Tag Archives: Mars Science Laboratory

A preview of the new Mars unmanned rover Curiousity, set for launch on Saturday

A preview of the new Mars unmanned rover Curiousity, set for launch on Saturday. This is the part of its mission that scares me the most:

The final stages of the entry, descent and landing sequence will be especially tense as the rover, dubbed Curiosity in a student naming contest, is gently lowered to the surface on cables suspended from a rocket-powered “sky crane” making its debut flight. Too large to use airbags like those that cushioned NASA’s Pathfinder, Spirit and Opportunity rovers, Curiosity will rely instead on landing rockets positioned above the rover, avoiding the challenge of coming up with a reliable way to get a one-ton vehicle off of an elevated, possibly tilted lander. Instead, Curiosity will be set down on its six 20-inch-wide wheels, ready to roll.

If it works.

The next Mars rover will land at Gale Crater

The next Mars rover will land at Gale Crater.

The car-sized Mars Science Laboratory, or Curiosity, is scheduled to launch late this year and land in August 2012. The target crater spans 96 miles (154 kilometers) in diameter and holds a mountain rising higher from the crater floor than Mount Rainier rises above Seattle. Gale is about the combined area of Connecticut and Rhode Island. Layering in the mound suggests it is the surviving remnant of an extensive sequence of deposits. The crater is named for Australian astronomer Walter F. Gale. . . . The portion of the crater where Curiosity will land has an alluvial fan likely formed by water-carried sediments. The layers at the base of the mountain contain clays and sulfates, both known to form in water.

More here, including images of landing site.

NASA Inspector General notes continuing worries about the Mars Science Lab

A NASA Inspector General report issued today [pdf] notes continuing worries about the Mars Science Laboratory, scheduled for launch later this year.

Remaining Unresolved Technical Issues: Although Project managers have overcome the majority of technical issues that led to the [2009] launch delay, as of March 2011 three significant technical issues remain unresolved. . . . Because of technical issues related to these three and other items, Project managers must complete nearly three times the number of critical tasks than originally planned in the few months remaining until launch. [emphasis mine]