August’s top stories: Mars rover landing and Qantas cancellations

While NASA celebrated the successful landing of the Mars rover, Qantas was forced to scrap its huge Boeing 787 order. Aerospace-technology.com wraps up the key headlines from August this year.


NASA's Curiosity rover successfully lands on Mars

curiosity

Nasa celebrated the successful landing of its Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars, marking the end of a 36-week flight and the start of a new mission to investigate the planet and its history.

What had been claimed to be the most complex landing ever on Mars was completed successfully, with NASA administrator Charles Bolden stating that the wheels of Curiosity had paved the way for human footprints on Mars.

"Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars, or if the planet can sustain life in the future," he said.

Curiosity was designed, developed and assembled by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Qantas cancels $8.5bn aircraft order following annual loss

Australian airliner Qantas was forced to scrap its $8.5bn order for 35 B787-9 aircraft following its first ever full year loss. The company cited high fuel costs and increasing losses from its international operations for the poor financial results.

Lower growth requirements also forced the company to postpone the potential delivery date for a further 50 aircraft by two years to 2016, although the company did confirm it would still acquire B787-8 aircraft as planned.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the company had been through an exceptional period in its history over the past 12 months, but confirmed that its turnaround plan was on track.

"We will continue to invest capital efficiently as we target greater competitiveness and customer satisfaction to deliver a stronger Qantas Group," he said.

Purdue University researchers develop new method to predict solar flares

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Purdue University researchers unveiled a new method with which to predict solar flares, further allowing authorities to adopt protective measures to safeguard satellites, power grids and astronauts.

The new detection technique is based on the theory that radioactive decay rates are influenced by solar activity, and works by measuring variations in gamma radiation produced by the decay of atoms in radioactive elements.

Solar storms could have a potentially devastating effect on infrastructure on the Earth, causing wide-spread blackouts by knocking out power grids or causing satellites to malfunction and possibly crash. The ability to predict the approach of a solar flare, giving more than a day's notice, could allow protective measures to be taken, drastically reducing the implications of such an event.

NASA Curiosity rover begins test drive on Mars

Following its successful landing on the surface of Mars earlier in the month, NASA's Curiosity rover began a test drive from its launch site, completing forward, turn and reverse movements.

The $2.5bn rover moved a distance of around 4m, confirming the health of the rover's mobility system prior to it beginning a two-year exploration mission. NASA Jet Propulsion laboratory mission lead rover driver Matt Heverly said: "We have a fully functioning mobility system with lots of amazing exploration ahead."

To explore specific targets of interest near and far of Mars, NASA's science team has embarked on pointing instruments on the rover's pole. The spacecraft's chemistry and camera instrument had deployed a laser and spectrometers to observe the composition of Martian rocks when landing engines of spacecraft blew away overlying material.

Demand for aviation personnel to soar in Asia Pacific says Boeing

boeing

Boeing has predicted a demand for aviation personnel in the commercial airline industry courtesy of fleet modernisation requirements and air travel growth in the Asia Pacific region.

The 2012 Boeing Pilot & Technician Outlook stated that about 12,030 new aircraft would be required by 2031, while 185,600 new pilots and 243,500 new technicians would need to be hired in the region through to 2030.

Bob Bellitto, Boeing Flight Services global sales director, said the need for aviation personnel is a global issue, but the Asia Pacific region has been hit particularly hard due to surging economies in the region driving travel demand.

"Airlines and training providers need new and more engaging ways to fill the pipeline of pilots and technicians for the future," Bellitto added.