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Google and NASA buy D-Wave quantum computer

Google will co-invest in a quantum supercomputer lab near its Mountain View campus, exploring the potential for incredibly-fast processing tipped to run 11,000x faster at some tasks compared to a standard Intel chip. The computer itself will be manufactured by D-Wave and based at NASA’s Ames Research Center, where the Universities Space Research Association nonprofit will be responsible for its operation; Google and other companies will share access to the “D-Wave Two” hardware, which is rumored to cost around $10m.

It’s not the only time D-Wave has offered quantum technology, though that’s not to say Google’s shared machine will be one of many such installations. D-Wave sold the first quantum supercomputer to Lockheed Martin in 2010, following it up with a commercial version back in 2011.

D-Wave’s system differs considerably from the traditional path to producing a supercomputer. Usually, manufacturers piece together thousands of regular x86 chips and use complex software and hardware to get them all working together on the same problems; more recently, we’ve seen an increase in the role of more flexible GPU-based processing alongside normal CPUs.

In D-Wave’s quantum computing approach, however, a whole new chip architecture is introduced. The company calls them “Qubits” and each chip has up to 512 of them; they’re responsible for simultaneously encoding information at the quantum level as either 0, 1, or both 0 and 1 at the same time. The Qubits are hooked up using Couplers, which push a pair of Qubits to either matching or opposite states, and then programmable magnetic memory is used to guide the path of the processing.

D-Wave Qubit processing:

It’s that duality of state which helps quantum computing to be so fast, D-Wave claims. By examining all of the combinations simultaneously, the final computation comes far quicker than from a traditional processor, making it particularly suited to the sort of mass-crunching Google has a tendency to perform.

“In the D-Wave processor, the qubits can slowly be tuned (annealed) from their superposition state (where they are 0 and 1 at the same time) into to a classical state (where they are either 0 or 1). When this is done in the presence of the programmed memory elements on the processor, the 0 and 1 states that the qubits end up settling into gives the answer to a user-defined problem. All circuitry on the D-Wave processors is made from a material known as a superconductor, which is cooled to 20mK, (near absolute zero) in order for the quantum effects to manifest in the material” D-Wave

For NASA, meanwhile, the Ames team will use the D-Wave hardware to explore robotics, space mission planning, and air-traffic control. Its potential for crunching data on possible habitable planets elsewhere in the universe will also be examined; the Ames team is also responsible for the Kepler project which is hunting space for exoplanets.

20-percent of the quantum computer’s usage time will also be opened up to research projects, with teams encouraged to submit proposals for what they might do with the unusual processing power. Those selected will get free access to the supercomputer.

VIA: WSJ

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Exploring Pandas Dataframe With D

This article was published as a part of the Data Science Blogathon

Introduction

A Pandas dataframe is represented in a tabular format with rows and columns. It is very similar to the excel display of data in sheets. The significant difference between Pandas dataframe and excel is that in Pandas, you cannot directly make modifications to the dataset. Neither you can sort the data via any GUI, nor create quick visualizations by selecting some parameters.

Image by Author (Made in Canva)

About D-Tale and Startup options

As the name suggests, D-Tale presents a variety of details about the data provided. It supports a wide range of file formats including CSV, TSV, XLS, XLSX. It is a Python library built with Flask backend and React as the frontend. It can be easily installed via pip python package manager.

pip install dtale

There are two ways in which you can start a D-Tale interface and load the data in Jupyter notebooks:

Either pass the dataframe object to the D-Tale function. This instantiates the GUI within the Jupyter cell only.

Initialize the D-Tale interface without passing the dataframe. It will show up an interaction menu with the GUI to load the data and provide various other options too.

For a better demonstration, I will be opting for the 2nd option. The code to start the instance without data is:

import dtale

dtale.show(open_browser=True)

As soon as you run this code, you will get this GUI menu:

First-time interface

Here you have the following options –

Loading data from a file

Loading data from websites. Here you need to pass the link of the website from where you can fetch files such as CSV, JSON, TSV, or Excel.

Loading sample datasets. These datasets may require some background downloading to fetch the datasets from the server.

Let’s load the Movies Sample datasets. As soon as you load the dataset, a table will be displayed just like the pandas dataframe. All the cells of this table can be edited and you can make direct changes to the values just like in excel.

Column Menu Functions

Also, in the string type column, there would be no “heat map” and “Variance Report” option but there will be a new option called “Clean Columns” which is not present in integer and datetime value column.

Let’s explore some of them.

1. Lock

The lock option sticks the column to the left of the screen allowing you to freely scroll/navigate to other columns without the locked column being displaced. This can prove useful in cases when you want to have a look at columns that are placed apart.

2. Hide and Delete

The hide option removes the column from the dataframe view. It is not deleted from the actual dataframe. You can simply unhide the column from the top right strip.

The delete option will remove the column from the dataframe permanently. It is similar to the pandas drop function. In the backend, it is iterating over the list of columns to select the column to delete from the dataframe.

3. Replacements and Type conversion

A replacement option is used for replacing some values of the column with a constant or nan value. You can make this replacement in place or create a separate column. Replacement type can also be defined as replacing: specific values, spaces, or specific string replacement.

For example, the “date_published” column should contain all the date-type strings but there is a text “TV Movie 2023” which is not supposed to be present. Let’s replace this text with numpy nan.

Now, I can easily change the data type of the “date_published” column from string to datetime using the Type conversion option. It also provides an option for making the change in place or another column:

4. Describe

The describe function in pandas helps in providing a statistical summary of the column or the dataset. The describe option here works in the same way but it provides way more information than the normal pandas functions. As it is named column analysis, it provides a unique summary for each data type.

For a datetime type column, it provides the following details:

It also generates histogram and value_counts graph for the features:

For integer type columns, it provides measures of centrality and spread along with the frequency of most frequent value along with Kurtosis and Skewness. It also represents the data in the box plot, histogram, value_count plot, and Q-Q plot.

For string type columns, it provides the most frequent word and its frequency, detailed summary on characters present, word value count plot, and value counts plot.

5. Filters

You can filter data by date range too when filtering data in datetime type columns. For string type columns, you can filter data by:

6. Variance Report

This option is not available for string-type values. Variance report shows whether the feature has low variance or not. It decides this based on two checks:

Count of unique values in a feature / sample size < 10%

It displays the result with the calculations and a histogram to present the findings.

7. Clean columns

This option is only available for string-type values. Text cleaning is a major part of data science projects. It can improve the model performance if the right type of cleaning is done. D-Tale provides all the possible text cleaning methods that can be applied to the text. You simply need to select the methods you want to apply to the text and the work will be done in the backend.

Main Menu Options

The main menu has almost all the same options as provided in the column menu but in the main menu, they are generalized and you can do the operations in one place on multiple columns rather can manually picking them from the display. Here are some of the options which are exclusive to the Main menu and work differently.

1. Build Column

This option allows you to create new features/columns out of the already available columns. You can create these new features by performing arithmetic operations on columns or using two columns to perform operations. You can also provide the name of the new column to be made and its datatype.

2. Summarize Data

In pandas, we summarise the data via group-by or pivot tables. The same thing you can do with this package too. The pandas required you to write the code for every group by and pivot tables but with D-Tale, you can select the columns, the aggregation function, and the columns you want in the final dataset.  Let’s create a group by a summary by the year for the mean duration of the movies:

3. Missing Analysis

Missing data is a common problem in any type of dataset. No dataset is perfect and it has a lot of missing values intentionally or not. D-Tale uses missingno python package to visualize the missing values present in the dataset. It provides matrix, bar, heatmap, and dendrogram too.

4. Charts

Plotting is an essential step in any data science exploratory analysis stage. You can use any type of plotting library to plot your figures. D-Tale uses plotly to create interactive plots on the go. It offers Line, Bar, Scatter, Pie, word cloud,  Heatmap,  3D scatter, Surface, Maps, Candlestick, Treemap, and funnel charts. Different types of data support different types of plots.

Here is an example of a bar plot with some configurations selected and where the x-axis denote the year and the y-axis denotes the aggregated sum of the duration of movies:

5. Highlighters

These are used to highlight some sections of the dataset. Like we use stylers in pandas to bring out the odd values, highlighters do the same job. You can highlight missing values, Data types, Outliers, and range. The example below shows how the missing values and outliers have been highlighted:

6. Code Export and Data Export # DISCLAIMER: 'df' refers to the data you passed in when calling 'dtale.show' import pandas as pd from dtale.datasets import {dataset} df = {dataset}() if isinstance(df, (pd.DatetimeIndex, pd.MultiIndex)): df = df.to_frame(index=False) # remove any pre-existing indices for ease of use in the D-Tale code, but this is not required df = df.reset_index().drop('index', axis=1, errors='ignore') df.columns = [str(c) for c in df.columns] # update columns to strings in case they are numbers df = df[[c for c in df.columns if c != 'imdb_title_id']] df = df.rename(columns={'title': 'Movie_title'}) s = df['date_published'] s = df['date_published'] s = s.replace({ 'TV Movie 2023': np.nan}) df.loc[:, 'date_published'] = s df.loc[:, 'date_published'] = pd.Series(pd.to_datetime(df['date_published'], infer_datetime_format=True), name='date_published', index=df['date_published'].index)

The code export option in the main menu captures all the changes done on the dataframe. You can directly export the final dataset after changes to CSV or TSV using the export option.

Conclusion

Want to know more about Mito? Then check out my this article: Exploring Mito: Automatic Python Code for SpreadSheet Operations

If you have any doubts, queries, or potential opportunities, then you can reach out to me via

1. Linkedin – in/kaustubh-gupta/

2. Twitter – @Kaustubh1828

3. GitHub – kaustubhgupta

4. Medium – @kaustubhgupta1828

The media shown in this article are not owned by Analytics Vidhya and are used at the Author’s discretion.

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10 Google Pixel And Pixel Xl Accessories You Should Buy

Now that Google has announced phones that are “Made By Google”, the Android ecosystem might finally have a true iPhone killer. The phones feature top of the line specs, AMOLED displays, and a camera that has been rated by DxOMark as the best smartphone camera. So, if you’re planning on buying the Google Pixel, or Pixel XL phones, you should check out these accessories for your smartphone.

1. WizGear Magnetic Car Mount

The WizGear Car Mount is a reinforced magnetic holder which produces a strong force of attraction. This ensures that the phone remains attached safely to the mount. The mount will allow you to freely rotate the orientation of your Pixel, or Pixel XL. The base of the mount attaches to the vents in the car, and holds the mount in place. Unlike most other mounts that attach to the windscreen or the dashboard, the WizGear mount attaches on the vent, and does not cause obstructions while driving.

Buy on chúng tôi ($6.99)

2. iBenzer Water Resistant Armband

This armband is designed such that it can hold any phone, up to 5.5″, which means it is perfect for the Google Pixel, and Pixel XL phones. It has a built-in key holder, which can be used to store keys, while running. The armband has another pocket on the rear, that can easily hold your ID, cards, and some cash. The plastic cover on the front will allow you to easily access the touchscreen, so you can easily answer calls, on the go.

Buy on chúng tôi ($4.99)

3. Google Pixel, and Pixel XL Case DGtle Google Pixel Case

The DGtle Google Pixel case is made from flexible TPU material. The cover snaps right onto the Google Pixel, and with its precise cutouts, ensures that you have access to all the ports on your device. The case provides shock absorption, to make sure that your phone is protected from impact, even if you drop it.

The case is available in a variety of colors, and you can easily choose the one that you like best. You may also check out our post on best Google Pixel cases, if you want to check out more options.

Buy on chúng tôi ($7.99)

Tauri Google Pixel XL Case

This Google Pixel XL case from Tauri is a scratch-resistant case. The case has a dotted texture on the inside, which prevents air bubbles from forming inside the cover. The case is shock resistant, as well, and uses a scratch resistant gel, thereby protecting the phone from scraps and bumps. It has a slim profile, and adds minimum bulk to the phone, while providing great protection.

We have a dedicated article on best Google Pixel XL cases, be sure to check it out as well.

4. OMOTON Screen Protector

The OMOTON Screen Protector for the Google Pixel is a laser cut screen protector. The screen protector has a 9H hardness rating, and will protect your phone against scratches and scuffs, even from knives, and keys. The protector comes with bubble-free adhesive, so installation won’t leave any bubbles on the screen. It also comes with hydrophobic, and oleophobic coating to protect your phone from sweat, and oil residue from fingerprints. Along with that, the screen protector comes with a lifetime warranty.

OMOTON also makes a screen protector for the Google Pixel XL, which has the same features.

Buy for Pixel XL on chúng tôi ($7.99)

5. Encased Google Pixel Dock

This dock from Encased has a sleek design, therefore being the perfect dock to be used as a night-stand, or desk dock. It comes with a USB Type-C port, to charge your Pixel, or Pixel XL while it is docked. The dock also features a design that makes it compatible with most cases, therefore making it easy to use if you use a case. Encased offers a lifetime warranty on the dock, as well.

Buy on chúng tôi ($23.30)

6. Bose Bluetooth Speaker

Buy on chúng tôi ($116.00)

7. SanDisk 32 GB Flash Drive

If you like watching movies on your smartphone, an OTG enabled flash drive never goes amiss. The SanDisk 32 GB flash drive comes with the standard USB connector, as well as a Type-C connector, which can plug into your Pixel, or Pixel XL. The flash drive is immediately detected by phones that support USB OTG, and will allow you to enjoy your favourite movies on the AMOLED display of the Pixel, and Pixel XL phones.

8. Anker PowerCore+ 20100

The Anker PowerCore+ 20100 is an aluminium clad beast that stores 20100 mAh of juice for your devices. The power bank has a total of three ports, two of which are standard USB Type A output ports, to charge all your non USB Type C devices. The third is a USB Type C port that is capable of charging USB Type C compatible devices, as well as the power bank itself.

Buy on chúng tôi ($59.99)

9. EasyULT USB-C Adapter

Another great accessory to have for your Google Pixel, and Pixel XL smartphones, the EasyULT adapter will allow you to use any microUSB cable to charge your Google Pixel, or Pixel XL smartphones. The adapter comes in a pack of three. This can come in handy when you forget to carry your USB Type C cable, and need to charge your Pixel smartphone.

Buy on chúng tôi ($6.99)

10. Meagoes USB Type C Car Charger

Car chargers can come in extremely handy, and can let you charge your phone while you drive. The Meagoes USB Type C car charger will allow you to charge your phone using the Type-C to Type-C USB cable, or a standard USB to USB Type C cable that you might have. It also features a blue LED ring, so you can easily locate it when you’re driving at night. The ports are rated for 2.4A, therefore they will charge your device pretty quickly.

Buy on chúng tôi ($11.99)

Use These Accessories to Improve Your Experience with Google Pixel and Pixel XL

5 Reasons Why Google Will Buy Youtube

Update: Google did, in fact, purchase Youtube for 1.65 billion dollars in October of 2006. 

Sure, the internet, newspapers, and blogosphere have been buzzing all weekend about the rumor of the possible acquisition of YouTube by Google for $1.6 Billion. And yes, once a large company does acquire YouTube, the end result will more than likely be the headache of copyright lawsuits from all of the content creating studios who are tired of having their works TiVo’d and uploading to YouTube and other online video storage houses almost instantly.

And what better company to handle such legal matters than Google, right? With their experience in copyright law as it pertains to the scanning and uploading of protected materials, one might imagine that Google would acquire YouTube just to keep their legal team busy for the next two or three years.

Why Will Google Buy?

But why, why acquire YouTube? Doesn’t Google already have Google Video? Why not build upon Google Video and wait for someone else to fall into the YouTube acquisition trap?

The reasons why do run a many and are difficult to be pinpointed in one simple statement, so here’s a rundown of reasons Google would pay $1.6 Billion for YouTube.

1) Popularity

YouTube is the 10th most popular online destination according to Alexa and if you don’t trust Alexa information, its also ranked as the third most popular steaming video site by comScore Media Metrix and #1 visited online video site according to Hitwise.

Google Video is no where near the top online video site, at this moment, and hovers among MSN and Yahoo among the other online dinosaur fossils according to the Hitwise rankings:

August Hitwise data reflects the following in terms of rankings (based on share of visits):

* MSN Video: 5.92%

Additionally, in September, YouTube enjoyed a market share of visits 4 times greater than Google Video.

2) Not making the same mistake twice

Google made a $610 million mistake this year by not acquiring MySpace when they had the chance. Instead News Corp’s Fox Interactive bought MySpace for the bargain price of $580 as MySpace’s parent company was looking to sell fast in order to avoid lawsuits (over spamming, not copyrights).

Greg Sterling has more:

Rupert Murdoch famously claimed that Google could have purchased MySpace for half of the $580 million he paid for it but the search engine passed — if he’s to be believed. Assume, however, he’s telling the truth and that Google miscalculated badly in passing on MySpace. They then went on to do the $900 million ad deal with News Corp./Fox.

They wouldn’t have had to make those sorts of pricey commitments had they bought the social networking site for the $290 million and owned all that traffic themselves.

Is Google’s reported pursuit of YouTube then an implied “mea culpa” of sorts and a recognition, informed by hindsight, that the company can’t let another similar opportunity pass?

3) Community

YouTube enjoys a much more active, enthusiastic and loyal following than any video service which has been launched by a search engine company, even more active in terms of uploading and sharing by netizens than Yahoo Video.

Charlene Li of Forrester Research uses an interesting and simple comparison to understand the differences between the YouTube and Google Video communities.

Compare the Extreme Diet Coke and Mentos Experiment Video on YouTube and Google Video.

This search for Diet Coke Mentos on YouTube results in 3051 videos while the same search on Google Video delivers only 631.

4) Usability & Stickiness

This kind of falls into the classification of popularity, but users like YouTube more than they do Google Video. They stick around and watch more content on YouTube, while at Google Video they don’t seem to stick around quite as long.

Hitwise says that “YouTube’s average session time is double that of Google Video’s, at 18 minutes 33 seconds in the month of September versus 9 minutes 9 seconds for Google Video. YouTube is just plain sticky compared to Google Video.”

5) Advertising and Money

Throw community, popularity, and stickiness to the side for now and let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Purchasing YouTube at the price of $1.6 Billion would not be a crazy investment for Google.

If YouTube serves 100 million videos a day, that’s 365,000,000,000 a year… or roughly 3.65 cents per video. If anyone can turn a profit off of YouTube, it’s Google and in this case, given the users, popularity, and traction a YouTube buyout would give Google, it would make more sense for the company to obtain 100% of YouTube AdWords revenue than 20% or 30% of it.

Especially with the Google Video Ads program in the works by Google AdWords.

More Reasons? If you would like to add to the reasons Google should purchase YouTube, or argue the acquisition, please feel free to post below.

Featured Image: Deposit Photos

10 Best Google Pixel Cases You Can Buy

Google announced the Google Pixel phone with much fanfare at their “Made By Google” event and we aren’t surprised if you plan on getting it. The Pixel comes with the top of the line specs, a great camera, Android 7.1 Nougat and an AMOLED display. Plus, the headphone jack is still there. The phone has been announced at $649 for the 32 GB model, although, users can opt for the 128 GB model, as well. Google is launching the Pixel as a competitor for the iPhone, and if you’re planning on getting the Google Pixel, or if you’ve already pre-ordered it, you should definitely invest in a case, to protect your precious device. So, here are the 10 best Google Pixel cases and covers you can buy:

1. Otterbox Defender Series Case

The Otterbox Defender Series case for Google Pixel is the way to go, if you want a sturdy case for your phone that will survive even the roughest handling that you can put it through. The case comes with drop protection, as it deflects and absorbs impact, keeping your phone safe. The port covers on the case ensure that dust and dirt don’t get into the Pixel’s ports.

The Defender case is built with a polycarbonate shell, a rubber slipcover, and an integrated screen protector. The full coverage of the case ensures that your phone remains safe, no matter what. It also comes with a holster built right in, which can be used as a belt clip, if you want to. The case is currently available for pre-order, and is expected to be in stock by October 28 this year.

2. Otterbox Commuter Series Case

The Otterbox Commuter Series case is meant for people who don’t want a bulky looking case on their Pixel, but still want the highest protection that is possible. The Commuter case comes with Otterbox drop protection, which ensures that any impact is absorbed and deflected by the case, keeping your phone safe. Port covers on the case ensure that dust and dirt do not get inside the ports on the Pixel.

The Commuter case is built with a hard polycarbonate exterior, and synthetic rubber anti-slip cover on the inside. Unlike the Defender case, the Commuter doesn’t offer a full coverage, but otherwise, the protection offered is extremely good. The case is available for pre-order, and is expected to be in stock by October 14, this year.

Buy from chúng tôi ($39.95); Also available for Pixel XL ($49.95)

3. Sparin Google Pixel Case

The case is built from eco-friendly TPU, and comes in a clear body, to retain the original color and look of the Google Pixel phone. The soft coating, and rounded edges on the cover ensure a comfortable grip at all times. The Sparin Google Pixel case offers full protection to the back and edges of the Google Pixel, and comes with air-cushioned corners to protect the phone in case you drop it. Along with that, Sparin offers a lifetime warranty on the case.

Buy from chúng tôi ($7.81)

4. DGtle Google Pixel Case

The DGtle Google Pixel case is made from flexible TPU material. The cover snaps right onto the Google Pixel, and with its precise cutouts, ensures that you have access to all the ports on your device. The case provides shock absorption, to make sure that your phone is protected from impact, even if you drop it.

The DGtle Google Pixel case comes in a wide variety of colors that you can choose from, and also comes in a clear version, to make sure that the look of the device is not lost.

Buy from chúng tôi ($7.99)

5. Cimo Slim Google Pixel Case

The Cimo Slim Google Pixel case is made from lightweight, slim, and durable polycarbonate material. The design of the case is slim, and it preserves the look and feel of the Google Pixel smartphone. The case features raised bezels, to protect the screen from impact. The Cimo Slim Google Pixel case also features precise cutouts for all the ports, speakers and camera on the Google Pixel, to ensure that users have unrestricted access to all of these, even with the cover on.

6. Google Pixel Silicone case

This official case from Google comes in 5 different colors, so you can choose the one that you like best. The Silicone case from Google is built with three layers. The outermost layer is made out of silicone to protect the phone from impact, as well as for grip; there is a polycarbonate interior for added support, and to top it all off, the case comes with a premium microfibre interior.

If you’re looking for official cases for your Pixel smartphone, then you should definitely check this one out. You can choose your own color, and rest easy, knowing that the case will protect your phone from most wear and tear while you’re on the go. The Pixel Silicone case is not yet available on the Google Store, and you will need to visit the it to place the order, once it comes in stock.

Buy from Google Store (TBA)

7. Google Live Cases

The Google Live cases are not yet available for the Google Pixel, and you will need to visit the Google Store to place the order, once they come in stock.

Buy from Google Store (TBA)

8. Incipio DualPro Case

The Incipio DualPro case for the Google Pixel smartphone comes with a shock absorbing inner core, to protect from drops and bumps. The DualPro is a two layered case with a scratch resistant hard polycarbonate outer shell, and silicone on the inside for added grip, and protection.

The DualPro case for the Google Pixel features a soft-touch finish on the case, making sure that the phone is not too slippery to hold, and the case feels natural in the hands. The case is available in two colors, and will soon be available on the Incipio website.

9. Incipio Octane Case

The Incipio Octane is another really great case for the Google Pixel. It is built with polycarbonate on the outside to provide protection to the phone, while featuring a TPU bumper on all sides of the in case, for added drop protection, as well as better grip. The TPU bumper on the case comes in contrasting colors, which really add to the look of the case, as a whole.

10. Incipio Carnaby Case

Another really great case for the Google Pixel, is the Incipio Carnaby. The case is aimed at people who don’t want to compromise on looks for protection, and is actually called the Incipio Carnaby Esquire Series case. The case is crafted by Incipio for reliable protection and durability, and features a sleek, co-molded design that comprises of a sturdy hard shell, and polymer materials for shock absorption.

The case comes with TPU button covers, and features a very soft cotton-finish, to give it a sleek and sophisticated look. The TPU frame of the cover absorbs and deflects shock to make sure that the phone doesn’t get affected from impact and bumps.

SEE ALSO: 12 Android N Tricks and Hidden Features You Should Unlock

Protect Your Google Pixel Smartphone With These Cases

Well, those were the best cases available for the Google Pixel. If you’re buying the smartphone, it’ll be a good idea to get one if these cases as well, in order to protect your phone, and keep it safe. The Pixel features a very iPhone-like aluminium body, and it will get scratched over time, unless covered with a case, especially if you’re planning on getting the “Really Blue” variant of the Pixel.

Nasa Updates Us On Curiosity’s Progress

It’s been more than a week since NASA’s Mars rover, dubbed “Curiosity,” landed on the red planet. In that time, mission controllers at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., have been checking Curiosity’s 10 instruments and updating software for its two-year mission to look for evidence of microbial life on the planet. NASA held a news conference Tuesday to talk about Curiosity’s progress so far.

Mars mission leaders showed magnificent images that have come in from Curiosity so far.

For instance, in this photo taken from one of the Rover’s navigation cameras, you can see part of Curiosity’s deck and power supply on the left, as well as both its low-gain and high-gain antennas which allow for communications between Curiosity, orbiting spacecraft and Earth. Farther out you can see the rim of Gale Crater. On the right, close to the rover, NASA says you can see where the descent stage’s rocket engines blasted the ground before it disengaged and flew off to a crash landing.

If you were actually standing on Mars looking at this scene it would appear much different, NASA says. The sky there is red, and the dusty air and surface would make the view seem much blander. To make it easier for scientists to know what they’re looking at, NASA has “white balanced” the colors to mimic what the rover would see if it were illuminated with Earth sunlight.

Over the next few days more images will come in from Curiosity, including better ones of Mount Sharp, which is where the rover is ultimately headed. According to Mars Mission Manager Mike Watkins, the panoramic images the rover has captured so far haven’t shown a full sweep of Mount Sharp because, imaging sequences were pre-planned.

Starting today, weather instruments will start taking 24-hour measurements, although, because of the winds in the crater, it will take a while to sort it out the data.

While NASA had already used data from the HIRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to identify about a half dozen of the best routes to Mount Sharp, now that the rover is on the ground it will be easier to determine which of those routes will be the safest to traverse in terms of rock size, sand depth, and inclines.

While Curiosity is capable of climbing rocks about a meter high and terrain that’s sloped up to 50 degrees, Watkins said they will try to avoid going over high rocks or traveling on slopes angled more than 10 degrees.

NASA said it has commissioned all of Curiosity’s instruments except the arm and drill, which will be done in about a week. After that, it will check out the arm joints—essentially doing some wake-up exercises–and even some drilling. So while “final characterization” is probably a month away, NASA says after next week Curiosity will have a lot of capability.

Getting to Mount Sharp, where Curiosity will be doing the bulk of its work, will take some time.

NASA says even though Curiosity’s main goal is to study the lower sedimentary layers of Mount Sharp, it’s important to understand the context around the area and, as such, will take two or three samples along the way there. Each time the Rover performs sampling it means a few weeks of activity in terms of finding the sample, deploying the arm, acquiring the sample and processing it in the lab.

Curiosity also has to contend with distance constraints. While Mount Sharp is only about 8km away from Curiosity’s landing site as the crow flies, NASA says the rover will actually travel a few kilometers more because it will have to drive around obstacles.

High Tech Avionics Were a Big Challenge

Curiosity got a “brain transplant” this weekend in which it received a new version of flight software that’s better suited for working on the surface of Mars, such as driving and using Curiosity’s powerful robotic arm and drill. It also gives the rover better image processing ability so it can avoid obstacles while driving as well as go on longer drives.

“I like to think of it as an intellectual upgrade, since the brain remains the same,” said Avionics Systems Lead Jim Donaldson, who spent several minutes giving a jargon-filled description of what Curiosity’s avionics do.

Translation: The Mars mission involves technology that is more complex than any other NASA has used.

How to Keep up with Curiosity

NASA has dedicated an entire section of its website to its Mars mission and really everything you’d want to know about it is right there.

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