August 17th, 2010

How To Drive On Mars Jalopnik

In “Packing for Mars,” author Mary Roach details the strange science of putting humans in space. In this exclusive excerpt she details how we’re practicing for driving on Mars in a remote and barren wasteland here on Earth. โ€” Ed.
Once upon a time, astronauts tooled around the moon in an open two-seat electric buggy. It was the sort of thing one might see on a golf course or at one of those big Miami delis whose elderly patrons appreciate a lift to and from the parking lot. It gave lunar exploration in the seventies a relaxed, retirement-community feel. That’s gone now. NASA’s new rover prototypes more resemble a futuristic camper van. The entire cab is pressurized, which is good, because that means the astronauts can take off their bulky, uncomfortable white bubble-head EVA suits. The NASA shorthand for a pressurized interior is “a shirtsleeve environment,” which makes me picture astronauts in polo shirts and no pants. If NASA ever builds an outpost on the moon,* astronauts will be undertaking rover traverses of unprecedented length and complexity. Teams of explorers will head out in two vehicles that rendezvous daily, finally returning to the base after two weeks on the roll. The new rovers sleep two and are equipped with a food warmer, a toilet with “privacy curtain,” and cup holders (two).

February 19th, 2010

Curiosity: NASA’s Epic New Mars Rover Jalopnik

Mars rovers “Spirit” and “Opportunity” were successful beyond NASA’s wildest dreams. Now they’re building a new, nuclear-powered Mini Cooper-sized rover to be lowered onto Mars by a hovering drop ship in 2013. Meet “Curiosity,” the new Mars Science Laboratory.

February 19th, 2010

NASA Putting Mars Rover To Sleep To Save Money Jalopnik

Although it might seem like a headline from The Onion, the story’s actually true. NASA’s being forced to cut four million dollars from the Mars rover project. In order to meet that requirement, they’ll have to put one rover, Spirit, to sleep โ€” a “hibernation” period. The team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) will also have to put the other rover, Opportunity, on a diminished work cycle. But in actuality, they won’t be cutting what Opportunity’s doing โ€” they’ll just be spreading it out over a longer period of time.

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