NASA rover talks to European Mars orbiter

Nov. 26, 2012 at 5:07 PM
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PARIS, Nov. 26 (UPI) -- A European satellite orbiting Mars has sent images from NASA's Mars Curiosity rover to Earth in a cooperative step between space agencies, officials said.

The European Space Agency's Mars Express received images from Curiosity showing its current location at the "Rocknest 3" site and beamed them to ESA's deep-space antenna in Australia, a release from ESA's Paris headquarters said Monday.

The data images were made available to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California for processing and analysis, proving the capability for NASA's new rover to talk with Europe's veteran Mars orbiter, officials said.

ESA's Mars orbiter has relayed data from NASA's other surface missions -- Phoenix, Spirit and Opportunity -- since 2004, and relayed Curiosity's radio signals, but not images, during its arrival at Mars in August.

"ESA-NASA cooperation at Mars is a continuing success, and comes after both sides have worked diligently for a number of years to set technical and engineering standards to enable sharing data between spacecraft, networks and ground stations," Mars Express Spacecraft Operations Manager Michel Denis said.

Mars Express can provide relay services in case of unavailability of NASA's own relay orbiter or if there is a problem on the rover itself, officials said.

"Exploring Mars is a huge challenge, and space agencies are working to boost cooperation and mutual support for current and upcoming missions," Denis said. "It's the way of the future."

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