By Steph Solis, Staff Writer
This week The Daily Free Press spoke with Boston University alumnus Matt Heverly, a mobility systems engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory rover (also known as Curiosity). Between Heverly and some research, we found some interesting details about the rover and the planet it’s exploring.
1. Your iPhone has more computing power than the Curiosity rover
That’s what Heverly says. The RAD750 PowerPC microprocessor built into the rover’s computers seem pretty simple, but it can withstand the crazy environmental conditions on in space and on the surface of Mars. That includes high-energy cosmic rays that would obliterate a smart phone or laptop, according to CNET.
2. Mars is 17.5 minutes away…in light years.
In other words, the distance between the earth and Mars is 315 million kilometers, or 196 miles. The rover spent nine months—precisely 253 days—to get there.
3. The Curiosity rover cannot be stopped by the government shutdown.
The rover’s Twitter account could not continue, but the mission is still going. Contract workers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are in California and are technically employed by the California Institute of Technology.
However, the MSL team could be affected by a prolonged shutdown, spokeswoman Veronica McGregor told Mashable.
4. There are two Curiosity rovers.
Well, not really. The real rover is out there, exploring the Martian terrain. But there is an identical model of the Curiosity rover at JPL that is used for testing in troubleshooting situation and things like that.
5. The mission could take up to a decade.
The rover’s power comes from the isotope plutonium-238’s radioactive decay. It should last a full Martian year, which comprises 687 Earth days, according to an article on Space.com. Although the rover is expected to continue for at least two years, some say Curiosity could stick around for much longer.