Mars rover Curiosity landing schedule still on target, final stages under way

By on Aug 5, 2012 in Astronomy, Science Comments

Updated: August 6, 2012 2:45 p.m.

Read Mars rover Curiosity lands successfully, NASA releases first images of Red Planet (Photo)

The landing schedule of Mars rover Curiosity is still on target and the final stages are now under way, with NASA engineers noting that the spacecraft will land on the Red Planet smoothly as planned, in which the Curiosity landing being dubbed as “seven minutes of terror.”

According to a post by NASA on its official website on Sunday, August 5, 2012, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft and its Curiosity rover are now in the final stages of preparing to land on Mars, which is being expected at 1:31 a.m. EDT, Monday, August 6 (10:31 p.m. PDT, Sunday, Aug. 5).

As noted by NASA, the car-sized rover remains in good health condition with all systems operating well as expected, with MSL approximately 261,000 miles (420,039 kilometers) from Mars as of 2:25 p.m. PDT (5:25 p.m. EDT); and closing in at a little more than 8,000 mph (about 3,600 meters per second).

“This afternoon, as part of the onboard sequence of autonomous activities leading to the landing, catalyst bed heaters are being turned on to prepare the eight Mars Lander Engines that are part of MSL‘s descent propulsion system.” A statement reads at about the latest MSL mission update.

NASA added that Mars Odyssey spacecraft and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) are both being expected to be overhead during and right after Curiosity‘s landing on Mars, with Odyssey to act as a “bent pipe,” relaying Curiosity‘s signals to Earth immediately after it receives them.

Once the 1-ton Mars rover have landed successfully, which is being expected to be near the foot of a tall mountain rising from the floor of Gale Crater in Mars‘ southern hemisphere, it will begin to survey its exotic surroundings and will take photos or images of Mars and will send them back to Earth.

These images will come from the one-megapixel Engineering Hazard Avoidance cameras (Hazcams) attached to Curiosity‘s body, which has four parts, and will be used to help map out the terrain it traverses; with four other Navigation cameras (Navcams) located at the top of the Mars rover.

Graphic of NASA’s Curiosity rover, showing the locations of its cameras
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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