SA helped with Nasa Mars mission

2012-08-07 15:36

Johannesburg - A South African team helped Nasa to land the Curiosity rover on Mars, the SA National Space Agency (Sansa) said on Tuesday.

The agency was proud to be part of Monday's historic touch-down on the red planet, international business manager Tiaan Strydom said.

"This is one of the most important explorations of space by one of the most advanced space-faring nations in the world; and as Sansa we celebrate this event with the rest of humanity."

Curiosity is a US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) rover equipped to look for and analyse soil and rock samples for signs of alien life.

Due to its plutonium battery, Curiosity was able to work around the clock, as opposed to its solar-powered predecessors, Spirit and Opportunity.

Managing director of Sansa space operations Raoul Hodges said the satellite tracking, telemetry (remote measurement and collection of data), and command team had demonstrated its expertise and proved it was capable of supporting most large-scale space missions.

Curiosity's mission is expected to last at least one Martian year, which equates to 686 earth days. During this time, it would assess whether Mars had ever supported microbial life.

  • en.gineer.359 - 2012-08-07 15:47

    South Africa helps NASA with telemetry for a large percentage of their launches. Nothing new, but still a thumbs up....

      Hugh - 2012-08-07 18:25

      Yes great stuff and I note with satisfaction that for once we do not have a EE appointee as head of department

  • Quantronium - 2012-08-07 15:49

    huh!. helped with what and how???

      fussed.anderson - 2012-08-07 15:55

      It's true, They told us to stay away, and we did

  • albinorocker - 2012-08-07 15:55

    I'm very sure there's a convention against sending plutonium into the atmosphere.

      ejanette.joubert - 2012-08-07 17:34

      It's way beyond the atmosphere, pal, it's on another planet ... Damn, it's amazing to be able to say that - 50 years ago that would have been only a joke or a fantasy - it's real now!!

  • TshilidziPhuravhathu - 2012-08-07 16:05

    And the U.S. somehow forgot to mension SA on the list of countries they thanked for helping on the mission...

  • john.masengo - 2012-08-07 16:07

    Sure we helped. To what and how much...?

      fussed.anderson - 2012-08-07 17:40

      Eish we were told to watch and dont do anything, so we did help

  • kosmonooit - 2012-08-07 16:17

    Plutonium battery? works around the clock? pleez do your homework .... The power source on the rover is a radioisotope system (by which natural decay of plutonium-238 creates heat) which warms up thermocouples which convert heat energy to electrical energy which charges the conventional batteries. And the MSL will not work around the lock, since the batteries need to charge up overnight. All the info is on the NASA JPL MSL website. SA's role? that Apollo-era radio disk in the Magaliesburg? way to go!

      Andrew - 2012-08-07 18:38

      Had a look at the site and it seems it does work around the clock. Pasted from the tech specs. Batteries: 2 lithium ion rechargeable batteries to meet peak demands of rover activities when the demand temporarily exceeds the generator's steady electrical output levels also wikipedia Heat given off by the natural decay of this isotope is converted into electricity, providing constant power during all seasons and through the day and night,

      kosmonooit - 2012-08-07 23:32

      Yes the nuclear energy source, the MMRTG, works 24/7 for at least 687 Earth days because there is no stopping it once the nuclear delay process get rolling. It's not like a battery that stores energy that sits there until you need to tap it at will. It will continuously produce the heat, some of which is also used to keep the essential parts warm during the night. Electrical power generation from the thermocouples is about 110 watts, that's going to be used to trickle charge those batteries. Power demand from all those lab gizmos and rover subsystems is going to peak at ... what? more that 100 watts that's for sure. That the rover is only operation during the 'day' was discussed in detail in one of the recent NASA JPL MSL news briefings, surely the correspondent should have listened / watched those? It was also mentioned that the batteries needed to be recharged during the night. FYI:

      Andrew - 2012-08-08 12:29

      OK kosmonooit I understand you now. Thanks for the links.

  • hartmut.behrens - 2012-08-07 16:21

    What a load of hog-wash. The whole landing of Curiosity on Mars was executed autonomously by a computer. Perhaps we should start working on some real space projects here in SA in order to earn credit instead of trying to poach brownie points from other projects..

      en.gineer.359 - 2012-08-07 16:34

      Did Curiousity walk to Mars or was it launched from Earth? was launched. And during orbit, when it was out of direct sight of NASA's radio signals, who helped provide real-time telemetry data back to NASA? Answer....Denel Overburg Test Range, in the Western Cape.

      tommy.jones.754918 - 2012-08-07 16:55


      Andrew - 2012-08-07 19:58

      @en.gineer Still, the article starts with: "A South African team helped Nasa to land the Curiosity rover on Mars..." Did the team actually help with the landing?

  • steve.ritchie.739 - 2012-08-07 16:41

    Why didn't they put Malema on the space ship???

      craig.a.salter - 2012-08-08 12:25

      he would of wanted to do land grabs to the martians

  • tommy.jones.754918 - 2012-08-07 16:52

    Sound to me like a "great sportsman born in SA 25 years ago moved somewhere else by age two" case.

  • trevor.pietersen.3 - 2012-08-07 17:25

    Zuum zoom...and Juls....they both from MARS

  • lacrimose.wolf - 2012-08-07 21:29

    Kewl, SANSA (even though the article doesn't tell us what you did). Now can you guys come up with a way to fix a pothole - forever? :)

  • kyle.buitendag - 2012-08-08 07:54

    so what did we actually do to help?????!!!!

      kosmonooit - 2012-08-09 11:09

      Relayed some radio signals to High Command..... Anyone with talent (and a pale skin) has to leave SA to achieve anything.

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