A couple of days ago we posted Mars Landing Sunday — Creationist Nightmare? Okay, this is Sunday. The landing is scheduled for tonight.
The Wall Street Journal‘s headline is NASA’s Robot Lab Curiosity Nears Mars. They say:
Anxious NASA officials Sunday crossed their fingers and set their clocks to Mars time as the agency’s $2.5 billion Curiosity craft neared the Red Planet for the most complex, costly and high-risk landing ever attempted on another world.
“I have to keep reminding myself to keep breathing,” said JPL engineer Steve Sell, who helped develop the mission’s complicated landing system.
Because of news from different time zones, we managed to bungle the landing date in our last post, so we’re going to try again. The Journal says:
By design, the descent and landing of the one-ton mobile robot laboratory, scheduled to occur at approximately 1:31 a.m. EDT on Monday, is entirely automated, due to the 14 minutes it takes transmissions to travel between Mars and Earth.
For the US east coast, that’s a bit after midnight, tonight (in the wee hours of Monday morning). On the west coast where JPL is located — that’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, run by Caltech — it’ll be 10:31 p.m. PDT (still Sunday night). Sorry to be chauvinistic about it, but those who live in other time zones will have to make the necessary adjustment. Let’s read on:
In its seven-minute descent, the Curiosity craft must brake from 13,200 miles per hour to a gentle stop on the Martian surface. It depends on hypersonic gliding maneuvers, the largest supersonic parachute ever deployed, eight hydrazine rocket engines firing in sequence and an elaborate system of tethers called a “sky crane” that are meant to lower the landing craft gently to the ground.
Sounds simple enough. Nothin’ to it. No sweat. Here’s more:
At JPL, mission engineers said the first pictures from Curiosity — a set of low-resolution black and white test images — might be transmitted in the first few minutes after touchdown or, depending on communications, more than two hours later. But under some circumstances, it could take up to 24 hours after to establish a link to the Curiosity craft.
That means you’ll be able to sleep through the landing without missing much. Maybe. But do you want to risk missing out on the fun? Here’s a link to the NASA TV channel, so you can watch it live (as live as it gets, anyway) on your computer. They’re broadcasting now, discussing the project.
Want more info? Here’s JPL’s website on the mission. They’ll probably keep it updated.
For just this once, let’s try to forget about the creationists. They’re still wallowing in their 3,000 year-old Babylonian science. Let ’em wallow. We’re landing on Mars!
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