Mars Curiosity Update No 4

CuriosityAug. 2: MSL Remains on Track for Weekend Landing

Curiosity remains in good health, with no significant issues currently in work. There are no real-time activities planned today. The Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft remains on a consistent and stable course, well within the limits required to reach its target landing ellipse. As a result, yesterday the flight team decided to cancel the build and test of a contingency version of Trajectory Correction Manoeuvre 5. This contingency manoeuvre, had it been needed, would have been used in the event an emergency prevented the team from executing the nominal scheduled TCM-5 manoeuvre, which is planned for Friday, 3 August, if needed. The project also cancelled a corresponding update to parameters for the autonomous software controlling events during entry, descent and landing.

Aug. 1: Further Preps for Entry, Descent and Landing

With Curiosity now flying under the control of the autonomous entry, descent and landing timeline, the Mars Science Laboratory team continues to monitor the spacecraft’s health and trajectory. There are no real-time activities planned today. In the event that a fifth trajectory correction manoeuvre is needed to further fine-tune the spacecraft’s course to reach its target landing ellipse, the flight team is making preparations for it. If needed, that manoeuvre would be executed on Friday, 3 August. Curiosity remains in good health, with no significant issues currently in work.

July 31: Entry, Descent and Landing Timeline Activated

The Mars Science Laboratory continues its final preparations for entry, descent and landing this upcoming weekend. Yesterday, the flight team completed and confirmed a memory test on the software for the mechanical assembly that controls MSL’s descent motor. They also configured the spacecraft for its transition to entry, descent and landing approach mode, and they enabled the spacecraft’s hardware pyrotechnic devices. MSL is now under the control of the autonomous entry, descent and landing timeline flight software. The flight team continues to monitor Curiosity’s onboard systems and flight trajectory. The spacecraft and ground systems remain in good health, with no significant issues currently being worked.

July 30: Entry, Descent and Landing Procedure Begins

Today, the Mars Science Laboratory flight team begins executing its procedure for entry, descent and landing (EDL), and the spacecraft begins its sequence of autonomous activities leading to the landing this coming weekend. These activities include enabling needed components and setting final parameters. In addition, the schedule over the next several days includes opportunities to update parameters for the autonomous software controlling events during EDL. If needed, these updates can fine-tune the spacecraft’s autonomous controls for its descent through the atmosphere. Some parameters give the spacecraft’s onboard computer knowledge about where the vehicle is relative to Mars. Others may be updated based on observations by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft of Mars’ variable atmospheric conditions in this week before landing.

The Editor (Spaceflight)

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