Feeds

Old-timer Odyssey to babysit Curiosity's Mars landing

10-year-old orbiter to keep an eye on rover's hidden descent

Build a business case: developing custom apps

NASA has managed to nudge veteran spacecraft Odyssey, which has been orbiting Mars since October 2001 – into a better position to pick up communications from rover Curiosity as it lands on Mars on 5 August.

NASA's Mars orbiter Odyssey

Mars orbiter Odyssey . Credit: NASA/JPL

The space agency had been a tad concerned that it wouldn't be able to talk to Curiosity at all as the Mars Science Laboratory made its way down to the Red Planet, as it can only send limited info direct to Earth once it's in the alien atmosphere. Even that limited transmission will cut off when Earth sets below the Marian horizon from the MSL's point of view.

The plan was always to have Odyssey relay the comms from Curiosity back to Earth, but on 11 July, NASA stalwart Odyssey entered safe mode and wouldn't have reached the landing area until two minutes after the rover had landed.

Yesterday, NASA beamed up the instructions for a thruster burn of about six seconds, which has pushed Odyssey six minutes further along in its Martian orbit. The craft is now operating normally again and the agency expects to hear confirmation (or not), of Curiosity's safe arrival at 06.31 BST on 6 August (22.31 PDT 5 August).

Two other orbiters are circling Mars at the moment, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the European Space Agency's Mars Express. Both of them will be recording the information from Curiosity, but only Odyssey is able to relay it immediately.

"Information we are receiving indicates the maneouvre has completed as planned," said Mars Odyssey Project Manager Gaylon McSmith. "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." ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
Boffins spot weirder quantum capers as neutrons take the high road, spin takes the low
Cheshire cat effect see neutrons and their properties walk different paths
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.