Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mars Rover Engineer Looks to Moon Rovers

Brian Wilcox, a man who worked on the Spirit and Opportunity Rovers that are still working on Mars are now looking at making another rover for exploring the Moon. People have been to the moon so why are we going back? In the 1960s, the Soviet Union (now Russia) and the United States were in a race to the Moon. In 1969, man landed on the moon with Apollo 11 and Neil Armstrong. In 1972, Apollo 17 was the last US mission to the moon. We stopped making the rockets that got us to the Moon and have used the Space Shuttle ever since. The Shuttle can only circle the Earth.
Now we are in another space race to go back to the Moon. China, India, and the European Space Agency have sent probes to study the moon. We no longer have the ability to make the old Apollo rockets and we have to start again. Robots will go back before man. For 9 questions about Robotics and NASA look here.

Mission to Mars November 17th Update

On Monday, November 17th, we had four students that stayed for Robotics. We worked on our rovers and looked at our Mars cards and tried to stay inside the their budget. The challenges were many but progress was made. We will see what Monday brings next week.

We're Doing This Contest!

From NASA News Service this morning - NASA & Disney are sponsoring a contest to name the Mars Science Laboratory.
What's that? You never heard of the Mars Science Laboratory? Well it's the next generation Rover Robot set to launch in 2009. Don't worry - Look for a report about it from Taylor posted here very soon!
Anyway, about the contest - Go here for more info:
The winner gets a trip to the Jet Propulsion Lab in California so sign their name on the Rover! So get thinking of a catchy name!

The Pictures Get Better....

Yesterday we posted a picture from ISS of the tail of Endeavour. Today's is even more spectacular.... Click on it to view it in a larger window.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Very Cool Picture!

Posted by the NASA news service today - Check it out -

Quoting the NASA News Service link: "The International Space Station's Expedition 18 crew provided a close-up view of Endeavour's tail section. The image provides partial views of the shuttle's main engines, orbital maneuvering system pods, vertical stabilizer, the payload bay door panels and the Leonard Multi-Purpose Logistics Module located in the cargo bay.
Before docking with the station, astronaut Chris Ferguson, STS-126 commander, flew the shuttle through a roll pitch maneuver or basically a backflip to allow the space station crew a good view of Endeavour's heat shield. Using digital still cameras equipped with both 400 and 800 millimeter lenses, the station crew took a number of photos of the shuttle's thermal protection system and sent them down to teams on the ground for analysis. A 400 millimeter lens was used for this image."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shuttle Endeavour Now Docked With ISS

Did anyone watch the Endeavour (STS-126) launch Friday evening? Check out for all the details. Go here for a fun space shuttle activity:
You'll be asked a series of question about either STS-125 or STS-126 (the mission currently underway). If you answer them all correctly you get to print a cool certificate making you an official Mission Planner for NASA. If anyone brings one of these certificates to our meetings, with their name on it, I'll give them a prize. Good luck and keep following the mission.
I show the ISS & Shuttle will pass overhead this Weds., around 5:45pm-5:55pm, again on Thurs. around 6:10pm - 6:20pm, and on Saturday around 5:25pm - 5:35pm. It looks like a very bright star traveling quickly across the sky. When the shuttle is docked with ISS it's particularly bright. I always think it's kind of neat that the little bright dot has ten people on it!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Latest News on the Phoenix Probe

Mars Phoenix Lander Finishes Successful Work on Red Planet
11.10.08 NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander ceased communications after working for more than five months. As guessed, seasonal decline in sunshine at the robot's arctic landing site is not providing enough sunlight for the solar arrays to get the power that is necessary to charge the batteries to operate the lander's instruments.
Mission engineers last got a signal from the lander on November 2nd. Phoenix, in additon to shorter daylight, has gotten a dustier sky. More clouds and lower temperatures as the northern Mars summer comes on autumn. The mission exceeded its planned operation life to conduct and return the science data.
The project team will be listening carefully for the next couple of weeks to see if the Phoenix revives and phones home. :-) However, engineers think now that that is unlikely because of the worsening weather on Mars. While the spacecraft's work has ended, the analysis of data from the instruments is at its earliest stages.

The Mission to Mars Begins Nov. 10, 2008

Today we all met and received our mission briefing. We began by reading the expectations of what we had to do and began planning how to get to Mars. We need a rocket, rover , and many other things to make it happen. The mission brief is below:

Jonesboro Robotics Club Mission 001 – From Earth To Mars And Back

Our first mission is to build a Robot capable of traveling from “Earth” to “Mars” and then return to “Earth”. This won’t be a “competition” in the sense you’re used to – There’s no best way or right way to do the job. You should all share your ideas and help each other achieve the final goal of getting your “Spacecraft” to Mars and bringing it home.
There are several things we hope you’ll take away from this:
A) Learn some of the aspects of spacecraft design and about the scientific missions (past & present) going on Mars now.
B) Learn to start building more functional Robots – Ones that are built for a specific purpose and don’t rely so much on flashy disco balls, fire wings and LEGO mini-figures.
C) While programming you’ll learn to record data from sensors (data-log) and make the Robot perform a series of actions to navigate from one place to another.
Each person or group will be given a RCX, 2 motors and a deck of Marsbound cards to help in your design, along with the attached Spacecraft Design Log Sheet. The final design of each Robot will also have a temperature and light sensor attached to provide real data which will be recorded by the RCX.
The Marsbound cards feature pictures and information about the various components that go into an interplanetary spacecraft. They give a weight, power usage number, and cost. You’ll need to design your spacecraft to fit into the mission “budget” of $250,000,000 (250 Million Dollars!). You’ll also need to be mindful of the weight of your craft, so that your rocket can lift it, and the power usage of the components you attach, making sure your ship can generate enough power. Each component you choose to add from the cards (except for the rocket, which is the RCX and motors) will need to be built from LEGO pieces and attached to your spacecraft, securely, and so they don’t block the functions of other components.
Finally – to stir things up just a little more – each group will draw one of the six Green cards, laid face down. Three of these will add money to your budget – the other three cause you headaches! Good luck to all!

Hopefully you will be successful. Keeping within the budget is hard. Getting your rover to Mars may be harder. Take your time and plan your design carefully and stay within your budget. A challenge to be sure. Also being sure you rover doesn't have so much stuff on it that the rocket can't lift off!!! Try to make your project with more substance and less flash!!! Someday people will make it to Mars and we will by flying around at Warp speed but in the mean time, Keep It Simple Silly!!! :) !

NASA Image of the day

Check out this cool image of the Spirit rover NAS posted today....

Image of draft RoboLab program for getting to Mars

The image above is a draft or start of my program that will ultimately get my Robot to Mars and bring it back while recording data.

Welcome New Contributors!

Welcome to Mr. C. and Taylor, this week, as contributing authors to our humble Blog. Want to join up? Heard a good space related story lately? Let us know in the meeting and we'll talk about it.

Announcement Of A Major Extrasolar Planet Discovery Coming Thursday

NASA News Service announced on the 7th they will hold a press conference on Thursday the 13th, at 2:30PM EST to "report on a significant discovery about planets orbiting other stars". The discovery was apparently made by the Hubble Space Telescopes Advance Camera for Surveys instrument. More information can be found here:
Hmm...? Just a coincidence that Hubble has been down, then up then down again and now back up? I'm wondering if this might be big news! Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Onward to Mars We Hope!

On Monday, November 3rd we looked at what it takes to get a Robot to Mars. Rockets and guiding them, no technical problems, and being sure that you have a landing where your Robot doesn't get destroyed when it lands. Then once your on Mars a whole bunch of other problems begin. Waiting for 20 minutes to get your radio signal from the Earth to Mars, unknown objects, and challenges and many other obstacles.
This week begins the first stage of getting to Mars. Designing our "Rocket" Robots to get to Mars with a payload and to follow the course from 4th and 5th grade to 2nd and 3rd via the long way around!!! It may be harder than you think or it may be easier. You need to make many decisions and try them out. Also the programming needs to get done. This will be difficult but you need to plan out your steps as to what you thing your robot should do then use Robolab to create the program. Hopefully you are up to the challenge! Mars or Bust! When you go Bust in space it is expensive so take your time!!!!