Today is a historic day for the world, especially for NASA. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft and Curiosity rover are inching closer to the Red Planet. Mars, the elusive planet has been piquing the curiosity of humankind for centuries now, and the possibility of life on Mars has been the topic of the most interest. Approximately 352 million miles (567 million kilometres) and 36 weeks after being launched from Earth, MSL and Curiosity are set to make a historic touchdown today on Mars. If all goes well, they land in the Mars' Gale Crater today at 10:31 PM PDT. As per updates on the official NASA website, “The spacecraft is headed for its target entry point at the top of Mars' atmosphere precisely enough that the maneuver was deemed unnecessary”.
Excitement at NASA
The touchdown can be viewed live on NASA TV here.
These tweets capture the excitement surrounding the Mars touchdown:
“MarsCuriosity Cruise stage separation complete. So long & thanks for all the navigation. 17 minutes to Mars! #MSL”
“#MSL: Pass the Peanuts! They're an @NASAJPL good-luck tradition for missions since Ranger 7 in 1964. Everyone's eating peanuts, right? #MSL”
According to NASA's website, as on 6:18 PM PDT (9:18 PM EDT) today, NASA's MSL spacecraft was approximately 36,000 miles (57,936 kilometres) from Mars, travelling at a speed of about 8,400 miles per hour (about 3,755 metres per second).
The image of Curiosity below indicates the position of the seven pairs of cameras placed on the rover. The cameras are the Remote Micro Imager, part of the Chemistry and Camera suite; four black-and-white Navigation Cameras (Navcams), two on the left and two on the right; and two colour Mast Cameras (Mastcams).
Cameras on Curiosity
The cameras will enable the rover to capture hitherto unseen images of the Red Planet. Elaborating on Curiosity's schedule, NASA adds that the first images from the rover will come from the one-megapixel Hazard-Avoidance cameras (Hazcams) that have been attached to its body. It is only when its engineers deem it safe to deploy the rover's Remote Sensing Mast and its high-tech cameras that Curiosity can begin its task.