy in being able to identify and avoid potential hazards. Curiosity carries 10 science instruments which are 15 times as large as those on Spirit and Opportunity, predecessors of Curiosity on Mars. Some new tools include the laser-firing instrument that checks a rock’s elemental composition from a distance. Curiosity is also twice as long and five times as heavy as its predecessors.
In the meantime, scientists are still analyzing images taken of Gale Crater, the landing site for Curiosity. Observations from orbit have already been able to indicate a wet history on Mars.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman