The Mars Rover Can 'Dream'

Curiosity Mars Rover


For the next two years, Mars rover Curiosity will spend her days roaming around the Red Planet trying to determine if Mars ever was, or is, able to support microbial life.In many ways, the plutonium-powered science laboratory on wheels is like a person. At least that’s how Curiosity’s makers want us to think of her (yes, the one-ton robot is a she according to the rover’s Twitter account). 

The agency has created a whole section where it compares all the rover’s parts to human body parts. The rover has a body (the structure that protects her internal components); a neck and head (a mast that carries the cameras or “eyes”); arms and hands (instruments that collect rock and dust samples); legs (attached to wheels that help it move around); and a brain (the computer that processes all of commands send from the flight team and monitors the rover’s health ). And because travelling around Mars all day while tolerating extreme radiation and temperature swings can use up a lot of energy, Curiosity, like a person, has different stages of consciousness: awake, sleep and “dream mode.” Which means Curiosity can dream! Well, sort of.  

In “dream mode” the robot’s brain is asleep, but it can still perform many activities. We assume this is kind of like sleepwalking. “Dream mode” saves energy while allowing scientists to assess the health of the vehicle and check vital functions by turning on different instruments, like heaters, while Curiosity is sleeping. These tests prepare Curiosity for its next day on Mars.  

“A lot of times we do stuff with the rover computer off, because it saves energy for us,” rover mission systems manager Mike Watkins told reporters Tuesday. “By using our reptile brain here in dream mode, it allows us to do just enough activities to stay alive and monitor what’s going on when we’re asleep.”

Meanwhile, Curiosity is getting ready for its first tes drive on the Martian surface, which NASA says should take place within a week or so.  

More on Mars:

  • These Are The Conditions A Human Would Face On Mars
  • Curiosity Rover Takes An Adorable Self-Portrait
  • Visit Honeybee Robotics, Where Two Of Curiosity’s Instruments Were Made 
  • Curiosity Provides The First Piece Of Crucial Information About Putting 

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