Robotics has come a long way. NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover is scheduled to land on the red planet at 5.31pm on Monday 6 August and you're invited to Carter Observatory to witness this scientifically significant event, if Curiosity survives its descent to the Martian surface that is?
The rover will be operational for one Martian year (i.e. 687 Earth days).
During this time its objectives will be to determine whether the planet could ever have supported life, to study the climate and geology of Mars and to plan for a human mission to Mars.
They have a number of complex scientific experiments designed to help them achieve these including the measurement of the radiation exposure in the interior of the spacecraft as it travels to Mars, important data for a future manned mission.
Weighing 3,893 kilograms at launch, this US$2.5 billion Mars Scientific Laboratory (MSL) mission will carry the biggest, most advanced suite of instruments for scientific studies ever sent to the Martian surface. Its 3 meters in length, and that's without the counting arm; 2.8 meters wide and 2.1 meters high.
Entry, descent, and landing for the Mars Science Laboratory mission will include a combination of technologies inherited from past NASA Mars missions, as well as other exciting advances. Instead of the familiar airbag landing of the past Mars missions, Mars Science Laboratory will use a guided entry and a sky crane touchdown system to land this hyper-capable, massive rover.
We're pretty excited about Curiosity here at Carter Observatory and will be hosting, along with our colleagues from the KiwiSpace Foundation, a live viewing of the event. The crew of KiwiMars (see below) will also be there, providing a short presentation on their trip, and will be available for questions.
We're also making this event a 'social' function, encouraging students and social media users to join us and help spread the word about the landing, and what this mission is about - via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.
Our special event will be running from 4.30pm with insights provided by the KiwiMars crew, followed by the live link up to that last "7 minutes of terror" as the rover descends onto the planet surface. This will be a great opportunity to learn about humankind's next steps into space exploration.
Note that our last planetarium show that day will be at 3pm so if you come up to watch this event with us, admission will be on an exhibition only ticket basis: $10 adults / $ 8 concessions / $4 children / free entry to Star Pass holders.
There's always something happening at Carter and we have exciting initiatives on coming up this year. Keep in touch by visiting our website for more information www.carterobservatory.org or follow us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/carterobservatory.
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