Friday, December 7, 2012

Curiosity Rover's Traverse through November 2012

This map shows where NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has driven since landing at a site subsequently named "Bradbury Landing," and traveling to an overlook position near beside "Point Lake," in drives totaling 1,703 feet (519 meters). The rover landed on Aug. 5 Pacific Time (Aug. 6, Universal Time). It was at the easternmost waypoint on this map on Nov. 30, 2012. It worked on scoops of soil for a few weeks at the drift of windblown sand called "Rocknest." The place called "Glenelg" is where three types of terrain meet. The depression called "Yellowknife Bay" is a potential location for selecting the first target rock for Curiosity's hammering drill.

All of these sites are within Gale Crater and north of the mountain called Mount Sharp in the middle of the crater. After using its drill in the Glenelg area, the rover's main science destination will be on the lower reaches of Mount Sharp. For broader-context images of the area, see and

The base image from the map is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera (HiRISE) in NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Image and Article Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Curiosity Roves Again

After spending six weeks doing science investigations at Rocknest, NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is on the move again to Point Lake and a place to try out the drill.

Source: JPL

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ultimate Mars Challenge on PBS

NOVA goes behind the scenes on NASA's quest to solve the riddles of the red planet in "Ultimate Mars Challenge," premiering Wednesday, November 14, 2012, 9 pm ET/PT on PBS. 

Can't wait this this airs...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Curiosity's Travel through Sol 56

This map shows the route driven by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity through the 56th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's mission on Mars (Oct. 2, 2012).

The route starts where the rover touched down, a site subsequently named Bradbury Landing. The white line extending toward the right (eastward) from Bradbury Landing is the rover's path so far, and the green line shows its planned future route. Numbering of the dots along the line indicate the sol number of each drive. North is up. The scale bar is 200 meters (656 feet). By Sol 56, Curiosity had driven at total distance of about 1,590 feet (484 meters).

The Glenelg area farther east is the mission's first major science destination, selected as likely to offer a good target for Curiosity's first analysis of powder collected by drilling into a rock.

The image used for the map is from an observation of the landing site by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) instrument on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Text and Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Sunday, September 23, 2012

President's Signature On Board Curiosity

This view of Curiosity's deck shows a plaque bearing several signatures of US officials, including that of President Obama and Vice President Biden. The image was taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the rover's 44th Martian day, or sol, on Mars (Sept. 19, 2012). The plaque is located on the front left side of the rover's deck. 

The main purpose of Curiosity's MAHLI camera is to acquire close-up, high-resolution views of rocks and soil at the rover's Gale Crater field site. The camera is capable of focusing on any target at distances of about 0.8 inch (2.1 centimeters) to infinity, providing versatility for other uses, such as views of the rover itself from different angles. 

Note the debris on the deck blown there during the landing.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


I like to collect robots just for fun. Here is one I found today and it a blast from my childhood. One of the popular cartoons on Saturday mornings was Hanna-Barbera's The Jetsons. Rosie was the Jetsons' robotic maid and was like a part of the family. We are still trying to achieve that dream. Maybe some day...

I found this Rosie at Toys-R-Us - complete with her duster - and couldn't resist.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Curiosity's Stars and Stripes

This view of the American flag medallion on NASA's Mars rover
Curiosity was taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI)
during the 44th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars
(Sept. 19, 2012). The flag is one of four "mobility logos" placed on
the rover's mobility rocker arms.

The circular medallion of the flag is made of anodized aluminum
and measures 2.68 inches (68 millimeters) in diameter. The
medallion was affixed with bolts to locations on the rocker arms
where flight hardware was once considered, but ultimately
deemed unnecessary.

The other three medallions adorning the rover's rocker arms
are the NASA logo, the JPL logo and the Curiosity mission logo.

The main purpose of Curiosity's MAHLI camera is to acquire
close-up, high-resolution views of rocks and soil at the rover's
Gale Crater field site. The camera is capable of focusing on
any target at distances of about 0.8 inch (2.1 centimeters) to
infinity, providing versatility for other uses, such as views of the
rover itself from different angles.

Article and Photo: NASA/JPL

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mystery Bag Contents

The Mystery Bag that I ordered from Parallax on their 25th Anniversary arrived today. It contained the following goodies...S2 Robot Badge $5.99, Propeller Sticker $.99, Basic Stamp Carrier Board $14.99, 3 Wire Connector $1.99, Basic Stamp 2 $49.99, PIR Sensor $7.99, SoundPAL  $14.99, Propeller Chip $7.99 - for at Total of $104.92. 

A great deal for $25.00! Thanks Parallax...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Curiosity's Travel Map

This map shows the route driven by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity through the 29th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's mission on Mars (Sept. 4, 2012). 

The route starts where the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft placed the rover, a site subsequently named Bradbury Landing. The line extending toward the right (eastward) from Bradbury Landing is the rover's path. Numbering of the dots along the line indicate the sol numbers of each drive. North is up. The scale bar is 200 meters (656 feet).

By Sol 29, Curiosity had driven at total of 358 feet (109 meters). At the location reached by the Sol 29 drive, the rover began several sols of arm characterization activities. The Glenelg area farther east is the mission's first major science destination, selected as likely to offer a good target for Curiosity's first analysis of powder collected by drilling into a rock.

The image used for the map is from an observation of the landing site by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) instrument on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Text and Photo - NASA/JPL

Note: Be sure and click on the photo above to see a larger image. The surface sure looks rough and it is interesting to see how Curiosity is being routed. What an amazing achievement!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mystery Bag

The Parallax Gang
It is Parallax's 25th Anniversary. Parallax is my all time favorite maker of all sorts of robotic and electronic products, kits and supplies. They are also leaders in robotic's education and staffed with the best and friendliest people anywhere.

They are offering a Mystery Bag for sale to their customers - the page says, "Feeling adventurous? Take a chance and celebrate Parallax's Silver Anniversary with this $25 Mystery Bag! Contents contain products highlighting Parallax's epic history to spice up your electronics collection. $95.00 worth of products for just $25.00!"

I couldn't resist... it is on its way and I can't wait to see what is in there!

I love waiting for something to arrive in the mail - especially when it is a mystery! Congratulations Parallax!

25 years of fun!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Figure Eight Challenge

This is a video from the end of the 2011-2012 school year. The GatorBots ( the robotic's club I help lead) took a challenge made by Parallax Forum member erco to program a robot to drive a figure eight path. To help judge the exactness of the path, erco suggested the use of plates. We added "scribbling" the path with a marker on our white board - so you could really see the path...

This is our video entry in the challenge as posted on the Parallax Forums. May son has a crazy cameo at the end of the video...

Curiosity's Footprint

I posted here that Curiosity's wheels leave a Morse Code "footprint" of J.P.L. as they roll across the Martian surface. This dashes and dots help with odometry and visually checking for wheel slippage. Here is a new photo of the J.P.L. imprint in the rover's tracks and a little tribute to the code in Bobak's hair...

Flight director, Bobak "Mohawk Guy" Ferdowsi, pays tribute to the rover's "footprint" by spelling out JPL in Morse code on his hairdo.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Martian Soil on Curiosity's Wheels

Soil clinging to the right middle and rear wheels of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity can be seen in this image taken by the Curiosity's Navigation Camera after the rover's third drive on Mars. The drive of about 52 feet (16 meters) during the 22nd Martian day, or sol, of the mission (Aug. 28, 2012), covered more ground than the two previous drives combined.

Photo and Text from JPL

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Curiosity Leaves Its First Tracks on Mars

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has begun driving from its landing site, which scientists have named for the late author Ray Bradbury.

Making its first movement on the Martian surface, Curiosity's drive combined forward, turn and reverse segments. This placed the rover roughly 20 feet (6 meters) from the spot where it landed 16 days ago.

Team members celebrate in the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Curiosity Surface Mission Support Area (SMSA) when images are received confirming the rover's first drive on Mars on Aug. 22, 2012. 

So, Curiosity has left its first tracks on Mars.

Only someone who has experimented with robotics can understand why a bunch of grown men would be so excited about some tracks... Although, they are tracks on another planet - made by a robot that traveled through space for almost nine months, survived a very complex landing and has worked flawlessly so far.

As you can tell, I am excited too...

Monday, August 20, 2012

New Favicon!

You might have noticed my new favicon at your browser tab. A larger copy is shown here. I designed the RUS logo for my blog Robotics Under the Stole. It is also a little tip of the hat to R.U.R.

R.U.R. is a 1920 science fiction play in the Czech language by Karel Čapek. R.U.R. stands for Rossum's Universal Robots, an English phrase used as the subtitle in the Czech original. The play premiered in 1921 and introduced the word "robot" to the English language and to science fiction as a whole.

Just so you'll know...

First Laser-Zapped Rock on Mars

This composite image, with magnified insets, depicts the first laser test by the Chemistry and Camera, or ChemCam, instrument aboard NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. The composite incorporates a Navigation Camera image taken prior to the test, with insets taken by the camera in ChemCam. The circular insert highlights the rock before the laser test. The square inset is further magnified and processed to show the difference between images taken before and after the laser interrogation of the rock.

The test took place on Aug. 19, 2012. In the composite, the fist-sized rock, called "Coronation," is highlighted. Coronation is the first rock on any extraterrestrial planet to be investigated with such a laser test.

ChemCam hit Coronation with 30 pulses of its laser during a 10-second period. Each pulse delivered more than a million watts of power for about five one-billionths of a second. The energy from the laser excited atoms in the rock into an ionized, glowing plasma. ChemCam also caught the light from that spark with a telescope and analyzed it with three spectrometers for information about what elements are in the target.

Text and Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Curiosity's Secret Message...

If you look carefully at Curiosity’s wheels, you might notice that along with treads, there are square and rectangular holes. According to JPL Rover Mechanical Engineering Team Manager Richard Rainen, these holes are actually odometer markers. Rainen said,“There are asymmetric patterns, actually holes, inside the wheels of the rover that will leave an imprint on the surface of Mars. We’re going to be looking at these imprints and verifying that it has traversed the distance it expects to traverse. If it looks like it’s not traversing, even though the wheels are going, that is an indication that the vehicle is getting stuck and it will stop and call back home.”

But back in 2007, when the Curiosity team at JPL was putting together the rover, its wheel cleats had a raised pattern with the letters “JPL,” leaving a little stamp of the rover’s birthplace everywhere it rolled. But the finished Curiosity rover wound up with a different pattern with holes and  the engineers got to make the markers in any shape they wanted. So what pattern did JPL choose to put on Curiosity’s wheels? The holes are in a pattern of short squares and longer rectangles - almost like dots and dashes. Morse code… And what does it spell out in Morse code? JPL!
J . - - - 
P . - - . 
L . - . .
The wheels of Curiosity will soon begin to leave there secret message on the surface of Mars. Software is being uploaded now that will allow the rover to begin moving about Gale Crater.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Curiosity's Self Portrait

NASA's Curiosity rover took this self portrait of itself by using its Navigation cameras, located on the now-upright mast. The camera snapped pictures 360-degrees around the rover, while pointing down at the rover deck, up and straight ahead. 

Curiosity's New Home

These are the first two full-resolution images of the Martian surface from the Navigation cameras on NASA's Curiosity rover, which are located on the rover's "head" or mast. The rim of Gale Crater can be seen in the distance beyond the pebbly ground. 

The topography of the rim is very mountainous due to erosion. The ground seen in the middle shows low-relief scarps and plains. The foreground shows two distinct zones of excavation likely carved out by blasts from the rover's descent stage thrusters.

Photo and text from here -

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Scene of a Martian Landing

The four main pieces of hardware that arrived on Mars with NASA's Curiosity rover were spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured this image about 24 hours after landing. The large, reduced-scale image points out the strewn hardware: the heat shield was the first piece to hit the ground, followed by the back shell attached to the parachute, then the rover itself touched down, and finally, after cables were cut, the sky crane flew away to the northwest and crashed. Relatively dark areas in all four spots are from disturbances of the bright dust on Mars, revealing the darker material below the surface dust.

Around the rover, this disturbance was from the sky crane thrusters, and forms a bilaterally symmetrical pattern. The darkened radial jets from the sky crane are downrange from the point of oblique impact, much like the oblique impacts of asteroids. In fact, they make an arrow pointing to Curiosity.

The Curiosity rover is approximately 4,900 feet (1,500 meters) away from the heat shield; about 2,020 feet (615 meters) away from the parachute and back shell; and approximately 2,100 feet (650 meters) away from the discoloration consistent with the impact of the sky crane.

Text and Photo from

First Color Image from Mars by Curiosity

This view of the landscape to the north of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on the afternoon of the first day after landing. (The team calls this day Sol 1, which is the first Martian day of operations; Sol 1 began on Aug. 6, 2012.)

In the distance, the image shows the north wall and rim of Gale Crater. The image is murky because the MAHLI’s removable dust cover is apparently coated with dust blown onto the camera during the rover’s terminal descent. Images taken without the dust cover in place are expected during checkout of the robotic arm in coming weeks.

Mars Robot Size Comparison

Take a look at this size comparison of the robots sent to Mars...It explains why Spirit, Opportunity and Sojourner could use the bouncing balloon (airbag) landing and Curiosity used the sky-crane landing. Curiosity's EDL (Entry, Descent and Landing) also allowed for much greater accuracy in hitting a particular landing site.

Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) mockup (right) compared with the Mars Exploration Rover (Spirit/Opportunity) (left) and Sojourner Rover (center) by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Wheel size comparison: Sojourner, Mars Exploration Rover (Spirit/Opportunity), Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity).

Monday, August 6, 2012


Why is the Mars Curiosity Rover so interesting to me? Because it is the most sophisticated robotic planetary explorer ever built or conceived. Everything about it is hard to do. It also bears a name that means so much to me.

See the quote from Walt Disney to the right (and below)...It is kind of the theme of my blog and something that I think captures the whole idea of why we should try new things and always be learning...It was featured in Disney's animated film Meet the Robinsons.

"We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." - Walt Disney

A Toast to JPL Curiosity Mission Control

JPL mission controllers broke out jars of peanuts shortly before Curiosity's landing. It’s a tradition before critical mission events that started with the first successful Ranger mission to the moon in the 1960s. A JPL staffer was eating peanuts at the time, so the staff figured the peanuts brought good luck! 
Looks like they worked again... Photo Credit: NASA-TV

Curiosity Has Landed - JPL Video

This is a combination of video and simulation pieced together to show the moment that Curiosity landed on Mars.

A Few More Photos

NASA's Curiosity rover and its parachute were spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as Curiosity descended to the surface. Amazing!

Curiosity was steered to this particular landing area during Entry Descent and Landing (EDL).

First Photos

The team a JPL celebrate just after Curiosity's landing.

Moments later, the first photos arrive...
Curiosity takes a photo of its own shadow.

Complete information is here -

Curiosity Lands on Mars!

Curiosity is now safely on Mars! The first thumbnail images have just come in. Now the real adventure begins... Just the lannding is a great achievement though.

I watched it all live on NASA TV.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

More Curiosity Coolness...

Another amazing NASA animation of Curiosity in action.

See more here - This is also where the live feed will begin on Sunday, August 5, 2012 at 10:31 p.m. PDT - that is Monday, August 6, 2012 at 12:31 a.m. CDT, my time zone. I'll be watching! Will you?

Seven Minutes of Terror Coming Soon

Curiosity touches down soon... I am so excited about this!

I plan to watch live on Sunday night - actually Monday morning...

People often say NASA spends too much and does things that are crazy and too complicated. But, they still do amazing things...

Think how much Spirit and Opportunity exceeded expectations. The fact that there are robots made on earth rolling around on another planet blows my mind! I would love to be a tiny part of such a project.

With robotics, I still think that it is possible - there is so much left to accomplish - who knows who might contribute something important - It is a reminder to me an other amateurs to get to work!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Happy 4th of July

A little Independence Day message from Parallax and Grand Idea Studio's new Emic 2 Text-to-Speech Module. You can read more about the device here. It is priced at only $59.95.

And now to celebrate our nation independence, click here.