PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — NASA‘s many high-tech Mars rover plunged into a red planet’s atmosphere Sunday night in an try to safely strech a aspect with a formidable new alighting technique.
The Curiosity corsair strike a tip of a Martian atmosphere during 13,000 mph. If all goes according to script, it will be solemnly lowered into a large void by cables in a final few seconds of a seven-minute descent.
With Curiosity on autopilot, engineers became spectators, anxiously watchful to see if Curiosity executes a slight as planned.
“I’m not a shaken type, yet we haven’t been sleeping all that good a final week or so even yet I’m still really confident,” pronounced operative Steven Lee.
NASA was prepared for a “Super Bowl of heavenly exploration,” pronounced Doug McCuistion, conduct of a Mars exploration module during NASA headquarters.
“We magnitude and win or we don’t magnitude and we don’t win,” pronounced McCuistion.
Like football’s Super Bowl, there were celebrities on hand. More than a dozen were invited to watch a alighting during NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, including will.i.am, Wil Wheaton, Seth Green, Morgan Freeman and Alex Trebek.
If all goes well, goal control during a JPL should hear a vigilance during about 10:31 p.m. PDT. The space group warned that acknowledgment could take longer if an orbiting booster that’s ostensible to listen for Curiosity during a skirmish is not in a right place.
Curiosity’s arena was so accurate that engineers motionless to call off a final possibility to tweak a position before atmosphere entry.
“We’re prepared to conduct in,” pronounced goal manager Brian Portock.
Not ones to lure fate, moody controllers designed to mangle out a “good luck” peanuts before Curiosity takes a thrust as partial of a long-running tradition.
“It’s really a still before a storm,” pronounced NASA sciences arch John Grunsfeld. “There’s extensive anticipation.”
One scientist who could describe to a building stress is Cornell University heavenly scientist Steve Squyres, who headed NASA’s final successful corsair goal in 2004.
This time around, Squyres has a ancillary purpose and designed to perspective a alighting with other researchers in a “science bullpen.”
“Landing on Mars is always a harrowing thing. You’re never going to get loose about something like alighting a booster on Mars,” pronounced Squyres.
Sunday’s touchdown try was generally heated given NASA is contrast a code new alighting technique. Due to a communication check between Mars and Earth, Curiosity will be on autopilot. There’s also additional vigour given bill woes have forced NASA to rejigger a Mars scrutiny roadmap.
“There’s zero in a pipeline” over a designed launch of a Mars orbiter in 2013, pronounced former NASA Mars potentate Scott Hubbard, who teaches during Stanford University.
Curiosity was launched to investigate either a Martian sourroundings ever had conditions suitable for microbial life.
The excursion to Mars took over 8 months and spanned 352 million miles. The trickiest partial of a journey? The landing. Because Curiosity weighs scarcely a ton, engineers drummed adult a new and some-more tranquil approach to set a corsair down.
The final Mars rovers, twins Spirit and Opportunity, were cocooned in atmosphere bags and bounced to a stop in 2004.
The skeleton for Curiosity called for a array of braking tricks, identical to those used by a space shuttle, and a supersonic parachute to delayed it down. Next: Ditch a feverishness defense used for a burning descent.
And in a new twist, engineers came adult with a approach to reduce a corsair by wire from a hovering rocket-powered backpack. At touchdown, a cords cut and a rocket theatre crashes a stretch away.
The nuclear-powered Curiosity, a distance of a tiny car, is packaged with systematic tools, cameras and a continue station. It sports a robotic arm with a energy drill, a laser that can zap apart rocks, a chemistry lab to spot for a chemical building blocks of life and a detector to magnitude dangerous deviation on a surface.
It also tracked deviation levels during a tour to assistance NASA improved know a risks astronauts could face on a destiny manned trip.
After several weeks of health checkups, a six-wheeled corsair could take a initial brief expostulate and flex a robotic arm.
The alighting site nearby Mars’ equator was picked given there are signs of past H2O everywhere, assembly one of a mandate for life as we know it. Inside Gale Crater is a 3-mile-high mountain, and images from space uncover a bottom appears abounding in minerals that shaped in a participation of water.
Previous trips to Mars have unclosed ice nearby a Martian north stick and justification that H2O once flowed when a world was wetter and toastier distinct today’s harsh, wintry dried environment.
Curiosity’s goal: to scour for simple mixture essential for life, including carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, sulfur and oxygen. It’s not versed to hunt for vital or hoary microorganisms. To get a decisive answer, a destiny goal needs to fly Martian rocks and dirt behind to Earth to be examined by absolute laboratories.
The goal comes as NASA retools a Mars exploration strategy. Faced with tough mercantile times, a space group pulled out of partnership with a European Space Agency to land a rock-collecting corsair in 2018. The Europeans have given teamed with a Russians as NASA decides on a new roadmap.
Despite Mars’ repute as a booster graveyard, humans continue their adore event with a planet, lobbing booster in hunt of clues about a early history. Out of some-more than 3 dozen attempts — flybys, orbiters and landings — by a U.S., Soviet Union, Europe and Japan given a 1960s, some-more than half have finished disastrously.
One NASA corsair that defied expectations is Opportunity, that is still bustling wheeling around a edge of a void in a Martian southern hemisphere 8 years later.
Follow Alicia Chang’s Mars coverage during http://www.twitter.com/SciWriAlicia .
Mars mission: http://www.nasa.gov/mslR Soft Web Hosting