NASA makes Mars landing preparations

July 25, 2012 at 4:40 PM
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PASADENA, Calif., July 25 (UPI) -- NASA says it has adjusted the orbit of its Mars Odyssey spacecraft to provide a more prompt confirmation of the August landing of the Curiosity rover.

The Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft carrying Curiosity can send limited information directly to Earth, but before the landing, Earth will set below the martian horizon from the descending spacecraft's perspective, ending that direct route of communication, the space agency reported Wednesday.

Re-positioning Odyssey will help to speed up the indirect communication process, scientists said, noting that without the orbital adjustment Odyssey would have arrived over the landing area about 2 minutes after Curiosity's scheduled landing.

"Information we are receiving indicates the maneuver has completed as planned," said Mars Odyssey Project Manager Gaylon McSmith of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Odyssey has been working at Mars longer than any other spacecraft, so it is appropriate that it has a special role in supporting the newest arrival."

Two other Mars orbiters, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the European Space Agency's Mars Express, will also receive radio transmissions from the Mars Science Laboratory during its descent but will be recording information for later playback, NASA said.

Only Odyssey can relay the information immediately, the agency said.

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