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Mars Tugging on Approaching Rover Curiosity

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Mars Tugging on Approaching NASA Rover Curiosity

673285mainscoreboard673.jpg

This artist's scoreboard displays a fictional game between Mars and Earth, with Mars in the lead. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech › Full image and caption › Curiosity latest images

PASADENA, Calif. – The gravitational tug of Mars is now pulling NASA's car-size geochemistry laboratory, Curiosity, in for a suspenseful landing in less than 40 hours.

"After flying more than eight months and 350 million miles since launch, the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft is now right on target to fly through the eye of the needle that is our target at the top of the Mars atmosphere," said Mission Manager Arthur Amador of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The spacecraft is healthy and on course for delivering the mission's Curiosity rover close to a Martian mountain at 10:31 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5 PDT (1:31 a.m. Monday, Aug. 6 EDT). That's the time a signal confirming safe landing could reach Earth, give or take about a minute for the spacecraft's adjustments to sense changeable atmospheric conditions.

The only way a safe-landing confirmation can arrive during that first opportunity is via a relay by NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter. Curiosity will not be communicating directly with Earth as it lands, because Earth will set beneath the Martian horizon from Curiosity's perspective about two minutes before the landing.

"We are expecting Odyssey to relay good news," said Steve Sell of the JPL engineering team that developed and tested the mission's complicated "sky crane" landing system. "That moment has been more than eight years in the making."

A dust storm in southern Mars being monitored by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter appears to be dissipating. "Mars is cooperating by providing good weather for landing," said JPL's Ashwin Vasavada, deputy project scientist for Curiosity.

Curiosity was approaching Mars at about 8,000 mph (about 3,600 meters per second) Saturday morning. By the time the spacecraft hits the top of Mars' atmosphere, about seven minutes before touchdown, gravity will accelerate it to about 13,200 mph (5,900 meters per second).

NASA plans to use Curiosity to investigate whether the study area has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life, including chemical ingredients for life.

"In the first few weeks after landing, we will be ramping up science activities gradually as we complete a series of checkouts and we gain practice at operating this complex robot in Martian conditions," said JPL's Richard Cook, deputy project manager for Curiosity.

The first Mars pictures expected from Curiosity are reduced-resolution fisheye black-and-white images received either in the first few minutes after touchdown or more than two hours later. Higher resolution and color images from other cameras could come later in the first week. Plans call for Curiosity to deploy a directional antenna on the first day after landing and raise the camera mast on the second day.

The big hurdle is landing. Under some possible scenarios, Curiosity could land safely, but temporary communication difficulties could delay for hours or even days any confirmation that the rover has survived landing.

The prime mission lasts a full Martian year, which is nearly two Earth years. During that period, researchers plan to drive Curiosity partway up a mountain informally called Mount Sharp. Observations from orbit have identified exposures there of clay and sulfate minerals that formed in wet environments.

The Mars Science Laboratory is a project of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. The mission is managed by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Its rover, Curiosity, was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. Information about the mission and about ways to participate in challenges of the landing, including a new video game, is available at: http://www.nasa.gov/mars'>http://www.nasa.gov/mars and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ .

You can follow the mission on Facebook and on Twitter at: http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity and http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity .

For more information about NASA programs, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ .

The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

Guy Webster/D.C. Agle 818-354-5011

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov / agle@jpl.nasa.gov

Dwayne Brown/Steve Cole 202-358-1726/202-358-0918

NASA Headquarters, Washington

Dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov / Stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov

2012-227

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19 hours +/- ..... Keeping fingers crossed....GO CURIOSITY!

If the landing were to fail and Curiosity comes in too hard has there been any discussion of whether some of it's instruments might survive and function?

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If the landing were to fail and Curiosity comes in too hard has there been any discussion of whether some of it's instruments might survive and function?

Landings tend to be an all or nothing affair, spacecraft tend to land successfully or be destroyed in the attempt. Whilst NASA will hace scenarios for instrument failure I doubt that they would plan for a scenario in which the rover is badly damaged in a heavy landing. Predicting what would function and what wouldn't is likely to be somewhere between difficult and impossible. In the unlikely event that NASA did end up with a partially functioning rover THEN they would look at what science could be carried out.

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Absolutely amazing,...

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Wow! I think it's finally hitting me... this is phenomenal.

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Posted (edited)

Source: http://news.cnet.com...-rover-landing/

"Curiosity is scheduled to land in the Red Planet's Gale Crater late Sunday or very, very early Monday, depending on your Earthbound time zone. Confirmation of the landing should come at about 10:31 p.m. PT Sunday for folks on the U.S. West Coast, or 1:31 a.m. ET Monday for those on the East Coast. The rover will have actually touched down before that, but there's a 14-minute communications lag time for signals traveling the 154 million miles from Mars.

The space agency will begin its live coverage Sunday evening at 8:30 p.m. PT / 10:30 p.m. ET on the NASA TV site and will also show the coverage via UStream."

EDIT: The source link above from cnet is also carrying it.

Edited by pallidin

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Absolutely amazing,...

Yeah. looking for exhibit A!

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LEts all send "Curiosity" some very positive Thoughts ! We need a great success !

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Keeping my fingers crossed that 'Curiosity' makes a nice safe landing.

Look out Mars...Incoming!

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Just divert all power from the weapons system into the shields. As long as the shields are at maximum the rover should be able to survive a crash landing.

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Good luck NASA hope this ****e goes well

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T-minus 1 hour 45 minutes to touchdown.

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T-minus 45 min`s ! My prayers and best wishes are on there way ! 14 mins to even get there ! Wow Thats a long way out for a Hickup! Can you even imagine what the guys had to do just to get all the numbers crunched and caculated to pull this off ? My Hats off to all involved ! Even If theres a poof ! at landing We did Great No fear s ,JUst dust ourselfs off and Build another one ! ITs only money, We can always print more of that !

The knowledge IS PRICELESS !

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10 minutes to Touchdown! Go baby, go!

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The wait is Killing me ! :tu:

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TOUCHDOWN !! :sk :sk :sk :sk :sk

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Woot! Woot! Success!!

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First image came in. Wheels on Mars!!!

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Hi-res pic just came in!

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2nd and 3rd image just came in. All looks good!!!

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So freaking cool

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Hats off ! :tu:

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Woo Hoo! That was fun to watch. I can't wait for some good photos of Mars to come in now.

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Fantastic news!!!

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