domingo, 23 de octubre de 2011

Space Exploration - Curiosity Buttoned Up for Martian Voyage in Search of Life’s Ingredients

Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory (MSL)- all elements assembled into flight configuration in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The top portion is the cruise stage attached to the aeroshell (containing the compact car-sized rover) with the heat shield on the bottom. Launch of MSL aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is scheduled for Nov. 25 from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Credit: NASA/Glenn Benson
MSL Video animation below
Take a good last, long look at the magnificent robot that is Curiosity, because she’s been all buttoned up for her long Martian voyage in search of the ingredients of life. After years of exhaustive work, the most technologically advanced surface robotic rover ever to be sent beyond Earth has been assembled into the flight configuration, a NASA spokesperson informed Universe Today.
The next time Curiosity opens her eyes she will have touched down at the foot of a layered mountain inside the planet’s Gale crater.
Curiosity Mars rover folded for flight and mated to the cruise stage. The cruise stage provides solar power, thrusters for navigation, and heat exchangers to the rover during its flight from Earth to Mars. Credit: NASA/Glenn Benson
Curiosity – NASA’s next Mars rover – is formally known as the Mars Science Laboratory (or MSL) and has entered the final stages of preflight processing.
After extensive quality assurance testing, Curiosity has been encapsulated for the final time inside the aeroshell that will be her home during the 10 month long interplanetary cruise to Mars. Furthermore, she’s been attached to the cruise stage that will guide her along the path from the home planet to the red planet.
Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) assembled into flight configuration in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rover Curiosity has 10 science instruments designed to search for evidence on whether Mars has had environments favorable to microbial life, including chemical ingredients for life. Credit: NASA/Glenn Benson
The work to combine all the components into an integrated assembly was carried out inside the clean room facilities of the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.
The aeroshell is comprised of the heat shield and back shell.
The job of the aeroshell is to protect Curiosity from the intense heat of several thousand degrees F(C) generated by friction as the delicate assemblage smashes into the Martianatmosphere at about 13,200 MPH (5900 m/s) and plummets some 81 miles during the terrifying seven minute long entry, descent and landing (EDL) on the surface.
See Video animationbelow
The massive 2000 lb (900 kg) rover is folded up and mated to the back shell powered descent vehicle, known as the PDV or Sky Crane. The spacecraft is designed to steer itself through a series of S-curve maneuvers to slow the spacecraft’s descent through the Martian atmosphere.
In the final moments, the rocket powered Sky crane will lower the robot on tethers and then safely set Curiosity down onto the ground at a precise location inside the chosen landing site astride a layered mountain in Gale Crater believed to contain phyllosilicate clays and hydrated sulfate minerals that formed in liquid water.
The robot is the size of a compact car and measures three meters in length, roughly twice the size of the MER rovers; Spirit and Opportunity. It is equipped with 10 science instruments for a minimum two year expedition across Gale crater.
NASA's Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory Rover
Inside the Clean room at the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center.
The science payload weighs ten times more than any prior Mars rover mission. Curiosity will zap rocks with a laser and deftly maneuver her outstretched robotic arm to retrieve and analyze dozens of Martian soil samples. Credit: Ken Kremer
Curiosity will search for the ingredients of life including water and organic molecules and environmental conditions that could have been hospitable to sustaining Martian microbial life forms if they ever existed in the past or survived to the present through dramatic alterations in Mars climatic and geologic history.
Liftoff of the $2.5 Billion Curiosity rover is slated for Nov. 25 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster rocket. The launch window to Mars extends until Dec. 18.
This coming week, Curiosity will be encapsulated into the clamshell like payload fairing and the MSL logo will then be applied to the fairing, KSC spokesman George Diller told Universe Today. It will then be hoisted onto the payload transporter and carefully conveyed to Space Launch Complex 41 on Nov. 2, for mating atop the Atlas V rocket.
Mars Science Laboratory Aeroshell with Curiosity enclosed inside. Credit: NASA
Source: Universe Today

No hay comentarios:

Publicar un comentario