NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity is closing in on the Red Planet with less than 24 hours before it touches down on the Martian surface.
Final preparations were underway at Nasa today. Its final approach to the red planet ahead of its expected landing on monday morning.
Mission scientists explained how the seven cameras aboard the rover are set to capture the martian surface as we have never seen it before.
However, the rover still has one massive hurdle to overcome before it can even begin work – the much anticipated ‘seven minutes of terror’ as it hurtles through the martian atmosphere, before (hopefully) being gently placed onto the surface by a floating ‘air crane’.
Today the leading scientists behind the project explained exactly what will happen – and admitted that explaining the project has been tough due to the huge number of acronyms used.
Names and descriptions are often reduced to acronyms and abbreviations, which are faster to string together in a sentence but can end up sounding downright martian to the outside world..
‘It’s kind of our own slang,’ explained Michael Watkins, mission manager of NASA’s $2.5 billion Mars project.
The rover is on track for its planned Aug. 5 landing at 10:31 p.m. PDT (1:31 a.m. EDT on Aug. 6).
According to NASA: As of 2:25 p.m. PDT (5:25 p.m. EDT) on Saturday, Curiosity was approximately 261,000 miles (420,039 kilometers) from Mars, closing in at a little more than 8,000 mph (about 3,600 meters per second).
NASA Television will broadcast live coverage of Curiosity’s landing on Aug. 5 beginning at 8 p.m. EDT (11 p.m. EDT; 0300 GMT Aug. 6).
You can watch NASA’s live webcast on SPACE.com by clicking here
Team members at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory share the challenges of the Curiosity Mars rover’s final minutes to landing on the surface of Mars.
UPDATE AUG 6, 2012:
CURIOSITY LANDS ON MARS: NASA’s “seven minutes of terror” ended with cries of joy from mission control at the Jet Propulsion Lab on August 6th when Curiosity sucessfully landed on Mars. One of the first pictures the rover sent back was of its own shadow:
This picture was taken through a wide-angle lens on rover’s rear Hazard-Avoidance camera. It’s only one-quarter of full resolution.As planned, the rover’s early engineering images are lower resolution. Larger color images are expected later in the week when the rover’s mast, carrying high-resolution cameras, is deployed.
Curiosity landed at 10:32 p.m. PDT Aug. 5, (1:32 a.m. EDT Aug. 6) inside Gale Crater near the foot of a layered mountain three miles tall and 96 miles in diameter. Observations from orbit have identified clay and sulfate minerals in the mountain’s lower layers, indicating a wet history. For the next two years (at least) the rover will search the layers for ancient habitats that might have supported Martian microbial life.
Curiosity carries 10 science instruments. Some are the first of their kind on Mars, such as a laser-firing instrument for checking the chemical make-up of rocks from a distance. The rover will use a drill and scoop at the end of its robotic arm to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into analytical laboratory instruments inside the rover. To handle this science toolkit, Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity.
The mission is managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The rover was designed, developed and assembled at JPL.