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.


 
 

 
NASA/JPL-Caltech image

NASA’s Mars spacecraft maneuvers to prepare for close comet flyby

NASA/JPL-Caltech image This graphic depicts the orbit of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as it swings around the sun in 2014. On Oct. 19, the comet will have a very close pass at Mars. Its nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 m...
 
 
Image courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Satellite study reveals parched U.S. West using up underground water

Image courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation The Colorado River Basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet of freshwater over the past nine years, according to a new study based on data from NASA’s GRACE mission. This is almost d...
 
 

NASA selects contract for mission support services at Ames

NASA has selected Wyle Laboratories, Inc., Houston, to support NASA’s flight programs and mission projects, providing support for multiple sustained project management, research and technology development capabilities that encompass all phases of mission and project lifecycles at the agency’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. The cost-plus-fixed-fee hybrid contract has a...
 

 
NASA, ESA, G. Bacon (STScI) and N. Madhusudhan (UC) image

Hubble finds three surprisingly dry exoplanets

NASA, ESA, G. Bacon (STScI) and N. Madhusudhan (UC) image This is an artistic illustration of the gas giant planet HD 209458b in the constellation Pegasus. To the surprise of astronomers, they have found much less water vapor i...
 
 
Air Force photograph

Budget cuts, growing threats affect space operations

Air Force photograph The Advanced Extremely High Frequency, or AEHF, system is a joint service satellite communications system that provides survivable, global, secure, protected and jam-resistant communications for high-priori...
 
 

NASA partners punctuate summer with spacecraft development advances

Spacecraft and rocket development is on pace this summer for NASA’s aerospace industry partners for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program as they progress through systems testing, review boards and quarterly sessions under their† Space Act Agreements with the agency. NASA engineers and specialists continue their review of the progress as the agency and partners move...
 




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>