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Mars NASA Science Technology

New Curiosity Rover Landing Target May Save Months Travel to Prime Destination 64

coondoggie writes with an update on the Mars Science Laboratory. From the article: "Even as it hurtles towards an August 5 rendezvous with the red planet, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is being fine-tuned for a more precise landing and better operations once it reaches its destination. NASA today gave a status report for the MSL which was launched November 2011, and is still over 17.5 million kilometers away from Mars. Of major interest today was the fact NASA said it has narrowed landing target for the Mars rover, Curiosity letting it touch down closer to its ultimate destination for science operations, but also closer to the foot of a mountain slope that poses a landing hazard, the agency said." From NASA: "The larger ellipse, 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) by 15.5 miles (25 kilometers) was already smaller than the landing target area for any previous Mars mission, due to this mission's techniques for improved landing precision. Continuing analysis after the Nov. 26, 2011, launch resulted in confidence in landing within an even smaller area [handy diagram], about 12 miles by 4 miles (20 by 7 kilometers). Using the smaller ellipse, the Mars Science Laboratory Project also moved the center of the target closer to the mountain, which holds geological layers that are the prime destination for the rover. ... 'We're trimming the distance we'll have to drive after landing by almost half,' said Pete Theisinger, Mars Science Laboratory project manager ... 'That could get us to the mountain months earlier.'"
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New Curiosity Rover Landing Target May Save Months Travel to Prime Destination

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  • Re:Sky Crane! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mbone ( 558574 ) on Monday June 11, 2012 @08:45PM (#40290761)

    I was told that are plans to have the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter image the landing. If anything goes wrong, this might provide the only knowledge of what failed and, if it works, the pictures should be pretty spectacular.

  • Re:Disappointed... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:02PM (#40291251)

    "In all seriousness, this rover has some amazing hardware that has the best chance yet of finding microbial life on Mars."

    It's funny that you should say that, because this rover still doesn't have a simple but critical instrument for detecting microbial life: a microscope powerful enough to see microbes.

    Does NASA have an explanation for why none of the rovers have had a microscope at least powerful enough to see average-sized bacteria?

    More to the point, why doesn't Curiosity have one? This rover is the heaviest one yet, loaded with tons of scientific instruments. Why couldn't they have sacrificed some of that weight for a simple but powerful microscope?

  • Re:And still. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gavagai80 ( 1275204 ) on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:34PM (#40291465) Homepage
    Actually, we have the world's largest economy and a populace that is by and large so affluent that *obesity* is our epidemic instead of starvation, and people think the sky is falling when they have to choose between netflix and starbucks. I'd rather see this money going to Mars science than to somebody's second SUV, and while it'd be nice to provide for the poor that money could more appropriately be taxed out of your home theater system or the like.

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