Early on Monday morning, one of NASA’s biggest projects in years will come to fruition as attempts to land the rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars. The mission, which costs a total of $2.5 billion, has been called “the most ambitious…and the most high stakes mission ever to another planet.” If it lands successfully, Curiosity will be the largest human-made object ever landed on the surface of Mars (the rover weighs about a ton).
First, Curiosity will have to survive what’s called the “seven minutes of terror” period -- its landing sequence. In six and a half minutes, the “descent module” carrying Curiosity will be decelerating from its speed of 132,000 mph to being completely stationary on the surface of Mars. The rover will be dropped the last 60 feet to the surface. Between NASA, the former Soviet Union, Russia, Japan, China, and the European Space Agency, humanity has attempted 44 missions to Mars; roughly a third of them arrived, though only six successful landings have been conducted (all by NASA).
If Curiosity makes it to the surface, the most important exploration mission to Mars will truly begin. Curiosity will be searching for carbon-based organic compounds, the same materials that make up all life on Earth. This is the first mission related to life on Mars since the 1976 Viking mission, which turned up no signs of life but may have discovered organic compounds, the presence of which scientists are hoping Curiosity will confirm.
NASA will be broadcasting a number of live streams of the event on its Ustream channel, which should begin around 11:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday, August 5, and should also be broadcasting on a number of media outlets. Curiosity is expected to land at 1:30 a.m. EDT on Monday, August 6. You can follow @MarsCuriosity, the official Twitter account of the Curiosity Rover, and follow NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover on Facebook. If you’re in New York City, you can watch the live NASA broadcast on the billboards in Times Square.
PolicyMic will be covering the Curiosity landing LIVE. Hit “Refresh” for constant updates. All times in EDT.
Monday, 10:07 AM: This NASA Controller Just Became a Celebrity:
Monday, 9 AM: Recap of the Mars Landing:
An eight-month journey across the reaches of space has ended safely for NASA’s Curiosity rover, which landed safely on Mars on Sunday. The rover began beaming images of the planet’s surface back within minutes of its successful descent through the planet’s atmosphere at a staggering 13,000 miles per hour. “I can’t believe this. This is unbelievable,” said Allen Chen, who helped oversee the rover’s safe landing. The NASA craft will spend the next two years on an unprecedented mission exploring the surface of Mars, traveling through the Gale crater, and searching for signs that Earth’s neighbor may once have hosted life.
Monday, 8:54 AM: This is Awesome (Take that NBC and your over-priced Olympics coverage):
Monday, 7 AM: Curiosity on Mars:
NASA's rover Curiosity successfully carried out a highly challenging landing on Mars early Monday, transmitting images back to Earth after traveling hundreds of millions of miles through space in order to explore the Red Planet.
The $2.6 billion Curiosity made its dramatic arrival on Martian terrain in a spectacle popularly known as the "seven minutes of terror."
This jaw-dropping landing process, involving a sky crane and the world's largest supersonic parachute, allowed the spacecraft carrying Curiosity to target the landing area that scientists had meticulously chosen.
Monday, 1:37 AM: Curiosity is on the surface of Mars!
Monday, 1:36 am: We have made history, and we have the first image!
Monday, 1:34 am: Curiosity has landed in Mars! We are expecting images.
Monday, 1:31 am: Once the rover 'Curiosity' touches down, the crew will see the landscape through the machine's eyes only. These trips into the forbidding desert help them to develop a gut sense of the Martian terrain and to start thinking a bit like a Mars rover themselves -- said the LA Times.
Sunday, 10:47 pm: One of the most intriguing parts of the Mars rover Curiosity's landing is the lack of control that the scientists and engineers have in the final moments of the mission. Because it takes 14 minutes for signals to be transmitted from Curiosity to Earth, all they can do is watch, wait and hope for success -- reported the Los Angeles Times.
"Scott Hubbard, who is the former director ofNASA'sAmes Research Center and has contributed greatly to the Mars rover program, said: 'Everybody is on edge. There's a lot of confidence there, but the truth is Mars is still mostly an unknown. It's a tense confidence. The software is loaded, they're committed, and now they just have to wait and see.'"
Sunday, 6:01 pm: The anxiety at mission control could last much longer than just "seven minutes of terror," reported Reuters.
"If all goes as planned, NASA will heave a big sigh of relief immediately. But word of whether Curiosity survives may not come for hours.
Because Earth sets over the Martian horizon minutes before Curiosity is due to land, direct communication with the lander will be cut off. Scientists tracking the craft from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California will depend on three other spacecraft in orbit around Mars to transmit information about the rover's fate.
One of those orbiters, nicknamed Odyssey, can potentially relay Curiosity's descent and landing signals in real time. But NASA won't know if this satellite can be properly positioned for live coverage until about 15 minutes before Curiosity hits the Martian atmosphere."