RSSAll Entries Tagged With: "Mars Science Laboratory"

Mars rover moving closer to launch

NASA’S NEXT MARS ROVER will land at the foot of a layered mountain inside the planet’s Gale Crater. The car-sized Mars Science Laboratory, or Curiosity, is scheduled to launch between mid-November and mid-December this year and land in August 2012.

The target crater spans 154 kilometres in diameter and holds a mountain rising higher from the crater floor than Mount Rainier rises above Seattle. Layering in the region suggests it is the surviving remnant of an extensive sequence of geological deposits.

During a prime mission lasting one Martian year—nearly two Earth years—researchers will use the rover’s tools to study whether the landing region had favourable environmental conditions for supporting microbial life and for preserving clues about whether life ever existed.

The video above provides a snapshot of work to get the rover ready for launch at the Kennedy Space Centre. The video below talks about Gale Crater and what scientists hope to find.

Adapted from information issued by NASA / JPL.

Get SpaceInfo.com.au daily updates by RSS or email! Click the RSS Feed link at the top right-hand corner of this page, and then save the RSS Feed page to your bookmarks. Or, enter your email address (privacy assured) and we’ll send you daily updates. Or follow us on Twitter, @spaceinfo_oz

Like this story? Please share or recommend it…

Mars mission launch gets closer

NASA’S MARS SCIENCE LABORATORY will leave Earth later this year, on target for a landing on Mars in August 2012. This new animation details some of the dramatic events we can expect from the mission, including the spacecraft separating from its launch vehicle near Earth and the mission’s rover, Curiosity, zapping rocks with a laser and examining samples of powdered rock on Mars.

Curiosity’s landing will use a different method than any previous Mars landing, with the rover suspended on tethers from a rocket-powered “sky crane.”

Here’s a shorter, narrated version of the video:

Adapted from information issued by NASA / JPL.

Get SpaceInfo.com.au daily updates by RSS or email! Click the RSS Feed link at the top right-hand corner of this page, and then save the RSS Feed page to your bookmarks. Or, enter your email address (privacy assured) and we’ll send you daily updates. Or follow us on Twitter, @spaceinfo_oz

Like this story? Please share or recommend it…

Mission to Mars

A ROVER THE SIZE OF A SMALL CAR will set sail for the Red Planet later this year.

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission will land the rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars, to conduct extended investigations of the planet’s surface…the aim being to work out if Mars has, or had, environmental conditions able to support microbes.

Curiosity is much bigger than past rovers. Sojourner, part of the Pathfinder mission that landed in 1997, was about the size of a microwave oven. Spirit and Opportunity, twin rovers that landed in 2004, are each about the size of a domestic refrigerator.

Curiosity will be five times heavier, and carry 10 times as much scientific gear, than Spirit or Opportunity.

MSL/Curiosity is due for launch on 25 November 2011, and land on Mars on 6 August 2012.

Video and images courtesy NASA / JPL-Caltech.

Get SpaceInfo.com.au daily updates by RSS or email! Click the RSS Feed link at the top right-hand corner of this page, and then save the RSS Feed page to your bookmarks. Or, enter your email address (privacy assured) and we’ll send you daily updates. Or follow us on Twitter, @spaceinfo_oz

Like this story? Please share or recommend it…

Mars rover learns to reach out

NASA’s next Mars rover, Curiosity—also known as the Mars Science Laboratory—is taking shape in advance of its launch next year. The video above recounts the latest milestone…the attachment of the rover’s robotic arm.

About the size of an SUV car, the rover has six wheels with their own electric motors. All up, the wheel mobility system has 10 motors—four for steering the rover and six for driving.

Due to land on the Red Planet in August 2012, Curiosity will be the largest rover ever sent to Mars. It will carry 10 instruments that will help assess an intriguing region of the planet for two things: environments where life might have existed, and the capacity of those environments to preserve evidence of past life.

The video below shows Curiosity taking its first “baby steps” in the laboratory.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

Get SpaceInfo.com.au daily updates by RSS or email! Click the RSS Feed link at the top right-hand corner of this page, and then save the RSS Feed page to your bookmarks. Or, enter your email address (privacy assured) and we’ll send you daily updates. Or follow us on Twitter, @spaceinfo_oz

Mars landing movie

  • Mars Science Laboratory due to land August 2012
  • Downward facing camera will record landing
  • Video and still pictures sent back to Earth

A downward-pointing camera on the front-left side of NASA’s Curiosity rover will give adventure fans worldwide an unprecedented sense of riding a spacecraft to a landing on Mars.

The Mars Descent Imager, or MARDI, will start recording high-resolution video about two minutes before landing in August 2012.

Initial frames will glimpse the heat shield falling away from beneath the rover, revealing a swath of Martian terrain below illuminated in afternoon sunlight. The first scenes will cover ground several kilometres (a few miles) across. Successive images will close in and cover a smaller area each second.

The full-colour video will likely spin, then shake, as the Mars Science Laboratory mission’s parachute, then its rocket-powered backpack, slow the rover’s descent. The left-front wheel will pop into view when Curiosity extends its mobility and landing gear.

The spacecraft’s own shadow, unnoticeable at first, will grow in size and slide westward across the ground. The shadow and rover will meet at a place that, in the final moments, becomes the only patch of ground visible, about the size of a bath towel and underneath the rover.

Dust kicked up by the rocket engines during landing may swirl as the video ends and Curiosity’s surface mission can begin.

Models of Sojourner, a Mars Exploration Rover, and MSL.

Full-scale models of three generations of Red Planet rovers: front, the Sojourner rover (about the size of a microwave oven) landed as part of the Pathfinder mission in 1997; left, one of the twins, Spirit and Opportunity, landed in 2004; and right, the Mars Science Laboratory, due to land in August 2012.

All of this, recorded at about four frames per second and close to 1,600 by 1,200 pixels per frame, will be stored safely into the Mars Descent Imager’s own flash memory during the landing.

But the camera’s principal investigator, Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, and everyone else will need to be patient. Curiosity will be about 250 million kilometres (about 150 million miles) from Earth at that point. It will send images and other data to Earth via relay by one or two Mars orbiters, so the daily data volume will be limited by the amount of time the orbiters are overhead each day.

“Each of the 10 science instruments on the rover has a role in making the mission successful,” said John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, chief scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory.

“This one will give us a sense of the terrain around the landing site and may show us things we want to study. Information from these images will go into our initial decisions about where the rover will go.”

Adapted from information issued by NASA / JPL / MSSS.

Please note that the video above was made prior to the decision to defer the launch date of MSL. Disregard the reference to October 2010 at the end of the video.

Get SpaceInfo.com.au daily updates by RSS or email! Click the RSS Feed link at the top right-hand corner of this page, and then save the RSS Feed page to your bookmarks. Or, enter your email address (privacy assured) and we’ll send you daily updates. Or follow us on Twitter, @spaceinfo_oz

Become a Mars explorer!

An artist's impression of the Curiosity rover

Hundreds of thousands of names of members of the public, will be stored on microchip and carried to Mars by the Mars Science Laboratory mission in 2011.

  • NASA collecting names for Mars missions
  • Will be stored on a microchip
  • Sent to Mars in 2011 aboard new mission

NASA is inviting members of the public from all over the world, to submit their names for its next Mars mission. The names will be stored on a microchip carried to the Red Planet by Mars Science Laboratory mission, scheduled to launch in 2011.

The Mars Science Laboratory—named Curiosity—is a rover that will assess whether Mars ever was, or still is, an environment able to support microbial life.

As of the beginning June, over 750,000 people from dozens of countries had submitted their details for the flight. The top ranking countries at the time of writing are:

  • USA – 293,302 names
  • UK – 49,784
  • Brazil – 40,985
  • India – 33,265
  • Canada – 27303
  • Turkey – 25243
  • Australia – 21960

After you’ve entered your name, you can print a certificate and view a map showing where all the other contributors are from.

NASA web site: Send your name to Mars!

Adapted from information issued by NASA.