Nervous wait ahead for scientists at NASA
"NASA cheekily refers to the Mars Science Laboratory’s complicated landing scenario, a scheme that relies on a flyable platform, supersonic parachutes and an aerial crane, as "the seven minutes of terror."
Now, thanks to a glitch that repositioned MSL’s primary communications satellite, those seven minutes of terror may be followed by a couple of hours of nail-biting uncertainty over whether the rover arrived safely or not.
Mars Odyssey is one of three spacecraft circling Mars that will be used to monitor MSL’s arrival and landing, now scheduled for 1:31 a.m. EDT on Aug. 6. But a steering system problem on Odyssey last month has left the spacecraft in a different orbit than what had been previously scheduled and if it can’t be moved back, it won’t be properly positioned to relay MSL’s entire descent and landing.
Two other spacecraft — NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the European Space Agency’s Mars Express — also will be supporting MSL’s landing, but the MRO will be recording the descent and touchdown for playback two- to three hours later and Mars Express won’t be able to see the last minute of landing.” - via Discovery
Image credit: NASA