Sunday, August 05, 2012

How to Follow Tonight's Mars Landing

As you may know, the Mars Science Laboratory, with the 1 metric ton Curiosity rover, lands on Mars tonight, at 10:31 pm Pacific time. (This is the time when Earth will know the status of the landing; actual landing on the Mars surface is 14 minutes earlier.)

NASA's landing commentary starts at 8:30 pm PDT, here

NASA has a great simulation site, with a live mode, that simulates what MSL is going through on its way into Mars:

The landing sequence is rather wild -- the last step involves lowering the rover to the surface via cables, and even the NASA engineers think it looks "crazy." (At a press conference on Thursday, NASA's Adam Steltzner said "I promise you it is the least crazy of the ways you could use to land Curiousity on Mars.") This video summarizes the "seven minutes of terror":

About 50% of all missions to Mars have failed, and about 70% of surface landings have failed. The rover is the size of a compact car -- if this works, it seems to me it will be one of the most amazing technical feats in space history. I imagine the MSL engineers are pretty nervous right now, but also having the time of their lives (literally).

Added: However, the US is 6 for 7 on Mars landings.

1 comment:

intrepid_wanders said...

"Added: However, the US is 6 for 7 on Mars landings."

Yeah... except how does Mars Climate Orbiter fit in this? Orbiter with a rough landing? Amazing how cherry-picking works.