Space

August 6, 2012

NASA’s Curiousity Rover caught in act of landing

An image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured the Curiosity rover still connected to its 51-foot-wide parachute as it descended toward its landing site at Gale Crater Aug. 5.

“If HiRISE took the image one second before or one second after, we probably would be looking at an empty Martian landscape,” said Sarah Milkovich, HiRISE investigation scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “When you consider that we have been working on this sequence since March and had to upload commands to the spacecraft about 72 hours prior to the image being taken, you begin to realize how challenging this picture was to obtain.”

The image was taken while MRO was 211 miles away from the parachuting rover. Curiosity and its rocket-propelled backpack, contained within the conical-shaped back shell, had not deployed yet. At the time, Curiosity was about two miles above the Martian surface.

“Guess you could consider us the closest thing to paparazzi on Mars,” said Milkovich. “We definitely caught NASA’s newest celebrity in the act.”

Curiosity, NASA’s latest contribution to the Martian landscape, landed at 10:32 p.m., PDT, Aug. 5 near the foot of a three-mile tall mountain inside Gale Crater, which is 96 miles in diameter.

In other Curiosity news, one part of the rover team at JPL continues to review the data from Sunday night’s landing while another continues to prepare the 1-ton mobile laboratory for its future explorations of Gale Crater. One key assignment given to Curiosity for its first full day on Mars is to raise its high-gain antenna. Using this antenna will increase the data rate the rover can communicate directly with Earth. The mission will use relays to orbiters as the primary method for sending data home because that method is much more energy efficient for the rover.

Curiosity carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science payloads on the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Some of the tools, such as a laser-firing instrument for checking rocks’ elemental composition from a distance, are the first of their kind on Mars. Curiosity will use a drill and scoop which is located at the end of its robotic arm to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into the rover’s analytical laboratory instruments.

To handle this science toolkit, Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity. The Gale Crater landing site places the rover within driving distance of layers of the crater’s interior mountain. Observations from orbit have identified clay and sulfate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a wet history.

The Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity mission is managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The rover was designed, developed and assembled at JPL.

HiRISE is operated by the University of Arizona in Tucson. The instrument was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Exploration Rover projects are managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, built the orbiter.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Image courtesy of NASA, J. Lotz, (STScI

NASA’s Hubble finds extremely distant galaxy through cosmic magnifying glass

Image courtesy of NASA, J. Lotz, (STScI The mammoth galaxy cluster Abell 2744 is so massive that its powerful gravity bends the light from galaxies far behind it, making these otherwise unseen background objects appear larger a...
 
 
NASA photograph

NASA TV to air Russian spacewalk from International Space Station

NASA photograph Expedition 41 Commander Max Suraev and Flight Engineer Alexander Samokutyaev of the Russian Federal Space Agency will don Orlan spacesuits and step outside the International Space Station Oct. 22, to perform wor...
 
 
Ball Aerospace photograph

Ball Aerospace green propellant infusion mission to host three DOD space experiments

Ball Aerospace photograph The NASA and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) will fly three Defense Department experimental hosted payloads when it launches in 2016. The NASA and Ball ...
 

 
Photograph by NASA, Lockheed Martin Solar & Astrophysics Laboratory

NASA spacecraft provides new information about sun’s atmosphere

Photograph by NASA, Lockheed Martin Solar & Astrophysics Laboratory NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory provided the outer image of a coronal mass ejection on May 9, 2014. The IRIS spacecraft. The IRIS mission views the int...
 
 
University of Colorado/NASA photograph

NASA mission provides its first look at Martian upper atmosphere

University of Colorado/NASA photograph Three views of an escaping atmosphere, obtained by MAVEN’s Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph. By observing all of the products of water and carbon dioxide breakdown, MAVEN’s remote ...
 
 
Image courtesy of NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

NASA’s Hubble Telescope finds potential Kuiper Belt targets for New Horizons Pluto mission

Image courtesy of NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI) This is an artist’s impression of a Kuiper Belt object (KBO), located on the outer rim of our solar system at a staggering distance of 4 billion miles from the Sun. A HST surv...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>