Giant Mars rover set for Saturday launch


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Hum

NASA?s biggest and most advanced Mars rover is scheduled for launch Saturday from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Curiosity is packed with 10 science experiments to determine whether Mars has ever been suitable for life and to find clues about past life forms that may have been preserved in rocks. NASA says Curiosity won?t answer the age-old questions about life on Mars, but it will provide important information that will guide future missions.

The launch was originally scheduled for Friday, but the mission team will take an extra day to remove and replace a flight termination system battery, NASA said.

Curiosity is expected to spend about two years roaming Mars, hunting things researchers say are essential for life to grow: liquid water, key chemicals used by living organisms and an energy source.

The rover will blast off Saturday atop an Atlas V rocket and is scheduled to land in August 2012 in the Gale Crater. The first opportunity for launch is 10:02 a.m. EST; the window lasts an hour and 43 minutes.

Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as the older Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Its science instruments weigh 15 times as much as its predecessors' science payloads.

The rover has a mast that can extend to 7 feet (2.1 meters) to hoist a high-definition imaging system. It also will hold a laser-equipped camera that can zap rocks to study the sparks emitted for information about their composition.

A 7-foot-long robot arm will hold instruments for soil analysis. Unlike earlier rovers, Curiosity can gather rocks and soil to process inside its lab. The rover also has tools to look for water beneath the surface, to monitor the weather and to measure natural radiation.

Curiosity is designed to roll over obstacles up to 25 inches (about 65 centimeters) high and to travel about 660 feet (200 meters) per day. Its energy source will be a radioisotope power generator.

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Azies

How far we've come, this is a decent trade off for manned missions, more unmanned scientific missions to Mars.

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Hum

I hope the Martians approve. :yes:

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cybertimber2008

I hope the Martians approve. :yes:

Chuck Norris approved, and that's all that matters.
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Dinggus

I hope the Martians approve. :yes:

They exist?

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Hum

They exist?

Of course -- just ask the Russians. :shifty:

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neoadorable

good luck Curio, you carry the hopes of humanity with you!

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Joseph B

Neat. When can I go on vacation to Mars?

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cork1958

Much more worthy cost than any of these countries and wars we're supporting!

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chrispinto

Watching!

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DocM

This will be the firdt use of the Sky Crane system - a rocket powered hover vehicle that lowers the rover to the surface by cables. Curiosity is far too heavy for the air bag system used for previous rovers.

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zeta_immersion

I thought parachutes and thrusters are somewhat useless on mars due to thin atmosphere ... however, are they aiming for a period of coolness to be thicker?

interesting design for descent but just looking at it is far too complicated and many variables and points where it could go wrong

what I did like about it however was the chute and the inverted cone which in itself added a little bit more drag (though taking some from the chute)

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DocM

You don't need an atmosphere for thrusters to work - Newton's 3rd Law works anywhere.

As for propulsive hover - been done often. The McDonnell Douglas DC-X used it in the 1990's, several NewSpace companies have demonstrated advanced versions of it & NASA worked with one of them to develop its new Mighty Eagle lander prototype, and SpaceX will use it as the primary landing mode for the crew version of Dragon.

A parachute works even in a thin atmosphere if you're going fast enough. MSL will be supersonic.. Its only purpose is to get ghe Sky Crane subsonic so its propulsive hover will work - it wouldn't work firing directly into a supersonic shockwave. Dragon will get away with it because its thrusters will fire behind the shockwave.

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Hum

Huge stuff

Damn -- that thing could run over an elephant :laugh:

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DocM

Smooooooth launch!!

Staging clean, fairing jettisoned, and in the 1st of 2 burns of the Centaur 2nd stage. The 2nd burn will be the TMI - trans-Mars injection - that'll send Curiosity on her way.

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DocM

Getting ready for the coast between Centaur burns.

Troubling us that there have beed telemetry dropouts since launch. That transmitter is on yhe Centaur, so as long as it does its job it won'r affect Curiosity which has powered up and phoned home.

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DocM

TMI burn started!!

Centaur's transmitter still cutting out, but its flight computer seems to be working fine.

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DocM

Satellite rotation started & on spec, Trans Mars Insertion burn ended, satellite separated from Centaur and Curiosity is on her way to Mars

Next nail-biter is August 5/6, 2012.

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DocM

It's looking like the first mid-course correction may be cancelled - they scored a bulls-eye with the launch. Engineering checkout in December.

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Hum

^ Martians gave it an assist. :)

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leedogg

i bet this gall's the Russians, they've failed to launch a mars mission a couple times now.

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Jim K

Very cool. Looks like a very complicating landing in the future. Of course I have faith in the bright minds at NASA.

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