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似曾相识的火星表面

Mars Looks Quite Familiar, if Only on the Surface
似曾相识的火星表面

A conspiracy theorist might think that NASA’s newest Mars rover, the Curiosity, is actually just in the middle of a desert on Earth.

阴谋论者可能认为,美国宇航局(NASA)最新的火星探测器“好奇号”(Curiosity),实际上是降落在了地球上某个沙漠的深处。

Over the weekend, the Curiosity, which landed on Aug. 7 after an eight-month flight, started sending back a 360-degree high-resolution panorama of its surroundings.

8个月的飞行之后,“好奇号”于今年8月7日登陆火星。上周末,它开始传回反映降落地点周围环境的360度高清全景图像。

As the accompanying NASA news release noted, the images show “a landscape closely resembling portions of the southwestern United States.”

正如美国宇航局在随图像发布的新闻中指出的那样,这些图像显示了“一种和美国西南部部分地区极为相似的地形。”
 

美国宇航局称,“好奇号”火星探测器传回的第一张图像,显示出与美国西南部分地区极相似的地形。

At a news conference on Wednesday, John P. Grotzinger, a professor of geology at the California Institute of Technology who serves as the mission’s project scientist, compared the view with a place just a few hours’ drive from Pasadena, Calif., and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the rover’s birthplace.

在上周三的新闻发布会上,加州理工学院(California Institute of Technology)地质学教授、本次火星探测任务项目专家约翰·P·格罗青格(John P. Grotzinger)将图像中的景色与距离加利福尼亚州帕萨迪纳市和“好奇号”的诞生地美国宇航局喷气推进实验室(Jet Propulsion Laboratory)几小时车程的一个地方进行了对比。

“You would really be forgiven for thinking that NASA was trying to pull a fast one on you,” he said, “and we actually put a rover out in the Mojave Desert and took a picture — a little L.A. smog coming in there.”

“如果你认为美国宇航局实际上是把一个火星探测器放在了莫哈韦沙漠里,然后拍了一张照片来欺骗你,我们绝对会原谅你——图像里还有一点儿洛杉矶的烟雾呢。”他说。

He added, “To a certain extent, the first impression you get is how Earth-like it seems.”

他补充道,“在一定程度上,你所获得的第一印象就是,火星看上去和地球无比相似。”

Where the Curiosity actually sits is a 96-mile-wide crater named Gale near the Martian equator.

实际上,“好奇号”的着陆点位于直径约154公里的盖尔环形山(Gale)内,靠近火星赤道(Martian equator)。

To the north, the images show part of the crater rim that is believed to have been eroded by flowing water.

图像里靠北的地方是盖尔环形山的部分边缘,据信环形山边缘曾经遭受流水的侵蚀。

To the south is a 3.4-mile-high peak that the scientists call Mount Sharp, which Curiosity is meant to reach and to climb. By investigating the layers of sedimentary rock on Mount Sharp, mission scientists hope to reconstruct the climate and environment of early Mars and tell whether it could have been once been habitable for life.

图像里靠南的地方是一座约5500米高的山峰。它被科学家们称为夏普山(Mount Sharp),是“好奇号”将要抵达和攀爬的目的地。负责此次探测任务的科学家们希望,通过研究夏普山的沉积岩层,能重构火星早期的气候和环境,并判断火星是否曾经适合生命居住。

The photos also show marks that Curiosity has made at the landing site. As Curiosity was lowered to the surface of Mars, blasts from the descent-stage engines created indentations in the nearby soil, exposing the bedrock below. This exposed bedrock is likely to be one of the first areas of scientific exploration on the rover’s planned two-year journey.

照片还显示了“好奇号”在着陆地点留下的印记。“好奇号”向火星表面降落的过程之中,引擎的冲击波将降落地点附近的地表轰出了一个凹坑,暴露出底层的基岩。暴露的基岩很可能会成为火星探测器长达两年的探测之旅中将要探测的第一个区域。

“What’s cool about this is that we got some free trenching,” Dr. Grotzinger said. After the flawless landing, the first week of operations of the rover on the ground also proceeded almost perfectly, too, as engineers started checking out the rover’s system, deployed the high-gain antenna, and raised the mast that holds the cameras.

“我们获得了不花钱的槽探机会,这可太棒了。” 格罗青格博士说。探测器在火星完美着陆之后,工程师们开始检查探测器的系统,部署高增益天线,升起支撑相机的探测杆。与此同时,探测器在火星表面的第一周探测活动也进行得非常顺利,几乎毫无瑕疵。

So far, no significant trouble has arisen. The weather instrument experienced a problem that engineers figured out a day later.

到目前为止,探测器没有遇到什么大的麻烦。气象设备遇到了一点儿小问题,不过一天后,工程师就把问题解决了。

The rover’s internal temperatures are slightly warmer than expected, possibly because the crater is warmer than predicted or because NASA’s computer models of Curiosity were not quite right.

探测器的内部温度比预想的稍高一些,可能是因为环形山的温度比预测的要高,也可能是因为宇航局制作的“好奇号”电脑模型不够准确。

“We’re still looking why that is,” said Jennifer Trosper, one of the mission managers.

“我们还在查找原因。”探测任务管理团队成员珍妮弗·特罗斯珀(Jennifer Trosper)称。

Worries about overheating could put constraints on when certain instruments can be used. But the heat is also a boon, reducing the energy Curiosity needs to warm up its joints and wheels before moving.

对过热的担忧可能会对一些设备的启用时间构成限制。不过,较高的温度也带来了一些好处,减少了“好奇号”在开动前预热接头和传动轴所需的能量。

Over the weekend, NASA upgraded the software that runs the rover’s computer.

上个周末,美国宇航局对控制探测器电脑的软件进行了升级。

On Monday morning, President Obama called to congratulate the Curiosity team. “You guys are examples of American know-how and ingenuity,” he said. “It’s really an amazing accomplishment.”

周一早晨,奥巴马总统打电话祝贺“好奇号”团队,“你们是美国技术和创造力的典范。”他说,“这真是一项令人震惊的成就。”

He did have one request for them: “If in fact you do make contact with Martians, please let me know right away,” the president said.

他确实对团队成员提出了一个要求:“如果你们真和火星人取得了联系,请马上通知我,”总统说道。

“I’ve got a lot of other things on my plate, but I suspect that that would go to the top of the list. Even if they’re just microbes, it will be pretty exciting.”

“我手头还有很多事情,但我猜想那应该是最优先的事项。即便他们只是微生物,也会让人非常兴奋。”他说。
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