Over the Thanksgiving holiday 2011, NASA will launch the new Mars exploration robot Curiosity for an expected arrival on the the red planet in 2012.
One of the missions for Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity is to measure the radiation on the surface of Mars for the duration of its operational life.
Donald M. Hassler, Ph. D., Science Program Director of Southwest Research Institute and his team, have developed the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) for Curiosity to accomplish this part of the mission. Dr. Hassler explains what the RAD is and what he hopes it will accomplish in the video linked above.
You might recognize Dr. Hassler’s name, because he is the son of Mack Hassler, my dissertation director. Mack tells me that he will have the opportunity to watch Curiosity’s launch firsthand!
This is an exciting time for humanity’s exploration of Mars. I remember being at Georgia Tech and listening to two NASA representatives explain Pathfinder to the astronomy club. After Pathfinder’s groundbreaking robotic work on our neighboring planet, we have seen much success with its’ older and more advanced siblings, Spirit and Opportunity. Now, Curiosity will, we all hope, exceed the amazing work that our planetary explorers have already accomplished.