Feeds

Australia prepares for Martian first contact

Curiosity's first signals will land down under

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Build a business case: developing custom apps

As NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission descends on Mars today, Australia’s facilities in Canberra and the legendary telescopic space mecca, Parkes will be yet again playing a significant role in space exploration history.

The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC), which the CSIRO manages on NASA's behalf, will be the main tracking station for landing activities. While the CSIRO's regional New South Wales based 64-m Parkes telescope – which broadcast the 1969 moon landing- will record signals directly from the spacecraft as a backup.

The CDSCC’s s 70-m and two 34-m antennas will receive signals from the spacecraft both directly and then relayed through another NASA spacecraft, Mars Odyssey, which is already in orbit around Mars.

The European Space Agency's New Norcia antenna near Perth in Western Australia will also receive signals for added redundancy from Curiosity via its Mars Express satellite also presently orbiting the red planet.

"All of our technology and our people are ready. The expertise of Australian personnel in space communications and CSIRO's partnership with NASA will be showcased during this critical event in the Mars Science Laboratory's mission," said Chief of CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science, Dr Phil Diamond.

The spacecraft is due to slam into the atmosphere at 20 000 km per hour. During the landing, the payload must be slowed to essentially zero which mission scientists refer to as "seven minutes of terror".

The landing has several stages: cruise, deployment of the entry capsule and then the parachute, separation of the heat shield, and finally the operation of the skycrane that is to lower the 900 kg rover, Curiosity, dubbed the most complex and capable explorer ever sent into space, onto the Martian surface.

The Curiosity is expected to land at 3:30pm (AEST) at Gale Crater – which is named after 19th-century amateur Australian astronomer, Walter Gale- in the southern hemisphere of Mars.

Signals from the Canberra station will be sent directly to mission scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. Data from Parkes and New Norcia will be sent later for analysis.

The CDSC is holding an all day Mars landing party which is open to all space enthusiasts on a first-come, best-seats basis. The day will culminate in live TV coverage from NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab of the entry, descent and landing of the Curiosity. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

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
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
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
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
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.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
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.