A little jaunt

On a pleasanter note – the Curiosity Rover is close to Mars and will be landing in about ten hours. This is seriously exciting.

The Nasa robot’s flight trajectory is so good engineers cancelled the latest course correction they had planned.

To be sure of touching down in the right place on the surface, the vehicle must hit a box at the top of the atmosphere that is just 3km by 12km.

“Our inbound trajectory is right down the pipe,” said Arthur Amador, Curiosity’s mission manager.

It’s been on the way for eight months. It’s got the best scientific equipment evarrr to drill into rocks and scoop up samples. It’s got energy to last for 14 years.

JPL Mars program.


  1. FredBloggs says

    fingers crossed. I think it’s about 6.30 BST (5.30 UTC/GMT)? Where’s the best online place to follow the progress?

  2. says

    Curiosity is 14 light minutes from Earth, which I make calculate to be about 160,000,000 miles from Earth. Of course she must have travelled much, much farther than that. And she’s going to hit a box 3km by 12km.

    NASA rules. I wish more people appreciated that. Even if the 7 minutes of terror ends in a smoking crater, NASA still rules.

    (BTW, do other people get ridiculously anthropomorphic about robotic space craft? I always feel they’re terribly brave to go all that way on their own. I know it’s illogical, but the feeling still persists.)

  3. FredBloggs says

    Agreed, NASA rules. Imagine what we’d know if 50% of the US’s military budget were instead spend on NASA.

  4. says

    NASA are just saying that the comms to Curiosity go via four different routes, so they might not know whether the landing worked for up to three days. Can you imagine the stress at JPL if that happens? They’re going to have a hard time remembering to breathe for those 7 minutes at least.

  5. lpetrich says

    It also shows how good we are at celestial mechanics, and how remarkably predictable the Solar System overall is.

    10 km over Curiosity’s travel distance is like 10 cm, a hand width, over the London – New York distance.

  6. Ken Pidcock says

    I think this is just extraordinary, but I won’t be following the landing. I don’t want to know if it fails.

    If you google “Mars rover”, everything’s about Curiosity. Can we get some respect for Spirit and Opportunity? They’ve been such troopers.

  7. says

    Ya. I keep looking dopily out the window and marveling that we humans are sending something from here to Mars. NASA rules indeed. Engineers rule.

    We have fighter jets roaring overhead right now, too, for the fourth day in a row. I watched their practice from a distance yesterday (with a couple hundred other people, at Seattle’s best-known viewpoint – if you have a mental image of Seattle it’s probably from that viewpoint) – six of them flying in close formation. Military rather than exploratory, but still impressive.

  8. Josh Slocum says

    Oh my goodness. I just realized it’ll be 1:30 a.m. Eastern US time. Which I’m always up at. I will be COMPELLED to watch.

  9. davidmc says

    I have known for ages that it will be 6.30 am, or stupid o’clock, local time, only 7 hours away. so, up in 6 hours…hopefully. Im already a bit too excited.

  10. Dave Ricks says

    Your airshow’s impressive schedule confirms the six-jet formation was the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels. Today’s airshow ended with the Red Bull Air Force Demonstration, probably performing this set of routines shown earlier this year at Andrews AFB. I saw them perform a similar set in 2007 at the Hiller Aviation Museum’s annual Vertical Challenge airshow for helicopters, where Chuck Aaron might have had a little more time to show off his helicopter moves.

  11. lpetrich says

    Curiosity has successfully landed on Mars, and it’s returned its first pictures from there.

    Its rather complicated descent had worked, complete with landing in an appropriate spot.

    Jettison cruise-phase equipment
    Enter Mars’s atmosphere inside the aeroshell
    After slowing down, release the parachute
    Release its heat shield
    Start radar for choosing landing site
    Start rockets on retrorocket frame
    Release the upper aeroshell with the parachute
    Move away from the upper aeroshell
    Lower the rover from the frame on cables: the “sky crane”
    Move the rover’s wheels into place
    When the rover reaches Mars’s surface, cut the cables and let the frame fly off

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