NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover closed in on its target today, Sunday, 5 August 2012, all systems go for a landing on Mars late tonight (Monday morning at 1:31 a.m. EDT). If there’s anxiety at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which controls the mission, one can understand. Curiosity (the mission’s formal name is Mars Science Laboratory) is the largest, most expensive and most ambitious Mars probe sent by the United States in a generation. It’s been a decade in the making and ran up bills of $2.5 billion. NASA is playing down expectations, but if the building blocks of life are buried in the Martian soil, Curiosity’s miniature onboard chemistry laboratory is designed to pick them out. “Can we do this? Yeah, I think we can do this. I’m confident,” Doug McCuistion, head of the Mars exploration program at NASA headquarters, said Saturday. “We have the A-plus team on this. They’ve done everything possible to ensure success, but that risk still exists” (5 August 2012).
‘7 Minutes of Terror’
The much-anticipated landing of the Mars Science Laboratory with Curiosity, the Red Planet’s next resident rover, is this Monday, at 1:31 a.m. Eastern. Having been configured by the MSL flight team for entry, descent and landing the spacecraft is on final approach for its targeted touchdown in Gale Crater. Coverage of Curiosity’s landing begins Sunday at 11:30 p.m. Eastern on all three NASA TV channels, nasa.gov, AND, Xbox 360. Also, engineers at the JohnsonSpaceCenter have conducted test firings of the Project Morpheus Lander, the quickest trip ever to the International Space Station of an unpiloted Russian Progress resupply ship , Marking History at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility and more! (3 Aug 2012).
MSL/ Mission Status and Entry, Descent and Landing Overview (4 Aug 2012)