JPL Briefing: "Curiosity is Flawless, and So Is the Team''
August 10, 2012 • 8:01AM

This was the summary given by Michael Watkins, the Manager of the Navigation and Mission Design section at JPL, at yesterday's briefing, as Curiosity wraps up its third full day on Mars. All of her scientific instruments have been checked out, and the team is preparing for an "intermission," of four days, starting Saturday, during which software for its surface operations will be up-loaded to the rover so that it can begin its exploration of Mars. During that time, there will be little or no download of science data or images back to Earth.

Andy Mishkin, from the operations team at JPL, explained that on a daily basis, his team of over 100 scientists, engineers, and rover drivers (there are only 20 of those), decide what the rover will do the next day, and then send over 1,000 commands to Curiosity. From the acquisition of data from the rover, that tells them what it has done, to the decision of where to go tomorrow, to sending the commands to Curiosity to tell it what to do, is a 16-hour day for the team members, he explained.

Michael Malin, Principal Investigator for the imaging cameras, reported that a 360-degree full-circle panorama has been taken by the navigation camera on the mast. Only low-resolution thumbnails have been relayed back so far, and the full frames, he said, are still in the camera. These will be transferred to the rover, and over time, sent to Earth. In the color panorama, the bedrock under the loose soil, which Curiosity's descent rockets blasted from the surface, is visible. Included in the Navcam images is a self portrait, looking down at the deck of the rover, where there are pebbles that were apparently kicked up there during landing.

And if you want to know what time it is on Mars (which day is about 40 minutes longer than ours), Mars24, which is a Java application, displays a numerical readout of local Mars time, the relative positions of Mars and the Earth, and a graphic representation showing the day and night sides of the planet, along with a calendar of what day it is on Mars.