Odyssey Repositioned To Transmit Curiosity Landing To NASA
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
In preparation for the upcoming Curiosity rover landing on the Red Planet, the Mars orbiter Odyssey has successfully repositioned itself into an orbital location that will allow for prompt confirmation to Earth of a successful landing.
Curiosity, which is being carried to the Red Planet aboard the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), can send limited data directly to Earth as it enters the atmosphere on Mars. Before the landing, Earth will set below the Martian horizon, ending a direct line of communication. Odyssey will help get the information to Earth faster.
NASA last week reported that on its original trajectory, Odyssey would arrive over the Curiosity/MSL landing site two minutes late, affecting communications negatively. To fix this, NASA commanded Odyssey to perform a six-second thruster burn on Tuesday, nudging the orbiter about six minutes ahead in its orbit.
With the new orbital position, Odyssey should confirm Curiosity’s landing at about 10:31 p.m. PDT on August 5, 2012 (1:31 a.m. EDT August 6).
Gaylon McSmith, Mars Odyssey project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said the maneuver went as planned based on the information they were receiving. “Odyssey has been working at Mars longer than any other spacecraft, so it is appropriate that it has a special role in supporting the newest arrival.”
Odyssey arrived at Mars in 2001. It played a crucial role in communications for both of NASA’s other rover landings (Opportunity and Spirit), as well as the Phoenix lander. Spirit and Phoenix are no longer operational, however, Opportunity has been on a Martian marathon on the surface, running for more than 8 years and on par to break the record for off-road travel on an extra-terrestrial planet, set by the Soviet Lunokhod 2 rover, which logged 23 miles on the Moon in 1973.
Two other orbiters, NASA Mar’s Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express, will also be in position to receive radio transmissions from MSL during the landing. However, only Odyssey will relay information immediately; MRO and Mars Express will record data for future playback. Odyssey and MRO will provide communication relays for Curiosity during its two-year mission.
Odyssey, MSL and the Curiosity rover are managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Curiosity was designed, developed and built at JPL. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built Odyssey.