Print 12 comment(s) - last by GmTrix.. on Aug 14 at 7:47 AM

Photos from Curiosity on Mars  (Source: NASA)
Curiosity will endure a four-day R10 software upgrade, which will allow it to drive through Martian terrain and use its instruments to check its surroundings

NASA Mars rover Curiosity is receiving a four-day software upgrade before it starts its two-year expedition across Martian terrain. 
Curiosity is a $2.5 billion one-ton, six-wheeled, car-sized Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) that landed on the Red Planet last week after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida on November 26, 2011. The Mars rover traveled through space for just over eight months before finally touching down on the planet's surface. 
Now that Curiosity has finally landed, its time to upgrade the software for the next phase of its journey. Curiosity was previously programmed for the flight/landing phase of the mission, but now, its time to move on to the exploration stage.
Curiosity will endure a four-day R10 software upgrade, which will allow it to drive through Martian terrain and use its instruments to check its surroundings. The Mars rover packs a single-board RAD 750 system with PowerPC 750 clocked at 200 MHz. It also has 256 MB of DRAM and 2 GB of flash storage. 
Why is it taking four days for the update? According to NASA engineers, they just want to be thorough and make sure nothing goes wrong
The first day will be a "soft install" of the R10 software, while the second day will be a full installation and the third day will be a full installation to Curiosity's backup computer. The fourth day will likely be testing and prep. 
After the software upgrades and testing, Curiosity will use tools like a large robot arm, weather station, percussive drill, a laser and 4.8kg of plutonium-238 to explore the Red Planet. 

Source: PC Mag

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Why not bring it all with you?
By GmTrix on 8/13/2012 3:34:40 PM , Rating: 2
Was there really not enough storage on the thing for both parts of the software? This can't be the reason they would have to do an update like this but at the same time what other reason could there be? Makes no sense to me.

RE: Why not bring it all with you?
By Pirks on 8/13/2012 3:44:35 PM , Rating: 2
I always wanted to get an answer to this, I wish at some press conference or some NASA visited forum someone asks them why they did this weird remote upgrade instead of just installing software on Earth. Makes no sense to me either.

Does anyone know about this? Any people here even remotely connected to folks at JPL?

By Pneumothorax on 8/13/2012 4:09:10 PM , Rating: 5
I was listening to a local AM talk station here in socal who was interviewing a JPL engineer. He said the reason why they're sending the software now, was that it just wasn't ready enough with the bugs worked out before the passing of the launch window. He also said something to the effect that the previous probes taught them to have the capability to do a full re-programming worked into the design from the get go.

RE: Why not bring it all with you?
By m51 on 8/13/2012 5:50:02 PM , Rating: 3
There really was not enough storage.

These are radiation hardened computers. One of the things that means is the transistors are much larger than current computer processors like Intel's Ivy Bridge. 50-150 times larger. The RAD750 processors that Curiosity uses have only 1/300th the number of transistors as a typical desktop pc processor. Same goes with the memory used.
The maximum Flight Software Image size is only 32 MB. An Ipad has 32 times as much program memory (RAM).

The processor is a radiation hardened version of the PowerPC 750 that was used in the G3 Macintosh which were first release in 1997.

The same computers that are used to control the Rover are also used during the cruise phase on the way to Mars and also to control everything for the Entry, Descent, and Landing phase.

There was not enough space to include everything in one FSW image so now that the cruise and EDL portions are no longer needed they can be deleted giving enough space for the Semi-autonomous ground navigation software and the robotic arm science functions, among other things.

There are two redundant computer systems on Curiosity, they are taking 4 days to do the switch over, 2 days for each computer and checking and testing everything thoroughly as they go so they don't mess anything up. Union rules preclude any service visits to Mars.

Science operations should be back on by Tuesday.

RE: Why not bring it all with you?
By m51 on 8/13/2012 5:54:08 PM , Rating: 2
BTW the RAD750s on the MSL run at 133 Mhz, not the 200 Mhz so often quoted.

RE: Why not bring it all with you?
By KingConker on 8/13/2012 6:35:27 PM , Rating: 2
With that kind of state-of-art technology and it's blistering top speeed of 4cm/s - I really hope it does not encounter any type of intelligent form of life.

Our species will then be re-classified at dunce level, ripe for invasion or assimilation.

That's if ASIMO hasn't already taken control... which let's face it is inevitable.

By KingConker on 8/13/2012 6:36:08 PM , Rating: 2
The three e's in 'speed' was intentional :)

RE: Why not bring it all with you?
By boobo on 8/14/2012 12:13:56 AM , Rating: 3
So martian colonists will not be able to play the latest games. :(

RE: Why not bring it all with you?
By Reclaimer77 on 8/13/2012 7:21:03 PM , Rating: 2
How about we stop second-guessing every move and decision these people make? Getting a BIT annoying. These guys pulled off the near impossible, I think they know what they are doing. Enough with the armchair quarterbacking.

By drycrust3 on 8/13/2012 11:27:11 PM , Rating: 2
I think the questions people have asked are fair enough, although they probably sound stupid to the NASA scientists. While everyone knows this is a great achievement, it is only when details emerge, such as the person's comment above which stated that the processors used arespecial radiation harden processors, that you start to appreciate the immense amount of thought and effort that went into making Curiosity.
The bit I liked was when, just after the landing, the scientists were going through the results, and one of them said the rocket unit had 0.14 kilograms (140 grams ... I guess that's about half a cup) of fuel left inside at fly away. From the reaction of the other scientists this seemed to be exactly what they had calculated, which, if correct, is another indication of the thought and effort that went into landing Curiosity.

RE: Why not bring it all with you?
By GmTrix on 8/14/2012 7:47:45 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not trying to criticize or be an "armchair quarterback". I'm just genuinely curious about why they are doing it this way. Sorry for asking questions or being interested in how all this technology works. I'll go back to being ignorant now. Bye.

RE: Why not bring it all with you?
By boobo on 8/14/2012 12:14:49 AM , Rating: 2
Day 1 DLC is fashionable.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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