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NASA upgrades Mars Curiosity software ... from 350M miles away

Sharon Gaudin | Aug. 10, 2012
Picture doing a remote software upgrade. Now picture doing it when the machine you're upgrading is a robotic rover sitting 350 million miles away, on the surface of Mars

Curiosity, while working on Mars alone, needs to be told what it will do every day -- move across the bottom of the crater, zap a rock with its laser, scoop up a soil sample. And once a team of NASA scientists make the daily decision as to what the rover will do, programmers have to begin furiously working on up to a 1,000 different commands that will be uploaded to the rover.

"We're writing a software program every day that has to run for the first time and tell the rover what to do," Mishkin said. "It keeps 100 people busy. It's like running a sprint every day to keep the rover productive and gathering science."

Scandore added that the programmers only get about a half a day to get the programming sequences written, tested and uploaded into space.

"They are working furiously," he said. "It's an expensive vehicle. We can't be rushed to send up something that could be dangerous."

During today's news conference, NASA released more photos taken by the robotic rover. Some of the photos were of the rover itself covered with a spray of pebbles kicked up during landing, while others were full-color images of the Martian landscape.

"Curiosity continues to behave flawlessly," Watkins said. "We had another great day on Mars."

This full-resolution image of the Martian surface was taken by Curiosity's navigation cameras. The rim of the Gale Crater is seen in the distance.


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