Author Topic: Atlas-V - Mars Science Laboratory - Pre Launch Updates  (Read 259624 times)

Online jacqmans

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News release: 2008-219                                            November 19, 2008

Site List Narrows For NASA's Next Mars Landing

PASADENA, Calif. -- Four intriguing places on Mars have risen to the final round as NASA selects a landing site for its next Mars mission, the Mars Science Laboratory.

The agency had a wider range of possible landing sites to choose from than for any previous mission, thanks to the Mars Science Laboratory's advanced technologies, and the highly capable orbiters helping this mission identify scientifically compelling places to explore.

Mars Science Laboratory project leaders at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., chose the four this month, after seeking input from international Mars experts and from engineers working on the landing system and rover capabilities. 

The sites, alphabetically, are: Eberswalde, where an ancient river deposited a delta in a possible lake; Gale, with a mountain of stacked layers including clays and sulfates; Holden, a crater containing alluvial fans, flood deposits, possible lake beds and clay-rich deposits; and Mawrth, which shows exposed layers containing at least two types of clay. 

"All four of these sites would be great places to use our roving laboratory to study the processes and history of early Martian environments and whether any of these environments were capable of supporting microbial life and its preservation as biosignatures," said John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. He is the project scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory.

The mission's capabilities for landing more precisely than ever before and for generating electricity without reliance on sunshine have made landing sites eligible that would not have been acceptable for past Mars missions. During the past two years, multiple observations of dozens of candidate sites by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have augmented data from earlier orbiters for evaluating sites' scientific attractions and engineering risks.

JPL is assembling and testing the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft for launch in fall 2009. Paring the landing-site list to four finalists allows the team to focus further on evaluating the sites and planning the navigation. The mission plan calls for the rover to spend a full Mars year (23 months) examining the environment with a diverse payload of tools.

After evaluating additional Mars orbiter observations of the four sites, NASA will hold a fourth science workshop about the candidates in the spring and plans to choose a final site next summer. Three previous landing-site science workshops for Mars Science Laboratory, in 2006, 2007 and two months ago, drew participation of more than 100 Mars scientists and presentations about more than 30 sites. The four sites rated highest by participants in the latest workshop were the same ones chosen by mission leaders after a subsequent round of safety evaluations and analysis of terrain for rover driving. One site, Gale, had been a favorite of scientists considering 2004 landing sites for NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers, but was ruled out as too hazardous for the capabilities of those spacecraft.

"Landing on Mars always is a risky balance between science and engineering. The safest sites are flat, but the spectacular geology is generally where there are ups and downs, such as hills and canyons. That's why we have engineered this spacecraft to make more sites qualify as safe," said JPL's Michael Watkins, mission manager for the Mars Science Laboratory. "This will be the first spacecraft that can adjust its course as it descends through the Martian atmosphere, responding to variability in the atmosphere. This ability to land in much smaller areas than previous missions, plus capabilities to land at higher elevations and drive father, allows us consider more places the scientists want to explore."

For their Mars landings in 2004, Spirit and Opportunity needed safe target areas about 70 kilometers (about 40 miles) long. Mars Science Laboratory is designed to hit a target area roughly 20 kilometers (12 miles) in diameter. Also, a new "skycrane" technology to lower the rover on a tether for the final touchdown can accommodate more slope than the airbag method used for Spirit and Opportunity. In addition, a radioisotope power supply, like that used by Mars Viking landers in the 1970s, will enable year-round operation farther from the equator than the solar power systems of more recent missions.

Gale is near the equator, Eberswalde and Holden are farther south, and Mawrth is in the north.

As a clay-bearing site where a river once flowed into a lake, Eberswalde Crater offers a chance to use knowledge that oil industry geologists have accumulated about locations of the most promising parts of a delta to look for any concentrations of carbon chemistry that is crucial to life.

The mountain inside Gale Crater could provide a route for the rover to drive up a 5-kilometer (3-mile) sequence of layers, studying a transition from environments that produced clay deposits near the bottom to later environments that produced sulfate deposits partway up.

Running water once carved gullies and deposited sediments as alluvial fans and catastrophic flood deposits in Holden Crater, a site that may also present the chance to evaluate layers deposited in a lake. Exploration of key features within this target area would require drives to the edge of a broad valley, and then down into the valley.

Mawrth Valley is an apparent flood channel near the edge of vast Martian highlands. It holds different types of clays in clearly layered context, offering an opportunity for studying the changes in wet conditions that produced or altered the clays. The clay signatures are stronger than at the other sites, and this is the only one of the four for which the science target is within the landing area, not nearby.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. For additional information about the mission, see http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl .

« Last Edit: 11/26/2011 08:01 AM by Chris Bergin »

Offline iamlucky13

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Re: Atlas-V - Mars Science Laboratory - November 25, 2011
« Reply #1 on: 11/20/2008 12:12 AM »
Since there wasn't already an MSL updates section, I put a bunch of recent updates in the MSL Q&A thread. I think this is probably a more fitting place for them, so here we go:

MSL website has photos up of a coupling test between the partially completed descent stage and the very barebones rover chassis. Very excited to see flight hardware in progress! Geeze...even folded up the thing is a monster.

http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/spotlight/20081112.html

The Planetary Society Blog has two more photos of the hardware, including a really good one from above:
http://www.planetary.org/blog/article/00001737/

Other minor news tidbits that I don't think have been mentioned

Aeroshell and heatshield were delivered a couple weeks ago:
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/spotlight/20081027.html (pictures)

"Bridle Umbilical Device" (cable spooling) tests have been progressing
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/spotlight/20081023.html (video)

Lastly, Malin Space Science Systems has delivered both the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) and the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MHALI), a macro camera for the robotic arm (pictures):
http://www.msss.com/press_releases/mahli_delivery/index.html

Also, new since I posted in the Q&A thread, NASA and Disney have partnered and are using WALL-E branding to promote education about the MSL and a competition for US students ages 5-18 to choose a name for the rover. The names Spirit and Opportunity for the MER's similarly were the result of a student competition won by 9 year old Sofi Collis.
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/newsroom/pressreleases/20081118a.html (presser)
http://marsrovername.jpl.nasa.gov/ (competition site)


Online jacqmans

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Re: Atlas-V - Mars Science Laboratory - November 25, 2011
« Reply #2 on: 12/03/2008 07:28 PM »
MEDIA ADVISORY: M08-244

NASA TO PROVIDE MARS SCIENCE LABORATORY UPDATE

WASHINGTON -- NASA will hold a briefing at noon EST, Thursday, Dec. 4,
about the agency's Mars Science Laboratory, or MSL. The briefing will
take place in the James E. Webb Memorial Auditorium at NASA
Headquarters, 300 E Street, S.W., Washington.

The MSL mission will assess a variety of scientific questions,
including whether part of early Mars had an environment favorable for
supporting life and for preserving evidence of life. The MSL rover
will carry the largest, most advanced suite of instruments for
scientific studies ever sent to the surface of the Red Planet.

The briefing participants are:
- Michael Griffin, NASA administrator
- Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission
Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington
- Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA
Headquarters
- Charles Elachi, director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
Pasadena, Calif.

The briefing will air live on NASA Television. Reporters may ask
questions from participating NASA locations. Reporters also may
listen or ask questions by phone. To reserve a phone line, contact
J.D. Harrington at 202-358-5241 or j.d.harrington@nasa.gov.

For information about NASA TV, streaming video, downlink and schedule
information, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/ntv


For more information about MSL, visit:

http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl

Offline Analyst

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Re: Atlas-V - Mars Science Laboratory - November 25, 2011
« Reply #3 on: 12/04/2008 08:00 AM »
Very likely a delay: Only the highest people are present (don't expect many technical details) and the launch date (until now: late 2009) is not mentioned in the release.

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Online Ronsmytheiii

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Re: Atlas-V - Mars Science Laboratory - November 25, 2011
« Reply #4 on: 12/04/2008 04:03 PM »
Delayed until 2011 per NASA TV
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Re: Atlas-V - Mars Science Laboratory - November 25, 2011
« Reply #5 on: 12/04/2008 04:21 PM »
Ive just tuned in...what is the reason for the delay?

Online Ronsmytheiii

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Re: Atlas-V - Mars Science Laboratory - November 25, 2011
« Reply #6 on: 12/04/2008 04:30 PM »
Ive just tuned in...what is the reason for the delay?

Right now it seems that schedule delays, primarily it seems for testing.
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Online jacqmans

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Re: Atlas-V - Mars Science Laboratory - November 25, 2011
« Reply #7 on: 12/04/2008 04:50 PM »
NEWS RELEASE: 2008-226                                                                       December 4, 2008

Next NASA Mars Mission Rescheduled for 2011

WASHINGTON -- NASA's Mars Science Laboratory will launch two years later than previously planned, in the fall of 2011. The mission will send a next-generation rover with unprecedented research tools to study the early environmental history of Mars.

A launch date of October 2009 no longer is feasible because of testing and hardware challenges that must be addressed to ensure mission success. The window for a 2009 launch ends in late October. The relative positions of Earth and Mars are favorable for flights to Mars only a few weeks every two years. The next launch opportunity after 2009 is in 2011.

"We will not lessen our standards for testing the mission's complex flight systems, so we are choosing the more responsible option of changing the launch date," said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Up to this point, efforts have focused on launching next year, both to begin the exciting science and because the delay will increase taxpayers' investment in the mission. However, we've reached the point where we can not condense the schedule further without compromising vital testing."

The Mars Science Laboratory team recently completed an assessment of the progress it has made in the past three months. As a result of the team's findings, the launch date was changed.

"Despite exhaustive work in multiple shifts by a dedicated team, the progress in recent weeks has not come fast enough on solving technical challenges and pulling hardware together," said Charles Elachi, director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "The right and smart course now for a successful mission is to launch in 2011."

The advanced rover is one of the most technologically challenging interplanetary missions ever designed. It will use new technologies to adjust its flight while descending through the Martian atmosphere, and to set the rover on the surface by lowering it on a tether from a hovering descent stage. Advanced research instruments make up a science payload 10 times the mass of instruments on NASA's Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers. The Mars Science Laboratory is engineered to drive longer distances over rougher terrain than previous rovers. It will employ a new surface propulsion system.

Rigorous testing of components and systems is essential to develop such a complex mission and prepare it for launch. Tests during the middle phases of development resulted in decisions to re-engineer key parts of the spacecraft.

"Costs and schedules are taken very seriously on any science mission," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. "However, when it's all said and done, the passing grade is mission success."

The mission will explore a Mars site where images taken by NASA's orbiting spacecraft indicate there were wet conditions in the past. Four candidate landing sites are under consideration. The rover will check for evidence of whether ancient Mars environments had conditions favorable for supporting microbial life and preserving evidence of that life if it existed there.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, managed by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

For more information about the Mars Science Laboratory, visit: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl

 
« Last Edit: 12/04/2008 04:51 PM by jacqmans »

Offline stockman

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Re: Atlas-V - Mars Science Laboratory - November 25, 2011
« Reply #8 on: 12/04/2008 05:05 PM »
crap.... well lets hope that Opportunity keeps ticking along for a couple more years. It would be a shame to have NOTHING interesting coming from Mars in the interim..
« Last Edit: 12/04/2008 05:06 PM by stockman »
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Offline CessnaDriver

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Re: Atlas-V - Mars Science Laboratory - November 25, 2011
« Reply #9 on: 12/04/2008 05:21 PM »
crap.... well lets hope that Opportunity keeps ticking along for a couple more years. It would be a shame to have NOTHING interesting coming from Mars in the interim..

Yeah, we have been spoiled rotten.
Disappointing news, but it is what it is.

Offline Analyst

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Re: Atlas-V - Mars Science Laboratory - November 25, 2011
« Reply #10 on: 12/04/2008 05:52 PM »
Sad. This will be quite costly for SMD. Nothing compared to CxP or SSP, but almost worth a Discovery mission.

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Offline mjcrsmith

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Re: Atlas-V - Mars Science Laboratory - November 25, 2011
« Reply #11 on: 12/04/2008 06:17 PM »
I'm not sure I understand why after a system has proven itself, Nasa wants to "revolutionize" the system rather than take an evolutionary approach.  Spirit and Opportunity have proven that those systems work.  A tribute to all those involved. 

I hope MSL is a resounding success, but from my armchair, I have to wonder if we would be better served by having more MER class vehicles.

Online wannamoonbase

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Re: Atlas-V - Mars Science Laboratory - November 25, 2011
« Reply #12 on: 12/04/2008 06:18 PM »
Yep, disappointing but much more important to get it right and take an extra Mars window than to do the big splat.

This Rover, if they get it on the ground safely, will be worth the wait.

Being lazy and not looking it up, was there anything else planned for 2011 or will MSL be the only thing going in 2011?  I think nothing is going in the 2009 window now.
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Re: Atlas-V - Mars Science Laboratory - November 25, 2011
« Reply #13 on: 12/04/2008 06:21 PM »
I think nothing is going in the 2009 window now.

That's correct, at least on the American part. Check The Planetary Society Blog: http://planetary.org/blog/article/00001760/

Offline I14R10

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Re: Atlas-V - Mars Science Laboratory - November 25, 2011
« Reply #14 on: 12/04/2008 06:37 PM »
That's a really bad news. I just hope that they don't cancel MSL.
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Re: Atlas-V - Mars Science Laboratory - November 25, 2011
« Reply #15 on: 12/04/2008 06:39 PM »
They won't cancel it. There's no point now, after all the money already spent.

Offline Lee Jay

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Re: Atlas-V - Mars Science Laboratory - November 25, 2011
« Reply #16 on: 12/04/2008 06:45 PM »
They won't cancel it. There's no point now, after all the money already spent.

Ever hear of the superconducting supercollider?

Offline DfwRevolution

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Re: Atlas-V - Mars Science Laboratory - November 25, 2011
« Reply #17 on: 12/04/2008 06:50 PM »
I'm not sure I understand why after a system has proven itself, Nasa wants to "revolutionize" the system rather than take an evolutionary approach.  Spirit and Opportunity have proven that those systems work.  A tribute to all those involved. 

I hope MSL is a resounding success, but from my armchair, I have to wonder if we would be better served by having more MER class vehicles.

The MER rovers were close to the absolute limit of what NASA believed you could land using the airbag descent method. For future missions, and eventually manned missions, we need to land more stuff with greater accuracy. That will require a powered descent system. Ultimately, NASA is taking an evolutionary approach when you consider the progression from Sojourner to MER to MSL. We just happened to have reach the evolutionary limit of airbags.

We could have continued to send MER-type rovers, but without the ability to take new scientific payloads, they could only repeat Spirit and Opportunity's work in a different location. The scientific objectives of those rovers were met, so what's the point?

Online ugordan

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Re: Atlas-V - Mars Science Laboratory - November 25, 2011
« Reply #18 on: 12/04/2008 06:52 PM »
Ever hear of the superconducting supercollider?

Yes, but how much was spent on it at the time of cancelation compared to 1) original cost and 2) projected cost?

MSL is way over budget, but not 3 times over and is very nearly complete which is more than could have been said for SSC at the time of cancelation.

Offline iamlucky13

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Re: Atlas-V - Mars Science Laboratory - November 25, 2011
« Reply #19 on: 12/04/2008 08:00 PM »
crap.... well lets hope that Opportunity keeps ticking along for a couple more years. It would be a shame to have NOTHING interesting coming from Mars in the interim..

Don't forget MRO and Odyssey. Odyssey is long past its primary mission, but it can conceivably run until 2015 and is still being well-utilized. MRO has more than enough to keep it busy until then. You can't say high resolution photos of things like an avalanche in action aren't interesting!

Although the delay will cost more money, they'll be able to work at a better pace, and now have lots of time for thorough testing. I'm really disappointed to have to wait, but if it means the difference between a crater and a successful mission, then I'll take it. Since there was nothing scheduled to fly the 2011 window that would now be bumped, this shouldn't have too great of an effect on SMD beyond the costs of the extended development period.

I don't remember what all was dropped and what was reinstated in last year's cost cutting, but perhaps this will open an opportunity to bring a few more features back. The zoom capability on the pancam is probably low value, but it would be neat to have.

The sample cache might also get added back on. When it was first added, I thought it was a downright dumb idea, since there were no plans to land a sample return mission for about 4 years beyond MSL's nominal life. Given that the extra time to a sample return has been potentially halved, I suppose it might make a little more sense now, but unless it in no way limits what else flies on MSL and how it performs on the surface and has minimal cost, it seems wasteful.

A sample return mission is going to be expensive, so we should make certain we get good samples. MSL would only be able to cache samples similar to what it can deliver to its instruments, which means very small quantities. The diversity will be limited to what the scoop can pick up, and the samples won't be protected from weathering or contamination during the mission. MSL is also going to be at least 4 years old before a sample return is possible, so we'd be banking on an aging rover to do the fetching.

Here's a really good discussion on the sample cache:
http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=29879

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