Driving Miss Curiosity

Former Medford resident Matt Heverly starts his work day the same way many professionals do, by checking email.

But the most important message, the one he looks forward to each day, isn’t your typical “remember-to-fill-out-your-timecard” request or “there-are-cookies-in-the-break-room” announcement. It’s not even from a human being.

It’s from a robot, one that’s trundling slowly across the scarred, rusty surface of Mars over 200 million miles away. It name is Curiosity, and it checks in with Heverly twice a day. In the morning, Heverly gets bombarded with data: pictures of the Martian landscape, movements, composition of analyzed soil samples, etc.

Then based on that, other NASA scientists tell Heverly and other engineers, essentially, what they’d like the robot to do next. These engineers translate that “honey-do” list into lines of code and send it back into space.

Heverly, who lived in Medford during his elementary school years, is responsible for “driving” this $2.5 billion project, one built to explore the possibilities of past life on Mars.

“That we all paid for,” Heverly’s father, Mike, said at a recent presentation at the Rogue Valley Manor. “We built it, we paid for it, but we let this guy drive it.”

The Mail Tribune will run stories on Heverly’s job and the Curiosity Rover this Sunday. I’d encourage you to pick it up.

As it drifted through space, you think it saw that asteroid that crashed in Russia today?

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    Ryan Pfeil

    This is a blog for southern Oregonians to check in on all things geek. Sci-fi, history, comics, movies, video/photo and anything else that would have gotten you shut in a locker in high school. Have fun. Read Full
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