Press Release

NASA Ames Celebrates Curiosity Rover’s Landing on Mars

By SpaceRef Editor
July 30, 2012
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NASA Ames Celebrates Curiosity Rover’s Landing on Mars

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. – NASA’s Ames Research Center will celebrate the upcoming landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars with a variety of activities. Included will be pre- and post-landing live televised broadcasts of NASA news briefings featuring local Mars experts, a huge public event expected to attract thousands of spectators, and the first ever multi-center NASA Social highlighting Ames’ role in the mission for social media.

During a critical period lasting about seven minutes, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft carrying Curiosity must decelerate from about 13,200 mph to about 1.7 mph for the rover to land on the surface at approximately 10:31 p.m. PDT Aug. 5. Curiosity will investigate whether an area with a wet history inside Mars’ Gale Crater ever has offered an environment favorable for microbial life. The mission is a precursor for future human missions to Mars, which President Obama has set a challenge to reach in the 2030s.

Ames is contributing to this exciting mission in a variety of ways, including:

– CheMin: Ames is the lead for the Chemical and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument that will identify and quantify the minerals in Martian rocks and soils.

– Arc Jet testing: The MSL heat shield was tested at Ames’ Arc Jet Complex, which reproduces heating and pressure conditions similar to those experienced by spacecraft during atmospheric re-entry.

– Parachute testing: Wind tunnel engineers conducted a full-scale MSL parachute deployment, small-scale verification tests and supersonic tests to study the interaction between the MSL capsule and parachute during atmospheric entry.

– PICA: Researchers invented the unique thermal protection system consisting of tiles made of Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator (PICA) that the MSL spacecraft will use to safely reach the surface of the Red Planet.

– MEDLI: The Mars Science Laboratory Entry, Descent and Landing Instrument (MEDLI) contains multiple sophisticated temperature sensors to measure atmospheric conditions and performance of the capsule’s heat shield.

– MSLICE: Engineers developed the Mars Science InterfaCE (MSLICE) software tool in collaboration with engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to plan the actions of the Mars rover and maximize scientific research.

Ames also will support other science instruments on Curiosity, including:

– ChemCam: Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) is a rock-zapping laser instrument that observes the resulting flash through a telescope to identify the chemical elements in the target.

– SAM: The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument has three laboratory tools for analyzing gases pulled from rocks and soil samples, as well as from the Martian atmosphere.

– REMS: The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) will provide daily weather reports from the Red Planet using a suite of meteorological instruments.

The schedule of Ames MSL Curiosity events below is subject to change. All times are PDT.

– Thursday, Aug. 2: Ames experts will be available during live broadcasts of NASA Science News Conferences

o 10 a.m.: MSL Mission Science Overview

o 11 a.m.: Mission Engineering Overview

– 7 a.m. – 5 p.m., Friday, Aug. 3: Ames will host a NASA Social

– Sunday, Aug. 5: Ames will host a public event and local experts will be available during live broadcasts of the mission coverage

o 3 p.m.: NASA Science News Conference

o 4 p.m.: Doors open for public event

o 5 p.m.: Ames Expo with booths and demonstrations showcasing Ames’ connections to the mission

o 8 p.m.: ‘Ask A Scientist’ featuring Ames’ scientists, including Ames’ renowned Mars expert, Chris McKay, will share stories about Mars

o 10 p.m. – midnight: live broadcast from the control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as the mission unfolds

o 10:31 p.m.: MSL is expected to land on Mars

o No earlier than 11:15 p.m.: MSL/Curiosity Rover post-landing briefing

– Monday, Aug. 6:

o 9 a.m.: MSL/Curiosity Rover post-landing recap and Sol 1 outlook briefing

o 4 p.m.: MSL/Curiosity Rover Sol 1 Update and possible images briefing

– 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7: MSL/Curiosity Rover Sol 2 Update briefing

– 10 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8: MSL/Curiosity Rover Sol 3 briefing

– 10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 9: MSL/Curiosity Rover Sol 4 briefing

– 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 10 (tentative): MSL/Curiosity Rover Sol 5 briefing

Reporters interested in attending the NASA Social, landing event, or any of the live broadcasts hosted at NASA Ames must send requests for media credentials andinformation to participate remotely 24 hours before the event to Rachel Hoover, or call 650-604-4789.

To reachAmes, take U.S. Highway 101 to the Moffett Field, NASA Parkway exit and drive east on Moffett Boulevard towards the main gate.

The mission is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Curiosity was designed, developed and assembled at JPL.

For more information about Ames’ contributions to the mission, visit:

For moreinformation about the landing event at Ames, visit:

For moreinformation about the NASA Social at Ames, visit:

Follow the mission on Facebook and on Twitter at: and

SpaceRef staff editor.