IDBS Blog | 28th February 2012

Mars is the Last Place You Want to Run Out of Batteries!

XLfit provides crucial analysis to keep the experiment of a lifetime on track for NASA

Now you might say that I’m over the moon with the sheer scientific value that XLfit offers. And you’d be right.

It integrates perfectly with the ever popular, not to mention ubiquitous, Microsoft®Excel for easy, intuitive, scientific curve fitting and powerful statistical analysis that lets you visualize, interpret and present scientific data. Plus you get mathematical and 3-D modeling, global fitting, automatic outlier detection… well, I could go on.

Suffice to say it’s got truly universal appeal. In Korea for example, it proved a real star in Wind Generator research. And now it’s playing its part in making a series of vital experiments a reality some 140 million miles from Earth – on Mars of all places.

Heavy science

This August the new Mars Science Laboratory mission will land on Mars to discover if this enigmatic planet has ever supported life. The rover ‘Curiosity’ will analyze soil and rock samples for nearly two years. But that means carrying ten times the mass of instruments than any previous mission, all of which are going to need an awful lot of power to deliver meaningful results.

So for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory it was vital to find out if Curiosity’s generator and batteries could last the distance – not an easy task considering the thousands of complex variables involved, many of which have not or could not be tested for real on the Red Planet’s less than hospitable surface.

XLfit was able to use data from past experiments; fit curves and correct data for temperature disparities; build appropriate models and extrapolate voltage tables to help NASA understand how they could keep Curiosity’s batteries fully powered at all times. In addition, XLfit is also regularly used to analyze solar cell performance curves.

Working at IDBS I’m proud to be part of a team of people who have played a part in some pretty major scientific discoveries all over the world. But if it turns out that we have helped in some small way to realize man’s dream of proving that extraterrestrial life does (or at least did) exist, then that might just be the biggest thing we have ever done.

Watch this space!

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