Photos

 

Mars Curiosity Landing 2

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft landing in one of the most difficult feats of robotic exploration ever attempted. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. (8/5/12)

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    JPL, Pasadena
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    This graphic shows the locations of the cameras on NASA's Curiosity rover. The rover's mast features seven cameras: the Remote Micro Imager, part of the Chemistry and Camera suite; four black-and-white Navigation Cameras (two on the left and two on the right) and two color Mast Cameras (Mastcams). The left Mastcam has a 34-millimeter lens and the right Mastcam has a 100-millimeter lens.
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    This artist's still shows how NASA's Curiosity rover will communicate with Earth during landing. As the rover descends to the surface of Mars, it will send out two different types of data: basic radio-frequency tones that go directly to Earth (pink dashes) and more complex UHF radio data (blue circles) that require relaying by orbiters. NASA's Odyssey orbiter will pick up the UHF signal and relay it immediately back to Earth, while NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will record the UHF data and play it back to Earth at a later time.
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    This graphic shows the flux of radiation detected by NASA's Mars Science Laboratory on the trip from Earth to Mars from December 2011 to July 2012. The spikes in radiation levels occurred in February, March and late May of 2012 because of large solar energetic particle events caused by giant flares on the sun. The data were obtained by the Radiation Assessment Detector on Curiosity. The radiation levels are measured in units of flux or particles per square centimeter per second per steradian. The MSL spacecraft structure (which includes the backshell and heatshield) provides significant shielding from the deep space radiation environment, reducing significantly the particle flux observed by the Radiation Assessment Detector.
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    A NASA Mars Science Laboratory test rover called the Vehicle System Test Bed, or VSTB, serves as the closest double for Curiosity in evaluations of the mission's hardware and software. This February 2012 scene inside the In Situ Instrument Laboratory at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., shows testing precision of movements of the rover's robotic arm in response to positioning commands. JPL's Gerald Clark is the test participant beside the turret of tools at the end of the arm.
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    The Lincoln penny in this photograph is part of a camera calibration target attached to NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, which is on track for a landing on Mars the night of Aug. 5 to Aug. 6, 2012. The calibration target for the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) instrument also includes color references, a metric bar graphic, and a stair-step pattern for depth calibration. The MAHLI adjustable-focus, color camera at the end of Curiosity's robotic arm can be used for taking extreme close-ups of rocks and soil on Mars, as well as images from greater distances.
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    The landing site for NASA's Mars rover Curiosity was chosen for giving the mission access to examine the lower layers of a mountain inside Gale Crater. The Mars Science Laboratory Project Science Group is calling the mountain Mount Sharp. This informal naming pays tribute to geologist Robert P. Sharp (1911-2004), a founder of planetary science, influential teacher of many current leaders in the field, and team member for NASA's first few Mars missions.
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    This artist's scoreboard displays a fictional game between Mars and Earth, with Mars in the lead. It refers to the success rate of sending missions to Mars, both as orbiters and landers. Of the previous 39 missions targeted for Mars from around the world, 15 have been successes and 24 failures. For baseball fans, that's a batting average of .385. The United States has had 13 successes out of 18 attempts, or a "batting average" of .722. NASA's Curiosity rover, set to land on the Red Planet the evening of Aug. 5, 2012 PDT (morning of Aug. 6 EDT), will mark the United States' 19th attempt to tackle the challenge of Mars, and the world's 40th attempt.
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    This image shows changes in the target landing area for Curiosity, the rover of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory project. The larger ellipse was the target area prior to early June 2012, when the project revised it to the smaller ellipse centered nearer to the foot of Mount Sharp, inside Gale Crater. This oblique view of Mount Sharp is derived from a combination of elevation and imaging data from three Mars orbiters. The view is looking toward the southeast.
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    Mars Science Laboratory mission team members ran mobility tests on California sand dunes in early May 2012 in preparation for operating the Curiosity rover, currently en route to Mars, after its landing in Mars' Gale Crater. This test rover, called Scarecrow because it doesn't have an onboard computer "brain" like Curiosity, has a full-scale version of Curiosity's mobility system, but it is otherwise stripped down so that it weighs about the same on Earth as Curiosity will weigh in the lesser gravity of Mars. Each wheel has a diameter of 20 inches (50 centimeters).
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    This global map of Mars was acquired on July 31, 2012, by the Mars Color Imager instrument on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. One global map is generated each day to forecast weather conditions for the entry, descent and landing of NASA's Curiosity rover.
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    This close-up image of a dust storm on Mars was acquired by the Mars Color Imager instrument on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Nov. 7, 2007, around 3 p.m. local time on Mars. Scientists working with NASA's Curiosity rover, which is set to land on Mars on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT), are monitoring Mars each day for similar small storms that could either drift over the landing site or stir up dust that moves as haze over the site.
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    Curiosity at JPL, Pasadena