After 8 1/2 months in space, the Mars Science Laboratory's Curiosity rover is set to land on the surface of Mars in the late hours of Sunday, August 5, or, for those of us in the Central Time Zone, at 12:31 a.m. Monday, August 6. NASA will be broadcasting the landing live here on NASA's streaming channel, and the pre-show will begin at 10:31 CST. Click here for a full schedule.
The Curiosity rover is one of the most advanced rovers built, weighing over one ton and about the size of a small SUV. The rover is equipped with a geology lab, a rocker-bogie suspension, a rock-vaporizing laser and seventeen cameras. Its 7-foot arm is equipped with a "hand" that holds five instruments, including a particle x-ray spectrometer.
The Science of Curiosity: Seeking Signs of Past Mars Habitability
The Mars Science Lab (which contains the rover) will enter the Martian atmosphere at speeds up to 13,000 miles an hour. It will take seven minutes from entry to landing during which the lander will decelerate and descend using rockets, a parachute and a sky crane. Curiosity will land inside a 96-mile wide crated known as Gale Crater. Within the crater is Mount Sharpe, a mountain that stands higher than Mount Rainier in Seattle.
Challenges of Getting to Mars: Curiosity's Seven Minutes of Terror
The Curiosity landing has generated a lot of excitement around the world. "Landing Parties" have been organized in many cities, along with online hangouts. William Shatner and Wil Wheaton have each narrated "The Grand Entrance," a video that explains the science behind Curiosity and guides viewers through MSL's journey, landing and exploration of Mars.
And for those of us who dream of one day setting foot on Mars (guilty!), the privately-funded Mars One project is working on plans to establish the first human settlement on Mars by April 2023. Even if you're not exactly astronaut material right now, Mars One is promising to hold a world-wide lottery for a chance to train for the mission in 2013. One catch though: it's a one-way trip.
Of course, C-SPL has plenty of material to help potential Mars colonists study up for their mission:
Exploring Mars: Chronicle from a Decade of Discovery by Scott Hubbard (523.43 HUB)
Five Years on Mars by National Geographic (DVD 629.43 FIV)
Roving Mars: The Ultimate Adventure (DVD 523.43 ROV)
Space 2100: To Mars and Beyond in the Century to Come by Michael Abrams (629. SPA)
The Universe, Season One, Vol. 1 "Mars the Red Planet" (DVD 523.1 UNI 1.1)
Keep watching the skies!
~ Allison, Adult Services