Sunday, August 5, 2012
Curiosity blazed through the pink skies of Mars, steering itself to a gentle landing inside a giant crater for the most ambitious dig yet into the red planet’s past.
NASA’s most technologically advanced, interplanetary rover will attempt the riskiest part of its journey to Mars: descending through the Martian atmosphere and nailing a new landing routine.
Nerves will be on overdrive Sunday night as the Curiosity rover attempts a dizzying “seven minutes of terror” routine that ends with it being lowered by cables inside a massive crater if all goes according to plan.
Allen Chen, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA which manages the $2.5 billion mission said:
“”Touchdown confirmed. We’re safe on Mars.”
The voyage took over eight months and spanned 352 million miles. The landing will be the trickiest part of the journey. Because Curiosity weighs nearly a ton, engineers drummed up a new and more controlled way to set the rover down.
The last Mars rovers, twins Spirit and Opportunity, were cocooned in air bags and bounced to a stop in 2004.
The plans for Curiosity called for a series of braking tricks, similar to those used by the space shuttle, and a supersonic parachute to slow it down. Next: Ditch the heat shield used for the fiery descent.
In a new twist, engineers devised a way to lower the rover by cable from a hovering rocket-powered backpack. At touchdown, the cords cut and the rocket stage crashes a distance away.
The nuclear-powered Curiosity, the size of a small car, is packed with scientific tools, cameras and a weather station. It sports a robotic arm with a power drill, a laser that can zap distant rocks, a chemistry lab to sniff for the chemical building blocks of life and a detector to measure dangerous radiation on the surface.
SOURCE: Ledger Enquirer
Link to: NASA Curiosity Website
Watch Live on: C/Net