Mars Landing Tonight!

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!

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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14 responses to “Mars Landing Tonight!

  1. I’ve been watching NASA TV throughout the day and will put it on the big screen tonight at 10:30 CST and watch it to the end.

    The Spirit and Opportunity landings were great drama and once you knew the landing sequence you could visualize what was happening as the thing came down and various bits and pieces deployed.

    So, they will call out atmosphere entry, parachute deployment, heat shield jettison, landing rockets firing, ground radar acquired, descent numbers, sky crane deployment, touchdown, detachment and Whoopee!!

    As those of you who memorize my every word know, I sat on a school bus, in the rain, 3rd Grade, listening on an AM radio (what?) to the launch of John Glenn and how exciting that was. Years later I was glued to a TV in Titusville, Pa. watching the live feed of Neil Armstrong descending to the surface of the moon.

    And what a joy it was for me to have my aerospace engineer daughter, an intern for Boeing, sit at a table at a gala event at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. with both John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.

    Here’s to a great and successful evening.

  2. Doc Bill says: “I’ve been watching NASA TV throughout the day”

    I’ve had it off and on. Fox News says they’ll be covering the landing. I suppose other networks will too.

  3. Great simulation of the landing process can be found here:

  4. Hey, longie: You think we’ll find organic material?

  5. Dunno, but if it’s organic, it cost twice as much as regular vegetables.


  6. @Doc, congrats on your daughter! I spent years with Boeing, in the space business, and she’s in a great place.

    As a kid growing up I collected everything I could about the Mercury missions, and never really stopped. I was lucky enough to meet Deke Slayton at KSC after the first Shuttle mission. Never met Glenn, so I’m jealous of your daughter. The astronauts I’ve known were in later classes, but no less impressive.

    I missed the moonwalk. I caught the landing though. I was lying on the hood of a car in a parking lot outside tent city at Philmont scout ranch in New Mexico with my buddies, gazing at the moon hanging over the mountains, and listening to the radio playing through the open windows. I can still feel the warmth of that summer evening, and the crackling sound of the radio, and that unforgettable moment when we heard “Tranquility base here, the Eagle has landed”. My memory of the landing video comes exclusively from watching “The Dish” many, many times. (If you haven’t seen that movie – you must!)

    An hour from now!!!

  7. Science flies us to Mars. Religious dogma flies us into buildings

  8. Curiosity is now safely on Mars, and I supposed that the creation “scientists” at AiG and ICR are busy picking the lint out of their bellybuttons and gazing at their Wholly Babbles wondering how to spin the discoveries that await those of us who live in the world of reality.

  9. I watched NASA TV on the big screen and the simulation on my Mac. Great combination. The simulation was about 10 seconds ahead of what was actually happening but the sequence of events being read out was a fantastic commentary. I was surprised by how quickly it went from parachute to sky crane. There was literally not a second to spare!

  10. Sorry I haven’t posted anything. This just might be the slowest news day ever.

  11. SC said: “This just might be the slowest news day ever.”
    It might be for creationists and IDers (as if there’s a difference), but on the science front, the news is out of this world. (Pause for groans…)

  12. Maybe they’re hoping we’ll find Noah’s Ark on Mars. It coulda floated there on the waters above the firmament.

  13. retiredsciguy

    Curmy: “Maybe they’re hoping we’ll find Noah’s Ark on Mars.”

    So that’s where all the water went! To Mars!

  14. I gave up TV a year ago. Missing the action at mission control was a bummer. NASA site wasn’t much help with the video feed because I still have crappy dial-up. But I was able to imagine it in my mind as per the countdown clock. I kept telling myself during the last seven minutes prior to landing, ‘Please don’t burn up! Please don’t burn up!” followed by “It’s almost crunch time! Please don’t crash! Please don’t crash!”