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Science Supplemental: Mars Curiosity Lands Tonight at 10:31PM PST August 5, 2012

by Kayla Iacovino , Filed under: Science/Technology , trackback

Tonight at 10:31pm Pacific time, NASA will attempt to land the largest, most powerful, and most complicated instrument ever to set wheels on the surface of Mars. Curiosity (aka Mars Science Laboratory), which weighs about as much as a Mini Cooper and has the wheel base of a Hummer H2, will be on Mars tonight. Whether it lands safely or leaves a Hummer-sized crater remains to be seen.

 

Seven Minutes of Terror
The journey from the top of Mars’ atmosphere to its surface takes about 7 minutes. In those seven minutes, Curiosity has to slow from 13,000 MPH to 0 while performing a sequence of perfectly choreographed maneuvers that must be completely automated with no help from Earth. Because Mars is so far from Earth, it takes 14 minutes for a signal from the rover to reach us here at home. That means that, by the time NASA gets word from Curiosity, she will have been on the surface — be it alive or dead — for at least seven minutes. It’s worth noting that NASA will receive a message from Mars faster than NBC can send a signal from London to Los Angeles.


Curiosity’s 2-Year Mission
While a bit shorter than the Enterprise, Curiosity’s prime mission will last 2 years, the longest prime mission time set for any Mars rover to date. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory explains,

The landing will end a 36-week flight from Earth and begin at two-year prime mission on Mars. Researchers will use Curiosity’s 10 science instruments to investigate whether Martian environmental conditions have ever been favorable for microbial life.

The rover is set to land in Gale Crater, a location chosen for its interesting geology, which will hopefully unveil information about Mars that dates back well into the planet’s humble planetary beginnings.

Animation showing how Curiosity will communicate with Earth during its landing sequence

Watch Live Tonight
Don’t miss one nail-biting minute of Curiosity’s landing tonight. Watch live on NASA TV or find a viewing event near you on the Mars Event Map.


Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Charla
August 5, 2012 11:09 am

So awesome, I can’t wait to see this!

SomeRandomGuy
August 5, 2012 11:14 am

Saw a report for this on the weather bulletin about half an hour ago. Slow news day, I guess.

Anthony Thompson
August 5, 2012 11:29 am

2. SomrRandomGuy

You must be having a slow day, too, if you’re bothering to read and comment on something you apparently aren’t interested in. Might be time for you to take Shatner’s favorite advice. : D

Anthony Thompson
August 5, 2012 11:30 am

Interesting report, Kayla!

Quark
August 5, 2012 11:30 am

“It’s worth noting that NASA will receive a message from Mars faster than NBC can send a signal from London to Los Angeles.”

Hahaha! Good one!

Thorny
August 5, 2012 11:36 am

Mars landings are always nail-biters, but this one is really an edge-of-your-seat affair. The “Great Galactic Ghoul” that lurks at Mars hasn’t snacked on a Mars probe in quite a while… he’e gotta be hungry by now., and that Skycrane landing method sure looks tasty. Godspeed, Curiosity!

Vultan
August 5, 2012 11:55 am

Incredible stuff.
I’ll be watching!

Jack
August 5, 2012 12:00 pm

Good writing. It’s too easy to take these things (Internet contrarian: “big deal, isn’t there always some sort of rover on Mars? how hard could it be?”) for granted.

Dr. Image
August 5, 2012 12:07 pm

Good luck NASA. Far better to send robots to Mars than people- as a certain politician thinks…

Azrael
August 5, 2012 12:17 pm

@9. But if we don’t send people to Mars eventually then we will never achieve the dream of Star Trek. Just sayin

August 5, 2012 12:22 pm
The only reason NBC can’t send the Olympics from London to New York faster than we get signals from Mars is that they want to put the best events on in prime time. They hold the news on a video tape system until they can gather the biggest audience. NASA and JPL do not want to delay their debut broadcast. They will sink or swim on whether or not on whether or not Curiousity performs its choreography perfectly to not. That is the price of funding these missions in a free society. They have to be under the constant view… Read more »
T'Cal
August 5, 2012 12:31 pm

When will Picard’s ancestors help establish the first Martian colonies?

AdmNaismith
August 5, 2012 12:41 pm

This whole thing is ridiculously awesome. When that sky-crane lowers the rover to the surface, this will quite possibly be the biggest day in the history of Earth engineering

VZX
August 5, 2012 1:34 pm

I’m so stoked for this landing that I’m watching on my phone at the beach

VulcanCafe
August 5, 2012 1:42 pm

@6 I guess the failed Phobos-Grunt mission wasn’t technically a MARS mission, but close enough.

CmdrR
August 5, 2012 2:53 pm

Can’t wait to see it.

Also… can’t help but wonder… 10 scientific instruments? Why do I get the feeling we could just have waited 5 years and flung a smart phone at Mars with more gadgets to check it out…

CmdrR
August 5, 2012 3:24 pm

Sci-fi really does pale by comparison to real science.

Adam E
August 5, 2012 3:52 pm

Touchdown is scheduled for 10:31 PM PDT not PST!

Adam E
August 5, 2012 3:53 pm
August 5, 2012 3:57 pm

God speed Curiousity.

shpock
August 5, 2012 4:15 pm

oh man oh man oh man oh man

Norbert
August 5, 2012 4:17 pm

Good luck. Hope they haven’t mistaken yards with meters.

Uberbot
August 5, 2012 4:56 pm

An AMAZING feat of engineering if they can pull it off!! WOW!! I’ll be glued to the NASA TV for this!! I think, due to the complexity within such a short time frame, this is much more complex than the Apollo moon landings…

AJ
August 5, 2012 5:11 pm

I’ve just been reading all about this today, and I’m excited to stay up here on the East Coast to see if mankind made it or not. The implications of those “7 minutes of terror” are just nail-bitingly amazing, especially if she makes it down.

And the new “Total Recall” left Mars out right before it becomes the next Justin Bieber. Bad move! ;-)

Uberbot
August 5, 2012 5:25 pm

There’s no Mars in this Total Recall remake?

Phil
August 5, 2012 5:59 pm

@12. There is a Dutch company that’s talking about putting humans on Mars around 2024. One way trip is the downside, though if you think about it everyone who went to the New World was figuring it being a one way trip, too.

AJ
August 5, 2012 6:36 pm

“Bill Nye the Planetary Guy” and our favorite 24th century holographic doctor, Robert Picardo, do a hilariously bad job at promoting an event tonight in California which will witness “Curiosity’s” touchdown,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=l3tCwBeQ4yw

AJ
August 5, 2012 6:39 pm

25:

Uberbot:

“There’s no Mars in this Total Recall remake?”

It’s the memo no one got.

Dr. Image
August 5, 2012 7:25 pm

@10 We need to get back to the MOON first.
We are NOT ready for any manned Mars mission- technologically- yet. At all.
And “Curiosity”?? What’s with all the wimpy names?
I mean- Voyager, Centaur, Atlas, Apollo, Pioneer- THOSE were space vehicle names!

Azrael
August 5, 2012 7:37 pm

@29. I disagree, I feel we have been more than capable, technologically, of reaching Mars with a manned mission for some time. Nor do we really need to go back to the moon, the International Space Station can handle any orbital needs of the mission, and makes more sense as a “jumping off point” anyways IMO. Still, its nice to see you did think about the whole picture.

Aaron
August 5, 2012 7:38 pm

I would give this thing one chance in five if I were a betting man. A 2.5 billion dollar cinder. Not to be a pessimist, but you know you guys are all thinking it too.

Red Dead Ryan
August 5, 2012 8:13 pm
I think NASA should have come up with a plan to build a moon base first, as a test for a future Mars colony. Having a base on the moon would give astronauts and scientists an opportunity to study how a non-Earth environment affects humans, physically, emotionally, and psychologically. NASA would be able to deal with any problems that would inevitably arise, and then be able to learn from it when they finally do land people on Mars. And the distance from Earth to the moon isn’t nearly as far as that of Earth and Mars, thus allowing for more… Read more »
shpock
August 5, 2012 8:32 pm

come on, baby!

Thorny
August 5, 2012 8:51 pm

15… Fobos-Grunt never left Earth orbit, so the Ghoul didn’t get a chance to snack on that one. :-)

Thorny
August 5, 2012 8:57 pm
32. RDR… I wish NASA and the politicians would just pick a destination and stick to it. They picked the Moon originally for Constellation, and all the critics lined up whining “we’ve already been there, let’s go to Mars already!” or “the Moon’s dead, go somewhere interesting!” Then there was talk of going straight to Mars, and the critics lined up whining “its too expensive, we should go to the Moon first” or “its too dangerous, we should learn how to live on the Moon first!” Now we’re at vague talk of a Near Earth Asteroid (which can’t be selected… Read more »
Red Dead Ryan
August 5, 2012 9:22 pm

#35.

Agreed! Today’s politicians are short-sighted and lack vision and imagination. They’re more concerned about their own political careers.

On the plus side, it looks like NASA is finally waking up and reaching out to private aerospace companies, like SpaceX and Virgin.

dmduncan
August 5, 2012 9:31 pm

Anybody watching it live? JPL has a cool control room, eh?

Vultan
August 5, 2012 9:57 pm

#37

Yes, it does.

I think this is the first mission I’ve ever watched live. Very exciting. Hope everything works. The “sky crane” is a… uh, unique… way to land.

Vultan
August 5, 2012 10:00 pm

Everyone—quick, eat your good luck peanuts!

:D

Man, I’M nervous about this! I can’t imagine how the mission personnel are feeling. Fingers crossed!

And thanks, Kayla, for your post. I always enjoy your science contributions.

dmduncan
August 5, 2012 10:38 pm

Touchdown! That was exciting!

Borgminister
August 5, 2012 10:40 pm

Indeed!

YAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYY!

dmduncan
August 5, 2012 10:40 pm

Everyone who missed it live gets the uninteresting coverage on the nightly news.

Images coming in…

JP
August 5, 2012 10:42 pm

“To boldly go.”

dmduncan
August 5, 2012 10:43 pm

As exciting as that was I’m surprised this stuff doesn’t rate live coverage on TV. Network TV, I mean. I moved off my computer and watched it on TV via NASA TV app.

But I never knew how exciting and nail biting a touchdown could be.

dmduncan
August 5, 2012 10:44 pm

Anyway, I can get some rest now!

braxus
August 5, 2012 10:46 pm

It made it then I take it?

AJ
August 5, 2012 10:48 pm

I watched it live on CNN. Great Job to all involved.

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