Nasa rover targets Mars landing

2012-06-12 08:29
Opportunity is poised to reach the rim of a vast crater. (Nasa, AP)

Opportunity is poised to reach the rim of a vast crater. (Nasa, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - Nasa's Mars rover, nicknamed Curiosity, is zeroing in on its August landing on the Red Planet and aims to touch down closer than expected to its mountain target, the US space agency said.

With a mission to use its roving toolkit to drill for signs that microbial life may have once existed on Mars, the rover is now set to land about 6.5km closer to the mountain than initially planned.

The car-sized rover, which Nasa scientists have described as a $2.5bn dream machine, launched from Florida in November 2011, and aims to land in Mars' Gale Crater at 05:31 GMT on August 6.

"We're trimming the distance we'll have to drive after landing by almost half," said Pete Theisinger, Mars Science Laboratory project manager at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

"That could get us to the mountain months earlier," he said, adding possibly as many as four months earlier than planned.

Toolkit

However, the narrower landing ellipse - now 6.45km wide by 20km long instead of 20km wide and 26km long - also brings the vehicle closer to the potential danger of coming down on a slope of Mount Sharp instead of a flat surface in the Gale Crater.

The six-wheeled rover will be lowered onto Mars with the help of a rocket-powered sky crane, and is carrying a sophisticated toolkit for rock sample analysis to support its two-year (one Martian year) mission.

Lab analysis has shown that one of its drills may contaminate Mars rock samples with bits of Teflon, a problem that was discovered shortly before launch, Nasa said.

"We are getting a greater understanding of that contamination issue. The testing so far continues to give us reasonable confidence that we will be able to meet all mission success criteria for the use of the drill," said Theisinger.

Mars Science Laboratory project scientist John Grotzinger told reporters that since this is the first time a Mars rover has carried a drill, scientists are learning from the experience.

"We don't have enough information yet to really know how serious the problem is; we see so many potential ways to work around this that we could use," he said.

Three other orbiters - already circling the Red Planet - are being positioned to be overhead when the rover approaches Mars so they can relay communications back to Earth.

"From the moment of landing it will be about 14 minutes before we will get a confirmation signal back to Earth at the earliest to confirm that we are actually down safely on the surface," said programme executive Dave Lavery.

While all indications are positive so far, Lavery said the mission carries plenty of unknowns.

"The reality is, this is a very risky business," he said. "Historically only 40% of missions to Mars have been successful. So there is never a guarantee of success."
- SAPA
Read more on:    nasa  |  space
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

90-year-old's incredible travels

Age is but a number. This grandma is living life to the fullest!

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

10 facts about swimming you didn't know
Snors with a cause - creating awareness of male health
Watch! Skateboarders racing cyclists
Exciting new zipline for Cape Town!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to R2100 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

TV Series – 2 for R299

Loads of hot titles to choose from. Shop now!

Hot offer: Up to 50% off irons

Save up to 50% on all Philips irons. While stocks last. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be doing the work and playing the game, but your innovative mind is on a far away planet planning the next big thing....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.