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Timeline of Mars Science Laboratory

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Title: Timeline of Mars Science Laboratory  
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Subject: Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity (rover), Mars 2020, Bathurst Inlet (rock), Radiation assessment detector
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Timeline of Mars Science Laboratory

Curiosity rover

Timeline of Mars Science Laboratory is a timeline of the Mars Science Laboratory mission and its rover, Curiosity. As of January 25, 2015, Curiosity has been on the planet Mars for 878 sols (902 days). (see Current Status)

Prelaunch (2004–11)

Cruise stage is tested in 2010.[1]

In April 2004, the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) called for scientific experiments and instruments proposals for the Mars Science Laboratory and rover mission.[2] Launch was proposed for September 2009.[3][4] By December 14, 2004, eight proposals were selected, including instruments from Russia and Spain.[2][4]

Testing of components also began in late 2004, including Aerojet's monopropellant engine with the ability to throttle from 15–100 percent thrust with a fixed propellant inlet pressure.[2] By November 2008 most hardware and software development was complete, and testing continued.[5] At this point, cost overruns were approximately $400 million.[6] On December 2008, lift-off was delayed to November 2011 due to insufficient time for testing and integration.[7][8][9]

Between March 23–29, 2009, the general public ranked nine finalist rover names (Adventure, Amelia, Journey, Perception, Pursuit, Sunrise, Vision, Wonder, and Curiosity)[10] through a public poll on the NASA website.[11] On May 27, 2009, the winning name was announced to be Curiosity. The name had been submitted in an essay contest by Clara Ma, a then sixth-grader from Kansas.[11]

Landing site selection

At the first MSL Landing Site workshop, 33 potential landing sites were identified.[12] By the second workshop in late 2007, the list had grown to include almost 50 sites,[13] and by the end of the workshop, the list was reduced to six;[14][15][16] in November 2008, project leaders at a third workshop reduced the list to these four landing sites:[17][18][19][20]

Name Location Elevation Notes
Eberswalde Crater −1,450 m (−4,760 ft) Ancient river delta.[21]
Holden Crater −1,940 m (−6,360 ft) Dry lake bed.[22]
Gale Crater −4,451 m (−14,603 ft) Features 5 km (3.1 mi) tall mountain
of layered material near center.[22][23] selected.[24]
Mawrth Vallis −2,246 m (−7,369 ft) Channel carved by catastrophic floods.[25]

A fourth landing site workshop was held in late September 2010,[26] and the fifth and final workshop May 16–18, 2011.[27] On July 22, 2011, it was announced that Gale Crater had been selected as the landing site of the Mars Science Laboratory mission.

Aeolis Mons rises from the middle of Gale Crater - Green dot marks the Curiosity rover landing site in Aeolis Palus[24][28] - North is down.

Launch (2011)

MSL Launch - November 26, 2011 15:02:00.211 UTC[29]

MSL was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41 on November 26, 2011, at 10:02 EST (15:02 UTC) aboard an Atlas V 541 provided by United Launch Alliance.[30][31] The first and second rocket stages, along with the rocket motors, were stacked on October 9, 2011 near the launch pad.[32] The fairing containing the spacecraft was transported to the launch pad on November 3, 2011.[33]

On December 13, 2011, the rover began monitoring space radiation to aid in planning for future manned missions to Mars.[34]

The interplanetary journey to Mars took more than eight months,[35] time during which, the spacecraft performed four trajectory corrections: on January 11, March 26, June 26 and on July 28. Mission design had allowed for a maximum of 6 trajectory correction opportunities.[36][37]

Landing (2012)

Curiosity landed in the Gale Crater at 05:17 UTC on August 6, 2012.[38][39][40][41] Upon reaching Mars, an automated precision landing sequence took over the entire landing events.[42] A cable cutter separated the cruise stage from the aeroshell and then the cruise stage was diverted into a trajectory for burn-up in the atmosphere.[43][44] Landing was confirmed simultaneously by 3 monitoring Mars orbiters. Curiosity landed on target and only 2.4 km (1.5 mi) from its center.[45] The coordinates of the landing site (named "Bradbury Landing") are: .[46][47]

Some low resolution Hazcam images were beamed to Earth by relay orbiters confirming the rover's wheels were deployed correctly and on the ground.[41][48] Three hours later, the rover begins to beam detailed data on its systems' status as well as on its entry, descent and landing experience.[48] Aerial 3-D images of the landing site are available and include: roverCuriositythe and related Parachute (HiRISE, October 10, 2012).

On August 8, 2012, Mission Control began upgrading the rover's dual computers by deleting the entry-descent-landing software, then uploading and installing the surface operation software;[49] the switchover was completed by August 15.[50]

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