Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) on target for landing on Mars
August 3, 2012
Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering, Parks College News
After having traveled almost 350 million miles, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover is right on target for a landing inside Gale Crater on Sunday, August 5th at 10:31 PM PDT (August 6th, 1:31 AM EDT).
Named “Curiosity,” the rover will enter the Martian atmosphere at more than 13,000 mph and in seven minutes — thanks to her autonomous Entry, Descent, and Landing system — it will reduce her speed to less than 2 mph for a soft landing. The hope is that shortly after landing, the first images taken from Gale Crater will be transferred back to Earth. Gale Crater is an appealing location due to its aqueous past, which gives this region a great potential for having been a habitat where microbial life could have developed in the past or present.
The MSL Project started more than 10 years ago and Fernando Abilleira (Parks College alumnus, SAE ’99 and MSAE ’01) has been working on this mission for the last six years.
“Before launch, I was responsible for developing and optimizing the launch period. After launch, and as a member of the Navigation team, I have served as the Launch/Cruise/Approach/Surface Trajectory Analyst,” said Abilleira.
During that time, one of Abilleira’s responsibilities was to coordinate the Mars Science Laboratory, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (NASA), Mars Odyssey (NASA), and Mars Express (ESA) Navigation teams in order to ensure they have communications during Entry, Descent, and Landing.
According to Abilleira, this mission is the most complex and challenging planetary mission ever launched by NASA or any other Space Agency.
“We have never landed a payload as large as Curiosity rover, which weighs almost a metric ton, on another planet. Curiosity represents a clear example of what the human mind is capable of achieving.”
Individuals not only from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), but also from other NASA centers, contractors across the country, and Space Agencies and International corporations have contributed to this work (more than 5,000 people), all working towards a common goal: getting closer to answer one of the fundamental questions that the human race has asked itself since the beginning of time… are we alone in the Universe? The Curiosity rover may provide us with some clues about this.
The landing of Curiosity has generated a lot of interest and fascination around the world. There are events in pretty much every state in the US and even internationally! Be sure to follow Curiosity’s landing through events in your area!
The broadcast will also be available to watch live on NASA TV. If you don’t have NASA TV via your TV/satellite carrier, you will also be able to follow the landing event online. Coverage starts at 8:30 PM PDT.
- Live Coverage of the MSL’s Curiosity rover
- Official Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Website
- “Eyes on the Solar System” – web-based simulator where you can preview MSL’s arrival to Mars.