Friday October 20th 2017

NASA Mars Landing Set for Sunday Night

Free News Press – If all goes well, the NASA Mars Rover, Curiosity, will land on the surface of the Red Planet at around 10:30 pm local time. Heavier and carrying more instruments than its predecessors, Curiosity has been in the planning stages for nearly eight years.

NASA’s newest vehicle will study the surface for habitability and hopefully get a more accurate description of the climate and geology. This should help scientists determine whether Mars could ever have supported life.

The new iteration of the Mars rover will determine the mineralogical composition of the Martian surface. Curiosity will take samples near the surface and search for the building blocks of life.

Part of the research will be in preparation for a human landing. Curiosity will investigate the present state of the water and carbon dioxide cycling. Besides surface radiation, scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena will be monitoring galactic and cosmic radiation and watch for solar proton events and secondary neutrons.

The landing will be especially tricky. It is difficult to use air breaking or parachutes because of the thin atmosphere. Airbags are not practical because of the size of Curiosity; however the biggest supersonic parachute ever built will be employed along with 76 precision pyrotechnic devices.

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