Today, August 6, 2012, will land on Mars Curiosity. This rover, weighing nearly a ton, which will continue the study of their predecessors. Equipped with the latest technology, he will be able to find out whether Mars ever life even in the form of bacteria? The big event in the world of space discoveries, which began in 2004 to prepare.
Personally, I think that even if there will find something (maybe even not only microorganisms), we can hardly say. But, okay. Let us enlighten
Watch video Curiosity rover's landing on Mars and output
"In a matter of hours remaining before landing, our experts will carefully monitor the state apparatus and its trajectory, and are ready at any time to make changes to the parameters of the flight," — said the head of NASA's Mars program Makkviston Doug (Doug McCuistion) at the last press conference before planting.
The "Mars Science Laboratory» (Mars Science Laboratory), whose total cost was $ 2.5 billion, was launched in 2004. His main point was the research rover Curiosity — the representative of the third generation of Mars rovers. It is far superior in its capabilities "ancestors": almost toy Sojourner, and a few more respectable Spirit and Opportunity.
By the size of the new rover is comparable to a small car, its weight is 899 kilograms (Spirit and Opportunity weighed 170 kilograms). Curiosity installed on board of 10 scientific instruments a total weight of 75 pounds, which will allow the rover to carry out detailed geological and geochemical studies, to study the atmosphere and climate of the planet, look for water and traces of the organic matter and determine — whether Mars was once suitable for life, and is there a place suitable for life now.
In addition, Curiosity may be the new Martian longevity — a source of energy for it are not solar panels, and radioisotope thermoelectric generator. This "nuclear battery" could supply him with energy for 14 years and will do no matter the time of year or the weather.
"Seven minutes of terror"
Journey to Mars Curiosity began November 26, 2011 at Baikonur at Cape Canaveral. At this point between the Earth and Mars there was a distance of 204 million kilometers. The unit had to overcome 567 million kilometers to "catch up" the planet, and now to Mars is less than 142 thousand kilometers.
For the remaining hours — not later than two hours prior to entry into the atmosphere — NASA specialists can still make adjustments to the trajectory of the system, but after the beginning of the phase-entry and landing apparatus fate is entirely in the "hands" on-board computer. Seven minutes will pass the entrance to the atmosphere before landing, but the success or failure of the world will be able to learn only after 14 minutes — much time it took to transfer the signal from Mars to Earth.
For NASA's Mars rover landing created a new, never before used the technology of Sky Crane («heavenly crane"). Rover will go down to the planet's surface on a platform with the engines as the Soviet rovers, not in a cocoon of air bags as Spirit and Opportunity, and on the ropes with the "heavenly crane" — "plates" with rocket engines, which will put the rover in its own right Arm.
Scientists explain the need for "sky crane" that the parachute can not strongly enough to reduce the velocity of the vehicle in a tenuous Martian atmosphere and landing on a platform with rocket engines will raise a lot of dust, which can damage the scientific equipment.
The unit will meet with the atmosphere of Mars at a speed of 5.9 kilometers per second. About 10 minutes before entering the atmosphere of its engines stop the rotation of the device, it will reset the migratory module with antennas and solar panels, and two minutes later — two 75-kilogram load of tungsten. Dumping of ballast change center of mass, and it fills the flow of incoming air heat shield, which in the atmosphere warms up to 2.1 thousand degrees.
When the machine will slow down to a speed of about 1.5 thousand kilometers per hour, will open the parachute, the heat shield will be reset. Then, at an altitude of about 1.6 kilometers of the upper lid with a parachute will separate, and it falls under the rover with a crane on top of the sky.
Rocket engines crane will slow the rate of decline of up to three miles an hour, after which the unit will lower the rover down on a 20-meter cables. When the rover reaches the ground and stand on wheels, ropes will be cut, "sky crane" will fly off and drop about 150 meters from the rover.
As expected, the device will be on the surface at 05.17 GMT (09.17 MSK), but information about it reaches Earth no earlier than 05.31 GMT.
As expected, four minutes after landing the rover will transmit the first images. They will be made with the black-and-white low-resolution cameras, located at the stern and the bow of the device — the so-called Hazard Avoidance Cameras (Hazcams), intended to see the obstacles on the way and back of the device. Then will gradually include other cameras and scientific instruments.
DAN Russian neutron detector aboard Curiosity, is expected to turn on a Thursday or Friday, RIA Novosti Head of the Laboratory of cosmic gamma-ray spectroscopy of the Institute of Space Research, Igor Mitrofanov, who led the development of the detector.
"The most important thing is that was a successful landing, it will be the first landing with such technology (" heavenly crane "). DAN will include passive mode on Thursday or Friday, and in the active mode, a generator, a week later, "- said Mitrofanov.
DAN instrument will help scientists learn how the planet proceeded hydrological processes and water content varied in different geological epochs.
The detector records the neutron flux from the soil and determine the hydrogen content. If a lot of hydrogen in the soil, neutrons are actively absorbed by it, and at the neutron map there are "dark areas" which, with a high degree of confidence can be interpreted as the presence of areas with plenty of water or hydrated minerals. In addition, the device using a special generator can emit neutrons into the ground and record the flow of secondary neutrons, that is to work in active mode.
DAN detector can detect the presence of water in the soil with its contents in percent by weight of the unit. In this area of the Gale crater, according to Handy, falls into the water content in the soil from 5% to 6.5% by weight.
It is planned that the Curiosity rover will live on the surface of the planet one Martian year — 687 Earth days or 669 Martian (called solami).