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Mars Fever: NASA's Curiosity Rover

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Parties planned across the globe to see if Nasa's Curiosity rover survives 'seven minutes of terror'

  • Rover scheduled to land at 5:31AM (GMT) on Monday morning
  • Scientists say they are 'cautiously optimistic'
  • Times Square will show Nasa coverage, while Google will webcast it
  • Mission will search for signs of life on the red planet's surface using a scoop to dig into the soil
It is one of the most daring space missions ever attempted. Early on monday morning the Curiosity rover will, if all goes according to plan, enter the martian atmosphere and begin a series of hugely complex manoeuvres to bring it gently onto the surface. They include a radical floating 'sky crane' as part of a descent dubbed the 'seven minutes of terror'.

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But the plucky rover won't be alone - across the globe, thousands are expected to watch online and on TV as it approaches the red planet. NASA has even done a deal to show it in Times Square, while space fans elsewhere are planning parties. 'In the city that never sleeps, the historic Times Square will be the place for New Yorkers to participate in this historic landing,' John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for science missions, said. When you think of all the big news events in history, you think of Times Square, and I can think of no better venue to celebrate this news-making event on Mars.'

The Curiosity rover has taken the public's imagination by storm, in one of the most daring space missions ever attempted. The rover, Curiosity, is designed to search for clues about possible past life in a crater that might once have been filled with water. The £1.59 billion six-wheeled machine is twice as long and five times as heavy as the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity which landed on Mars in 2004. Two British scientists are members of the team which will direct the rover and analyse the data it collects.

Dr John Bridges, from the University of Leicester Space Research Centre, one of the British scientists working on the Mars Science Laboratory mission, said: 'I’m cautiously optimistic. 'Space exploration is not for the faint hearted. 'The previous rover landing used inflatable bouncing bags. Curiosity’s just too heavy for that, so they developed the sky crane technique.' Curiosity’s target is Gale Crater, near the Martian equator, where there are geological signs of past water. The plan is to land close to Mount Sharp, a 5.5-kilometre peak in the centre of the crater with clay deposits around its base.

If all goes well the radio signal confirming that Curiosity has landed will arrive on Earth after a 14-minute journey through space at 06.31, UK time. For one Martian year - 98 Earth weeks - Curiosity will explore its surroundings using its robot arm and a formidable array of scientific instruments to analyse samples drilled from rocks or scooped from the ground. It also carries a laser capable of zapping rocks up to 30 feet away, vaporising tiny amounts of material in a flash of light that can be analysed to reveal chemical data. As well carrying a stereo camera to take panoramic shots, Curiosity will be equipped with a magnifying imager that can reveal details smaller than the width of a human hair.

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Geologist Professor Sanjeev Gupta, from Imperial College London, the other British scientist involved in the mission, said: 'Nasa chose Gale Crater as the landing site because it has a number of really exciting geological features that we are hoping to explore. 'These include a canyon and what appears to be a lake bed on the floor of the crater, as well as a channel and a delta, which we think may have been carved by water.

'We will use the rover’s cameras, including one which is like a powerful magnifying glass, to study the geology up close.' Dr Bridges and Prof Gupta will be based at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, during the mission. They will be among hundreds of scientists who will work together round the clock analysing data beamed back from Curiosity, planning experiments and guiding the rover’s excursions. Dr Bridges said a key goal is to study the clay sediments at the foot of Mount Sharp.

Scientists believe they are a reminder of a time, three to four billion years ago, when there was abundant water on the surface of Mars. 'The clay layers may represent what we loosely call a warm and wet period in Martian history,' said Dr Bridges. 'On the top of the mountain the rock was deposited under dry conditions, so there was a great environmental change. 'There’s this idea that Mars was warm and wet long ago, but we don’t know how long there were standing bodies of water on Mars, whether they were short lived or lasted hundreds of millions of years. 'That’s important to the question of whether life ever existed there. Although we’ve made enormous strides in understanding Mars over the last 10 or 20 years, there’s still a lot we don’t know.'

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An Atlas V rocket carrying Curiosity blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in November.

The journey to Mars crossed 352 million miles of space

http://www.dailymail...l#ixzz22OeiQ99M

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http-~~-//youtu.be/h2I8AoB1xgU

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Looking forward to watching this. The landing is so ridiculously intricate, and considering we still regularly fail to even put satellites into orbit here, 'tis gonna be pretty exciting!

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It's going to be an expensive thing to dink - I hope it fully-comp insured!

In a $2.5 billion gamble, a nuclear-powered Mars rover the size of a small car will attempt a pinpoint landing near the base of a 3-mile-high mountain overnight Sunday to search for the building blocks of life in the frozen history of the red planet and evidence of past or present habitability.

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http://news.cnet.com...k-mars-mission/

Main NASA page:

http://www.nasa.gov/.../msl/index.html

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To reach its intended touch-down zone in a deep equatorial crater, the machine must enter the atmosphere at a very precise point on the sky. Engineers told reporters on Thursday that they were close to a bulls-eye.

A slight course correction - the fourth since launch - was instigated last Saturday, and the latest analysis indicates Curiosity will be no more than a kilometre from going straight down its planned "keyhole". The team's confidence is such that it may pass up the opportunity to make a further correction on Friday.

"We are about to land a small compact car on the surface with a trunk-load of instruments. This is a pretty amazing feat getting ready to happen. It's exciting, it's daring - but it's fantastic," said Doug McCuistion, the head of Nasa's Mars programme.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19107577

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In the silence of space on the approach to Mars a US probe is warming up for an unprecedented act of theatre. Heaters aboard the spacecraft have begun to glow, thawing thrusters and components ahead of the most daring landing ever attempted on an alien world. Bearing down on the red planet at more than 8,000mph, the Nasa craft is carrying the space agency's Curiosity rover, a gangly off-road vehicle with robotic tools to scoop, drill and vaporise the soil and rocks strewn across the dusty landscape. The rover's job is to explore the geology of an enormous crater basin, and uncover whether Mars was ever capable of harbouring life. But first it must touch down safely.

The $2.5bn (£1.6bn) mission blasted off in November on a journey of 300m miles. It is due to land the Curiosity rover at 6.31am (BST) on Monday morning. If all goes to plan, the rover will touch down in the vast Gale crater, around six miles from Mount Sharp, or Aeolis Mons, which rises more than 5,000 metres from the crater bed. The vehicle's first port of call is what looks like an alluvial fan, a pattern of sediments thought to be created by flowing water, perhaps billions of years ago. "We expect to land downslope of the alluvial fan, and since water flows downhill, we're optimistic we'll find evidence for an ancient watery environment there," said John Grotzinger, a geologist and project scientist on the Nasa mission. "If there was ground water, or a lake there, then it's possible this was once a habitable environment."

Powered by a lump of radioactive plutonium and lithium-ion batteries, the rover is due to explore the Gale crater and its huge central mountain for one Martian year, or 687 Earth days. Much of the mission will be spent trundling up and down the gentle flanks of Mount Sharp, sampling rocks, and following a path scientists plotted on maps compiled from images snapped by Mars orbiters. Scientists are banking on the mountain being key to the planet's geological past. The rocks at the bottom may be more than 3.5bn years old, while those higher up formed more recently, and so get progressively younger the higher the rover climbs. Curiosity can reach out with a robotic arm, to scoop, drill and hammer rocks, and analyse their makeup with onboard instruments. On a mast protruding from the centre of the rover is a laser that can vaporise rock surfaces and analyse their elemental constituents from up to nine metres away.

"What we see from orbit are the kinds of rocks we think form in the presence of water," Grotzinger said, "and those will be revealed by the clay minerals we find with Curiosity. If the minerals were formed in water, we can infer that maybe there was a habitable environment there. We'll be looking for evidence that maybe there was water flowing on the surface that transported muds that came to rest in these deposits. Maybe the water was there for sufficiently long periods of time that it could have sustained life, had it ever evolved."

Water is only part of the story. The roving laboratory will also look for molecular chains of carbon that are bound to hydrogen, another apparent prerequisite for life. "There's no one feature that says it's a habitable environment; you are looking for a preponderance of evidence," Grotzinger added. Though Curiosity might find signs that Mars was once habitable, the rover is not designed to find direct evidence of alien life, for example, in the form of fossilised micro-organisms. This is a prospecting mission, aimed at scouring the Gale crater for sites where future rovers, or even human explorers, might one day find concrete evidence of past life on the planet.

But before the science can begin, the three-metre-long rover must touch down on Mars. The size of a family car, this is Nasa's largest rover yet, and tried and tested means of landing on the planet are not sufficient to cushion the rover on impact. "She's a beast," said Ann Devereaux, an engineer who works on the crucial entry, descent and landing, or EDL, team of the mission. "The fact that we're doing this crazy landing sequence allows us to pinpoint a target on the ground, but the previous ways we've landed on Mars, with airbags, parachutes and even retrothrusters, simply wouldn't work with this rover. Going this big changes things."

Mission control will stop talking to the spacecraft two hours before it reaches Mars. At that time, everything the probe needs to get to its landing site will be programmed into the craft's computers. The manoeuvres the spacecraft must execute are so fine and complex that the slightest mistake could notch up another grim statistic in the history of failed missions to the planet. Ten minutes before the spacecraft arrives, it will jettison its cruise stage and fire thrusters to swing the probe's heat shield into a forward position. Explosive charges then release two 75kg blocks of tungsten, to shift the balance of the probe so it can fly through the tenuous Martian atmosphere. As the probe streaks through the sky, the heat shield will reach more than 2,000C.

Guided only by an onboard computer, small thrusters will steer the spacecraft through the Martian sky, and pull a series of "S" turns to line it up with its landing spot in the Gale crater. After more tungsten weights are shed, the probe deploys a parachute and blasts the heat shield free, revealing a video camera to record the landing. One mile above the ground, the spacecraft cuts the parachute loose, and begins to fall, until eight retrorockets fire up to control its descent. As it nears the surface, the probe begins what Nasa calls a sky crane manoeuvre that lowers the Curiosity rover down on nylon ropes. When the rover hits the ground – hopefully gently – the spacecraft flies to one side and crash lands a short distance away.

Through the entire descent, there is nothing the mission scientists can do from their offices at Nasa's jet propulsion laboratory in California, but wait for the rover to call home. No wonder Nasa staff have hit on the phrase "seven minutes of terror" to describe the probe's descent. Mission scientists are hopeful that Curiosity will build on the success of Nasa's two recent Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which touched down in 2004. Their missions were planned to last three months, but Spirit continued to explore the Martian surface until 2010. Opportunity is still operational.

"We've had fantastic results with Spirit and Opportunity, and we hope Curiosity will follow in her cousin's footsteps," said Devereaux. "We just have to get her down to the ground safely. I can't even envisage what she might find, or how far she might go, but it's a big step just to get her down." Grotzinger confesses to having "blind faith" in the team who drew up plans to land the rover on Mars. "The landing is complicated. It looks improbable, but the guys who built it have very high confidence in it, so I must as well," he said. "Everything I've done for the last five or six years, everything we've done as a team, comes down to those seven minutes."

http://www.guardian....s?newsfeed=true

http://youtu.be/sSpfJeVpZSg

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Meanwhile, both Voyagers, lanched in 1977 are passing through the heliosheath and still transmitting data, Opportunity has been working away on Mars since January 2004. 8 years past its 'sell by' date and still going strong!

Hopefully the Curiosity landing will be a success and even if it only lasts half as long it'll be a great achievement

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A bold attempt to land a one-ton rover as big as a Mini Cooper on Mars will end in triumph or disaster on Monday. Scientists hope to receive the signal confirming that the six-wheeled robot, Curiosity, is safely on the planet's surface at 06.31 UK time. Two thirds of Mars missions to date have failed, including Britain's ill-fated Beagle 2 lander which was lost on Christmas Day 2003. But none has been as complex and daring as the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, which aims to deliver the largest rover to land on the Red Planet.

Curiosity, costing £1.59 billion, is twice as long and five times as heavy as the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity which landed there in 2004. Because of its size and weight, getting the vehicle on to the Martian surface presented a major challenge to scientists at the American space agency Nasa. The dramatic solution involves dropping the robot on nylon tethers from a hovering "sky crane". John Bridges, from the University of Leicester, one of two British scientists leading teams on the mission, said: "I'm cautiously optimistic. Space exploration is not for the faint-hearted. The previous rover landing used inflatable bouncing bags. Curiosity's just too heavy for that, so they developed the sky crane technique."

Curiosity's target is Gale Crater, near the Martian equator, where billions of years ago there may have been a large lake.

The rover is due to land close to a Mount Sharp, a 5.5 kilometre peak in the middle of the crater with clay deposits round its base. Curiosity bristles with sophisticated instruments designed to discover if Gale Crater could ever have supported simple life.

For one Martian year - 98 Earth weeks - the rover will explore its surroundings using a robot arm to scoop up soil and drill into rock. Dr Bridges said: "There's this idea that Mars was warm and wet long ago, but we don't know how long there were standing bodies of water on Mars, whether they were short-lived or lasted hundreds of millions of years. That's important to the question of whether life ever existed there."

http://www.google.co...61344129825257A

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All seems to be going smooth, so far so good !

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Good morning Mars !Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

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First image from Mars you can see Curiositys shadow.

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Edited by Polar Maritime
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Posted Image Nice bit of parking!!!

NASA's Curiosity rover successfully lands on Mars

The US space agency has just landed a huge new robot rover on Mars.

The one-tonne vehicle, known as Curiosity, was reported to have landed in a deep crater near the planet's equator at 06:32 BST (05:32 GMT). It will now embark on a mission of at least two years to look for evidence that Mars may once have supported life.

A signal confirming the rover was on the ground safely was relayed to Earth via Nasa's Odyssey satellite, which is in orbit around the Red Planet. The success was greeted with a roar of approval here at mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The first pictures from Mars began to be fed back immediately; high-resolution images will come later

The mission has even already sent its first low-resolution images - showing the rover's wheel and its shadow, through a dust-covered lens cap that has yet to be removed.

Engineers and scientists who have worked on this project for the best part of 10 years punched the air and hugged each other. The descent through the atmosphere after a 570-million-km journey from Earth had been billed as the "seven minutes of terror" - the time it would take to complete a series of high-risk, automated manoeuvres that would slow the rover from an entry speed of 20,000km/h to allow its wheels to set down softly.

The Curiosity team had to wait 13 tense minutes for the signals from Odyssey and the lander to make their way back to Earth. After the landing, the flight director reported that Curiosity had hit the surface of Mars at a gentle 0.6 metres per second. "We're on Mars again, and it's absolutely incredible," said Nasa administrator Charles Bolden. "It doesn't get any better than this."

http://www.bbc.co.uk...onment-19144464

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First image from Mars you can see Curiositys shadow.

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How much are they paying the window cleaner?

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How much are they paying the window cleaner?

It's the roaming charges i would be worried about...

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Brilliant! Just breathtakingly brilliant! Posted Image

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Who is going to change the wheels......Posted Image

Lord Monckton? He's on another planet!Posted Image

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Looks like the dust has settled. All pics from NASA...they are not my own. http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/gallery-indexEvents.html

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NASA's Curiosity rover and its parachute were spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as Curiosity descended to the surface on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured this image of Curiosity while the orbiter was listening to transmissions from the rover.

Edited by Polar Maritime

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