When NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission lands on the red
planet, communication antennas across Australia will be listening.
Done Curiosity. Australia was Listening"
Science Laboratory - Entry, Descent and Landing
Landing Time: Monday, 6 August 2012 - 3:31pm AEST
Monday, 6 August, antenna dishes across Australia received signals
from NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover 'Curiosity' as it landed
on the red planet.
mission scientists refer to landing on Mars as the 'seven minutes
never easy to land on Mars, so the more ears/eyes you have pointing
skyward, the better!
Role in NASA's Mars Mission
antenna dishes across Australia were uniquely positioned to receive
signals from NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover 'Curiosity'
as it landed on the surface of the red planet, Monday, 6th August.
to signals received through antennas in Canberra, Parkes and
New Norcia (near Perth), mission scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory (JPL) were able to countdown through a period they
call the 'seven minutes of terror' as the spacecraft plummeted
towards the surface at over 20,000km/hr.
Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC), which is managed on
NASA's behalf by the CSIRO, was the 'prime' tracking station
for landing activities. CDSCC received a series distinct tones
directly from the spacecraft as various steps in the landing
process were activated, such as; parachute deployment, heatshield
separation, and the all important tone that confirmed that the
rover had landed safely on the surface.
same time, CSIRO's Parkes Radio Telescope was used as a giant
ear to receive and record the tones which were transmitted as
a UHF radio signal, through the first few minutes of the spacecraft's
entry into the Martian atmosphere. The data was stored for later
playback to the mission team.
smaller antenna managed by the European Space Agency (ESA) at
New Norcia, near Perth provided extra redundancy, also receiving
signals from the spacecraft, as well as tones recorded through
ESA's Mars Express satellite in Mars' orbit.
Landing Day -
August 6, 2012
exact landing time for the spacecraft was determined by several
factors including descent time on the parachute, martian winds,
and powered-flight time for the spacecraft nearing landing. Confirmation
of the touchdown signal was received on Earth just after 3.31pm
spacecraft performed entry, descent and landing on Mars, all
events were pre-programmed. The landing could not be controlled
from Earth due to the time it takes for a radio signal travelling
at the speed of light to reach Mars and return to Earth. So the
spacecraft had to do everything on its own.
process from entry into the atmosphere to touchdown took seven
minutes. All the mission scientists could do was watch and wait.
They call this time the 'seven minutes of terror'. (video)
About the Canberra
Deep Space Communication Complex
by the CSIRO, the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC)
is one of three tracking stations in NASA's Deep Space Network.
Separated by approximately 120 degrees around the world, the
stations in Canberra, Australia, Madrid, Spain and Goldstone,
California, provide two-way radio contact with dozens of spacecraft
across the Solar System and beyond.
About the Mars
Science Laboratory mission
latest mission to the red planet is the Mars Science Laboratory
rover called 'Curiosity'. The 950kg vehicle will Gale Crater
in the southern hemisphere of Mars. Curiosity is designed to
assess whether Mars ever had an environment suitable to support
small microbial life forms.
a 567 million kilometre, 8.5 month journey to Mars, Curiosity
landed in an ellipse just 20kms by 7kms at the base of a 5km
high 'mountain' in the centre of the crater.
MSL Website | MSL Fact Sheet (pdf) | MSL Landing Press Kit (5.46mb pdf)
About the MIssion | Instruments | MSL Gallery | MSL
interested in additional information or interview requests should
Space Communication Complex images/interviews: Glen
Laboratory mission/scientists: NASA/JPL - Guy
- Ph: 02 6201 7838 (bh)