NASA Mars Rover Landing Empowered by Dell Systems

 
 
By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2012-08-07 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Dell announced that its systems played a key role in the landing of the NASA Mars rover Curiosity.

Dell announced that its systems supported the landing of NASA's new Mars rover Curiosity.

Dell systems played a key role in the most complicated portion of the mission, with data analysis conducted in two NASA high-performance computing (HPC) clusters running Dell PowerEdge servers. Managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., the Mars rover, Curiosity, is the largest rover ever sent to explore the Red Planet.

Launched Nov. 26, 2011, Curiosity landed on the Red Planet at 10:32 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on Aug. 5, 2012 near the base of a mountain inside the Gale Crater near the Martian equator. Researchers plan to use Curiosity to study the mountain's layers, which hold evidence about the wet environments of early Mars and may hold clues about whether the planet ever offered conditions favorable for life. The rolling laboratory will search for two things: environments where life might have existed, and the capacity of those environments to preserve evidence of past life.

€œWe're proud to work hand-in-hand with NASA, a true American institution that provides the world with the understanding that modern-day pioneering delivers optimism and the drive to go further,€ Jere Carroll, general manager of civilian agencies at Dell Federal, said in a statement. €œThis notion echoes Dell's mission to provide customers with a full spectrum of IT hardware and services, helping them to accomplish their mission more effectively and efficiently. Most importantly, we are honored to be able to test and validate this mission's most critical portion, landing on the Red Planet.€

JPL's Dell HPC clusters, Galaxy and Nebula, provided vital support to NASA's Curiosity rover in analyzing the vast amounts of test data needed to correctly prepare the rover for entering the Martian atmosphere and landing it on the planet. This difficult task was powered by Dell PowerEdge servers that make up the Galaxy and Nebula clusters. The final landing sequence parameters developed by the mission team, which was tested and validated using the Dell HPC clusters, were uploaded last week to Curiosity, Dell officials said.

NASA officials said Curiosity's main assignment is to investigate whether its study area ever has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. To do that, it packs a science payload weighing 15 times as much as the science instruments on previous Mars rovers. The landing target, an area about 12 miles by 4 miles (20 kilometers by 7 kilometers), sits in a safely flat area between less-safe slopes of the rim of Gale Crater and the crater's central peak, informally called Mount Sharp. The target was plotted to be within driving distance of layers on Mount Sharp, where minerals that formed in water have been seen from orbit, NASA said.

With the successful landing, the 1-ton rover's two-year prime mission on the surface of Mars has begun. However, one of the rover's 10 science instruments, the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), already has logged 221 days collecting data since the spacecraft was launched on its trip to Mars last November.

 
 
 
 
Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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