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The Australia Telescope National Facility Colloquium
15:00-16:00 Wed 25 Jul 2012

Marsfield Lecture Thetare

Ed Kruzins

(CASS / Tidbindilla)

The Mars Science Laboratory-Entry, Descent and Landing on 6 August 2012-- Ed Kruzins Colloquium

NASA's latest mission to the red planet is the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover called 'Curiosity'. Curiosity is designed to further study the Martian environment, to search for carbon compounds and assess whether the environment was suitable for, or supported small microbial life forms.
After a 567 million kilometre, 8.5 month journey to Mars, Curiosity is aiming to land in an ellipse just 20kms by 7kms at the base of a 5km high 'mountain' in the centre of the crater. Giant antenna dishes across Australia will be uniquely positioned to receive signals from NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover called 'Curiosity' as it lands on the surface of the red planet.

The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC), will be NASA's 'prime' tracking station for landing activities. CDSCC's 70- and 34-metre antennas will listen for a series distinct tones directly from the spacecraft, as well as on relay through the Mars Odyssey satellite in Martian orbit. As various steps in the landing process are activated, tones are transmitted back to Earth indicating; parachute deployment, heatshield separation, and the all important tone that confirms that the rover has landed safely on the surface. The radio signals coming from the spacecraft are thousands of times weaker than the signal of a mobile phone. Travelling at the speed of light, they will take 13 minutes and 48 seconds to reach Earth. Data received will be relayed in real-time directly to the mission team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
At the same time, CSIRO's Parkes Radio Telescope will CSIRO's Parkes Radio Telescope will be used to receive and record the tones which are transmitted as a UHF radio signal, through the first few minutes of the spacecraft's entry into the Martian atmosphere.

This presentation will discuss the mission, vehicle, proposed science and provide a movie on the descent/landing and indicate CSIRO's role in this historic event.

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