Google+ Mars Travel: MSL Curiosity - The First Week

MSL Curiosity - The First Week

When Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity begins its entry, descent and landing (EDL) it will go through 7 minutes of terror, as the largest payload ever to touch down on Mars slows from over 21,000 to 3.6km/hr as it maneuvers to the surface. If all goes to plan we will get confirmation of MSL touchdown at 0131:37EDT (0531:37UT) in Gale Crater near the base of Mount Sharp, thus beginning the most heavily anticipated Mars mission since Mariner 4 first imaged the Red Planet in July 1965.

The European Space Agency's Mars Express will be in position to image MSL during the different stages of EDL. It will begin monitoring MSL 45 minutes prior to it entering the Martian atmosphere and continue to do so after touchdown. The ESA will be working extensively with NASA throughout MSL's mission. [Details of ESA-NASA cooperation]

Click for larger image with stages of MSL's Entry, Descent & Landing
Credit: ESA/Mars Express
Upon landing MSL will remain in position for approximately 5 days, during which time mission control will ensure the ground right below the rover is safe to drive on. They will also use this time to deploy the high gain antenna, mast and sampling system, while ensuring that everything else deployed properly and is in working order. To get an idea of what MSL is carrying, click the image to your right.

Following the initial system checks MSL will make its first drive through uncharted Martian terrain and begin work to determine if the conditions on Mars were or still are favorable to life.

As many scientists have proclaimed. The most exciting aspect of MSL's mission is that we really don't know what we'll find in Gale Crater! One thing is for sure; MSL's journey will be new, informative, and exciting, as exploration of the unknown always is!


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