Mars Science Laboratory On its Way

To keep from being too depressed by the news, I’ll post something positive. The Mars Science Laboratory launched November 26. This probe includes a rover named Curiosity. Here is the news from NASA.

NASA began a historic voyage to Mars with the Nov. 26 launch of the Mars Science Laboratory, which carries a car-sized rover named Curiosity. Liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas V rocket occurred at 10:02 a.m. EST (7:02 a.m. PST).

“We are very excited about sending the world’s most advanced scientific laboratory to Mars,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “MSL will tell us critical things we need to know about Mars, and while it advances science, we’ll be working on the capabilities for a human mission to the Red Planet and to other destinations where we’ve never been.”

The mission will pioneer precision landing technology and a sky-crane touchdown to place Curiosity near the foot of a mountain inside Gale Crater on Aug. 6, 2012. During a nearly two-year prime mission after landing, the rover will investigate whether the region has ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life, including the chemical ingredients for life.

Curiosity’s ambitious science goals are among the mission’s many differences from earlier Mars rovers. It will use a drill and scoop at the end of its robotic arm to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into analytical laboratory instruments inside the rover. Curiosity carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science-instrument payloads on the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Some of the tools are the first of their kind on Mars, such as a laser-firing instrument for checking the elemental composition of rocks from a distance, and an X-ray diffraction instrument for definitive identification of minerals in powdered samples.

To haul and wield its science payload, Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity. Because of its one-ton mass, Curiosity is too heavy to employ airbags to cushion its landing as previous Mars rovers could. Part of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft is a rocket-powered descent stage that will lower the rover on tethers as the rocket engines control the speed of descent.

The mission’s landing site offers Curiosity access for driving to layers of the mountain inside Gale Crater. Observations from orbit have identified clay and sulfate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a wet history.

I can hardly wait for the Mars Science Laboratory to reach Mars. Here, on NASA’s website is a countdown to its landing.

 

Muslim Brotherhood Gaining in Egypt

Oh, crap. Islamist parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood seem to be doing very well in the Egyptian elections. I didn’t expect any other outcome but I don’t like reading about it. Here is the story in Israel National News.

Judges overseeing the vote count in Egypt’s parliamentary elections say Islamist parties have won a majority of the contested seats in the first round. The judges spoke on condition of anonymity because official results are expected to be released later Thursday.

They say the Muslim Brotherhood could take 45 percent of the seats up for grabs. The liberal Egyptian bloc coalition and the ultra-fundamentalist Nour party are competing for second place.

Together, Islamist parties are expected to control a majority of parliamentary seats by March. This week’s vote was the first of six stages of parliamentary elections that will last until then.

Continued success by Islamists will allow them to give Cairo’s government and constitution a decidedly Islamist character. It could also lead Cairo to shift away from the West towards the Iranian axis.

I think that it might not have been such a good idea to throw Mubarak under the bus quite so quickly. He may have been an SOB but he was our SOB and probably won’t be as bad as whoever ends up running Egypt.

Why do I keep having flashbacks to 1979?

 

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