National News
Curiosity On The Red Planet
By Charlie Golestani
Aug 1, 2012 - 10:51:12 AM

MARSNASA’s Curiosity rover is set to land on the surface of Mars between August 5 and 6.

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Artist's conception of the Curiosity Rover. All images courtesy of NASA
The mobile laboratory launched from Cape Canaveral in November of 2011 made its final preparations in orbit; that is to say, the flight team spent the day testing the memory and mechanical assemblies of the rover as well as configuring hardware for entry and descent into the Mars atmosphere.

“Timeline activated. Bleep-bop. I'm running entry, descent & landing flight software all on my own. Countdown to Mars: 5 days,” wrote ”˜Curiosity’ July 31, taken from the rover’s Twitter page.

“The flight team continues to monitor Curiosity's on-board systems and flight trajectory. The spacecraft and ground systems remain in good health, with no significant issues currently being worked,” the flight team reported.

The 10-foot craft will pilot autonomously down at 1,000 mph to the surface using maneuvers similar to that of NASA pilots in a series of S-curves, at which point the shielded base of Curiosity will heat up to 1,600 degrees.  Once there, Curiosity can gather samples, process “and distribute them to on-board test chambers inside analytical instruments,” according to information from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.  The mobile science lab is also rugged, able to surmount 25-inch obstacles and travel up to 660 feet per day.
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The craft's plotted landing sequence

The aim of the mission is much the same as it has been, “to assess whether the landing area has ever had or still has environmental conditions favorable to microbial life, both its habitability and its preservation.”  But never before has equipment like Curiosity been employed.

Tools to identify and quantify carbon levels, mineral composites, imaging tools, soil spectrometers, atmospheric sampling tools and even a pulse laser for precision cutting.
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In the assembly room, engineers check the rover's cameras
Everything is set to be recorded in HD video and stereo sound for broadcast.  Times Square plans to carry the seven minutes of landing footage on its sizable Toshiba Vision screen, the one used for New Year’s Eve.  Viewers can listen in at the online radio station Third Rock Radio for audio through the TuneIn mobile app or via NASA’s homepage, at www.thirdrockradio.net

"We're pleased the Toshiba Vision screens will offer a unique view of this great scientific achievement, the landing of the rover Curiosity on Mars," said Eddie Temistokle, senior manager of corporate communications and corporate social responsibility for Toshiba America Inc. 

News briefings begin tomorrow and currently go through Friday, August 10, with coverage on NASA TV’s Public Channel (101), Education Channel (102) and Media Channel (103), according to Dwayne Brown from NASA Headquarters in Washington and Guy Webster of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

For online video coverage of the event, visit http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html



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