Mars Rover Curiosity Nears Red Planet

NASA gave a green light of sorts late Sunday for the Mars Science Laboratory and the Curiosity rover, which are mere hours from a nerve-wracking landing on Mars, following an 8 ½ month race to the red planet at 8,000 mph. In this case, a green light is no light at all.

The space agency said Curiosity remains in good health, and was steering so smoothly between planets that a planned minor course correction Saturday wasn’t necessary. And with the gravitational pull of Mars already tugging on the spaceship, arrival is being closely monitored by the watchful eyes of mission control.

The distance between the planets remains a stubborn challenge to mission control; due to the signal time lag between Mars and Earth (it takes about 14 minutes for a signal on Mars to zip to Earth), Curiosity will execute the landing autonomously, following the half a million lines of computer code designed by Earthlings. Curiosity will not be communicating directly with Earth as it lands, because Earth will set beneath the Martian horizon from Curiosity’s perspective about two minutes before the landing.

The first Mars pictures expected from Curiosity are reduced-resolution fisheye black-and-white images received either in the first few minutes after touchdown or more than two hours later. Higher resolution and color images from other cameras could come later in the first week.

Through a remarkable combination of engineering and mathematics, a crew will attempt to precisely position a second satellite — maneuvering it to just the spot around the giant planet to capture the split second when Curiosity falls from the skies. NASA said the craft has been acting as a stunt double for astronauts who might someday follow in its wake, exposing itself to the same cosmic radiation humans would experience following the route to Mars.

Do you think a human community in Mars will be possible in the near future? Would YOU want to reside in the Red Planet?

Source: Fox News

Image: University of Toronto