August 2, 2012
Australia’s CSIRO To Assist NASA With Mars Rover Landing
[ Watch the Video "Seven Minutes of Terror" ]
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
As NASA's Mars Science Laboratory gets closer to the Red Planet by the second, other countries are preparing to help aid the space agency in the difficult landing.
The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC), managed for NASA by CSIRO in Australia, will be the main tracking station for the landing.
The Australian dishes will be the ones following MSL's mission when it attempts the "seven minutes of terror" on Sunday.
CDSCC will be the main tracking station for landing activities.
The center's 230-foot and two 110-foot antennas will receive signals from the spacecraft both directly, and those relayed through another NASA spacecraft, Mars Odyssey.
CSIRO's 210-foot Parkes telescope will be recording signals directly from the spacecraft as a backup, just in case there is a problem with the relaying.
"The expertise of Australian personnel in space communications and CSIRO's partnership with NASA will be showcased during this critical event in the Mars Science Laboratory's mission," Chief of CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science, Dr Phil Diamond, said in a press statement. "All of our technology and our people are ready."
The European Space Agency (ESA) will also be providing NASA assistance in getting its Curiosity rover safely on Mars. An ESA antenna will be receiving signals from the spacecraft recorded and re-sent through the space agency's Mars Express satellite.
Canberra station signals will be sent directly to mission scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
Landing on Mars is not a guarantee, so NASA is taking whatever help it can get when it comes to tracking its spacecraft.
Curiosity will be embarking on the most difficult landing in NASA's history, as MSL travels from 13,000 mph to just 1.7 mph in only seven minutes. The success of the mission is not guaranteed, so all eyes will be watching on Sunday to see if the space agency succeeds in another Mars rover mission.