[meteorite-list] Curiosity Rover on Track for Early August Landing

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2012 16:34:37 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201206262334.q5QNYbEN028458_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Curiosity Rover on Track for Early August Landing
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
June 26, 2012

Mars Science Laboratory Mission Status Report

PASADENA, Calif. -- A maneuver on Tuesday adjusted the flight path of
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft for delivering the rover
Curiosity to a landing target beside a Martian mountain.

The car-size, one-ton rover is bound for arrival the evening of Aug. 5,
2012, PDT (early Aug. 6, EDT and Universal Time). The landing will mark
the beginning of a two-year prime mission to investigate whether one of
the most intriguing places on Mars ever offered an environment favorable
for microbial life.

The latest trajectory correction maneuver, the third and smallest since
the Nov. 26, 2011, launch, used four thruster firings totaling just 40
seconds. Spacecraft data and Doppler-effect changes in radio signal from
the craft indicate the maneuver succeeded. As designed by engineers at
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., the maneuver adjusts
the location where the spacecraft will enter Mars' atmosphere by about
125 miles (200 kilometers) and advances the time of entry by about 70

"This puts us closer to our entry target, so if any further maneuvers
are needed, I expect them to be small," said JPL's Tomas Martin-Mur, the
mission's navigation team chief. Opportunities for up to three
additional trajectory correction maneuvers are scheduled during the
final eight days of the flight.

The maneuver served both to correct errors in the flight path that
remained after earlier correction maneuvers and to carry out a decision
this month to shift the landing target about 4 miles (7 kilometers)
closer to the mountain.

It altered the spacecraft's velocity by about one-tenth of a mile per
hour (50 millimeters per second). The flight's first and second
trajectory correction maneuvers produced velocity changes about 150
times larger on Jan. 11 and about 20 times larger on March 26.

Shifting the landing target closer to the mountain, informally named
Mount Sharp, may shave months off the time needed for driving from the
touchdown location to selected destinations at exposures of
water-related minerals on the slope of the mountain.

The flight to Mars has entered its "approach phase" leading to landing
day. Mission Manager Arthur Amador of JPL said, "In the next 40 days,
the flight team will be laser-focused on the preparations for the
challenging events of landing day -- continuously tracking the
spacecraft's trajectory and monitoring the health and performance of its
onboard systems, while using NASA's Deep Space Network to stay in
continuous communications. We're in the home stretch now. The spacecraft
continues to perform very well. And the flight team is up for the

Descent from the top of Mars' atmosphere to the surface will employ bold
techniques enabling use of a smaller target area and heavier landed
payload than were possible for any previous Mars mission. These
innovations, if successful, will place a well-equipped mobile laboratory
into a locale especially well suited for its mission of discovery. The
same innovations advance NASA toward capabilities needed for human
missions to Mars.

A video about the challenges of the landing is online at:
http://go.nasa.gov/Q4b35n or http://go.usa.gov/vMn.

As of June 27, the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft carrying the rover
Curiosity will have traveled about 307 million miles (494 million
kilometers) of its 352-million-mile (567-million-kilometer) flight to Mars.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena,
manages the mission for the NASA Science Mission Directorate,
Washington. More information about Curiosity is online at
http://www.nasa.gov/msl* *and* *http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ . You can
follow the mission on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity
and on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity .

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Guy.Webster at jpl.nasa.gov

Received on Tue 26 Jun 2012 07:34:37 PM PDT

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