The Mars Curiosity Rover has completed its brain transplant, upgrading its operating system and apps. Now it’s ready to start her exploration journey across the Gale Crater, en route to slice and dice Mount Sharp on a search to find life in the Red Planet.
The process lasted a few days and, while it may not have guaranteed a live broadcast like the landing, I’m sure the engineers in charge have cheered when the upgrade was finished successfully. Upgrading the software of a computer sitting millions of miles from your desk is not an easy task.
According to NASA, the rover is now “optimised for surface operation”, which means that it would be able to start rolling through Mars and use its scientific instruments as soon as it finishes checking its hardware. In other words, Curiosity is now in the same boot and hardware check that your computer or smartphone does while restarting after a system upgrade. If it had a screen, it would be showing a shiny NASA logo right now.
The reason for the upgrade was that part of Curiosity storage was used by the software used in the entry, descent and landing phase of the mission. Now this software is useless and it has been replaced with a new programs that will handle navigational and scientific operations.
The team is also using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE camera to get a perfect idea of the rover’s surroundings and potential paths. Here’s their last “You Are Here” image, which shows her surroundings in exaggerated color:
This color-enhanced view shows the terrain around the rover’s landing site within Gale Crater on Mars. colours were enhanced to bring out subtle differences, showing that the landing region is not as colourful as regions to the south, closer to Mount Sharp, where Curiosity will eventually explore. In reality, the blue colours are more grey.
The image doesn’t show Mount Sharp. but the dunes that precede it. It was taken six days after Curiosity’s landing. One pixel in the image is equivalent to about 24 inches (62 centimeters).