Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), Curiosity

Originally scheduled to be launched in December 2009 and land on Mars in October 2010, this spacecraft has been delayed to the 2011/2012 apparition of Mars. It was successfully launched on November 26, 2011, with an Atlas 5 rocket from Kennedy Space Center, Florida. After an 8-month interplanetary cruise, the spacecraft arrived at Mars and successfully softlanded on the Red Planet on August 6, 2012. Its purpose is to perform a 2-year science mission on the surface of Mars. This spacecraft is a sophisticated lander-rover mission for advanced studies on the Martian surface. Landing site is at a big crater, the Gale Crater on Mars.

This spacecraft includes the use of new technologies: A small long-range, long-duration rover, powered by a small nuclear reactor, equipped to perform many scientific studies of Mars, and to demonstrate the technology for accurate landing and hazard avoidance in order to travel to difficult-to-reach sites.

During its interplanetary cruise, several Trajectory Correction Maneuvers (TCMs) had been conducted to adjust its orbit to the acurate, optimal trajectory. Originally, scheduled were TCM No. 1 around December 11, 2011, TCM No. 2 around March 25, 2012, TCM No. 3 around June 7, 2012. Final landing site selection occurred in April 2012, Mars landing was scheduled for August 6, 2012. TCM No. 1 was successfully performed on January 11, 2012, TCM No. 2 on March 26, 2012, TCM No. 3 on June 26, 2012, and an extra TCM No. 4 was successfully performed on July 28, 2012, with two options left before landing (which were eventually waived).

Landing occurred on August 6, 2012 in Gale Crater, a crater of 96 miles in diameter; landing site coordinates are: Latitude -4.59 (S), Longitude 137.44 deg. Now on the surface of Mars, it has commenced its comprehensive science program, including the research if the landing site ever had conditions favorable for possible life forms on Mars.

Hartmut Frommert [contact]

[Mars] | [Spider] @ [SEDS]

Last Modification: November 22, 2013