his is an artist’s concept of the rover and descent stage for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft during the final minute before the rover, Curiosity, touches down on the surface of Mars.
The descent stage will provide rocket-powered deceleration for a phase of the arrival at Mars after the phases using the heat shield and parachute. The descent stage also carries the radar system providing a stream of information about the spacecraft’s altitude and velocity. As it nears the surface, shortly after the moment depicted here, the descent stage will lower the rover on a bridle and deliver it to the ground.
Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team members gather in the MSL Mission Support Area at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory hours ahead of the planned landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012 in Pasadena, Calif. The MSL Rover named Curiosity was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. Curiosity is due to land on Mars at 10:31 p.m. PDT on Aug. 5, 2012 (1:31 a.m. EDT on Aug. 6, 2012). Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Musician Will.i.am, center, listens to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Sciences and Exploration Directorate Chief Scientist Jim Garvin talk next to a mock up of the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity as Astronaut and NASA’s Associate Administrator for Education Leland Melvin looks on at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) a few hours ahead of the the planned landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012 in Pasadena, Calif. The MSL Rover named Curiosity was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. Curiosity is due to land on Mars at 10:31 p.m. PDT on Aug. 5, 2012 (1:31 a.m. EDT on Aug. 6, 2012). Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Pasadena, CA, United States: Sunday, August 5, 2012 – MSL Flight director Keith Comeaux, left, talks to his team inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, USA on Sunday, August 5, 2012. The Curiosity robot is equipped with a nuclear-powered lab capable of vaporizing rocks and ingesting soil, measuring habitability, and potentially paving the way for human exploration. (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden congratulates NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate John M. Grunsfeld after the Mars Science laboratory (MSL) rover Curiosity successfully landed on Mars, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012 at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Curiosity was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
IN SPACE – AUGUST 5: In this handout image provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech, one of the first images taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars on the evening of August 5, 2012 PDT and transmitted to Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. The MSL Rover named Curiosity is equipped with a nuclear-powered lab capable of vaporizing rocks and ingesting soil, measuring habitability, and whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbe. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech via Getty Images)
This artist concept features NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, a mobile robot for investigating Mars’ past or present ability to sustain microbial life. Curiosity is being tested in preparation for launch in the fall of 2011. In this picture, the mast, or rover’s “head,” rises to about 2.1 meters (6.9 feet) above ground level, about as tall as a basketball player. This mast supports two remote-sensing instruments: the Mast Camera, or “eyes,” for stereo color viewing of surrounding terrain and material collected by the arm; and, the ChemCam instrument, which is a laser that vaporizes material from rocks up to about 9 meters (30 feet) away and determines what elements the rocks are made of.
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ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (AP) — Hailing NASA‘s “mind-boggling” Mars landing of the Curiosity rover, President Barack Obama urged the scientists operating the craft on Monday to phone home immediately if they find any extra-terrestrials.
“If in fact you do make contact with Martians, please let me know right away,” Obama told controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. “I’ve got a lot of other things on my plate, but I suspect that that will go to the top of the list. Even if they’re just microbes, it will be pretty exciting.”
Obama spoke by phone from Air Force One as he flew to a campaign stop in the state of Iowa eight days after the car-sized rover landed on the Martian surface. The touchdown followed a complex series of maneuvers involving intricately timed rocket firings, a huge parachute and cables lowering the craft to the Mars surface.
The two-year, $2.5 billion Curiosity mission includes looking for environmental conditions that might have given rise to life. However, as high-tech as it is, the nuclear-powered rover doesn’t have the tools needed to detect living or fossil microorganisms. Instead, the rover will hunt for life’s chemical building blocks.
“Curiosity stuck her landing and captured the attention and the imagination of millions of people not just across our country but people all around the world,” Obama told the controllers, many of whom remained at their consoles. “It’s really mind-boggling what you’ve been able to accomplish.”
About to begin a three-day bus tour in Iowa, Obama couldn’t resist a political point — vowing to resist efforts to cut spending on basic science. “I’m going to give you guys a personal commitment to protect these critical investments,” he said.
He also couldn’t resist teasing Bobak Ferdowski, the flight director for JPL’s Mars Science Laboratory, whose cool demeanor and Mohawk hairstyle made him an overnight Internet sensation afterCuriosity’s landing.
“I’ve in the past thought about getting a Mohawk myself. My team keeps discouraging me,” Obama said to laughter from the JPL team. “It does sound like NASA’s come a long way from the white shirts, dark-rimmed glasses and pocket protectors.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.