Viking Lander – Smithsonian Air and Space Museum – 2012-05-15
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Image by dctim1
Overhead view of an engineering back-up of a Viking Lander probe, on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Viking was the first attempt by the United States to study Mars close-up.

Viking 1 was launched on August 20, 1975, and Viking 2, was launched on September 9, 1975. Both probes had the same structure: An orbiter, which would map Mars photographically and via radar from low orbit, and a lander.

The Viking Lander was released from the orbiter encased in a heat shield. Once it got low enough, the heat shields were released and a parachute deployed. As the lander neared the surface, the parachute was released and retrorockets fired to bring the lander down to a soft landing.

The Viking Landers were powered by small nuclear reactors, containing plutonium-238.

Each lander had a UHF antenna that provided a one-way uplink to the orbiter using a 30 watt radio. But they also had a 20-watt S-band transmitter and an omnidirectional low-gain S-band antenna, so they could continue functioning even if the orbiters did not.

Data was stored on a 40-Mbit tape recorder. The simple computer had a 6000-word command word memory.

The Landers studied the biology, chemical composition, meteorology, seismology, magnetic properties, appearance, and physical properties of Mars. For photographs of the Martian surface, each lander carried two 360-degree cameras, a seismometer, and magnifying mirror. A soil sampler arm with collector head, temperature sensor, and magnet extended from one side. A meteorology boom (with temperature, wind direction, and wind velocity sensors) extended from one of the lander legs. An interior compartment had the biology testing chamber, a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer, and an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer.

The Viking 2 lander ceased to function on April 11, 1980 — 3 years, 7 months, and 8 days after landing. The failure was because its batteries failed to recharge.

The Viking 1 lander failed on November 13, 1982 — after 6 years, 3 months, and 22 days. A computer programmer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory accidentally told it to point its antenna at the soil. Communication was broken, and could not be re-established.

Honda Insight 25.03.2011 20110325-DSC_1298
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Image by Owen Mathias
The original Insight had a conventional manual transmission. Starting with the 2001 model, a CVT variant of the Insight was available; the CVT is similar to that used in the Honda Civic Hybrid and the Honda Logo. A traditional transmission shifts between a fixed set of engine-to-wheel ratios; however, a CVT allows for an infinite set of ratios between its lowest gear and its highest. A feature shared by the two hybrids (and now appearing in others) is the ability to automatically turn off the engine when the vehicle is at a stop (and restart it upon movement). Since it is more powerful than most starters of conventional cars, the Insight’s electric motor can start the engine nearly instantaneously. The Integrated Motor Assist is run by an "Intelligent Power Unit (IPU)", a desktop computer-sized box. The Intelligent Power Unit, the Power control Unit, the Electronic Control Unit, the vehicle’s batteries, converter and a high-voltage inverter are all located under the cargo floor of the vehicle, behind the seats.


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