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Mars Landing — Why Now?
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Mars Landing

The CBC has the necessary links and a Ustream player to watch the Mars landing of Curiosity late tomorrow night/early Monday morning [12:31AM CDT Monday].

NASA coverage starts an hour before the landing.

Since that is prime time for selling stuff on American cable systems, you probably won’t get to watch on your TV, but NASA makes the feed available for free.

Curiosity has a nuclear power supply, so if things go wrong, we might nuke Mars, but life is a risk. I doubt Martians would feel that way. There are very good, technical and engineering reasons for the choice that will make the mission longer and more productive than the two earlier rovers that depended on batteries and photovoltaic panels. [I still don’t like it.]

The Canadian Space Agency supplied one of the instruments on the rover, so they have a stake in this.

One of the things the rover will be testing for is methane in the atmosphere. There have been indications of its presence, and it is a marker for living organisms.

Update: NASA’s site for the Mars Science Laboratory [Curiosity].


1 jamsodonnell { 08.05.12 at 5:03 am }

I’d forgotten all about this mission. Thanks for the reminder

2 Bryan { 08.05.12 at 12:13 pm }

This is the 40th mission and so far Mars leads 24-15 on landings, so it is a very chancy operation.

This is one of the reasons no one is discussing a manned mission. There is enough of an atmosphere on Mars to make things ‘very interesting’, and we don’t have enough information to predict the weather in more than very general terms.

Apparently part of the landing system is a device that will land and then attempt to take off after the rover is on the ground. If that is successful, a manned mission is much closer.

3 Steve Bates { 08.05.12 at 6:35 pm }

NASA TV, the public channel, is here. Not surprisingly, all four NASA channels will be broadcasting the landing. Pre-landing TV begins at 10:00PM CDT. The TV schedule says the program will cover “Entry, Decent [sic] and Landing,” so I suppose there won’t be anything to offend parents of young children.

It is my understanding that the complete vehicle will descend to a very slow approach about 20m from the surface (‘m’ is meters here), then winch the rover down the rest of the way on cables, and finally explosively detach the cables and fly away. This was the only way they thought they had a chance of landing a rover far heavier than anything they’ve landed on Mars before.

I have hope, but not confidence: as their scoreboard shows, so far in Mars landings, it’s Mars 24, Earth 15. This ain’t easy!

4 Bryan { 08.05.12 at 7:59 pm }

It’s logical that they would have it in Houston, probably over on Florida’s ‘Space Coast’, and maybe in the area around JPL, but the rest of the nation needs broadband to see it.

I’m so old I remember when you could watch these events on broadcast television.

The heavier gravity, atmosphere, and command delay because of distance make this an iffy proposition. Hope is what we are left with.

5 hipparchia { 08.05.12 at 11:24 pm }

i remember watching everything on broadcast tv.

6 Bryan { 08.05.12 at 11:44 pm }

The networks aren’t interested in news or science or, as near as I can tell, much of anything. The entertainment ‘news’ all seems to be about shows on cable. I assume that the networks still have shows, but they don’t seem to be worth talking or writing about.