NASA News

Michael Mewhinney
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
650-604-4789
michael.mewhinney@nasa.gov
Nov. 22, 2011
 
RELEASE : 11-96AR
 
 
NASA Ames Features Live Broadcast of Mars Launch
 
 
MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. — News media are invited to observe a live televised broadcast of the launch of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft with the Curiosity rover on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011, in the Exploration Center at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

The spacecraft is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch window opens at 7:02 a.m. PST, and the Exploration Center at Ames will open at 6:30 a.m. PST. The launch will be preceded with brief comments from NASA scientist Tori Hoehler, who will share information about the upcoming mission. The spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at Mars in August 2012.

Curiosity has 10 science instruments to search for evidence about whether Mars has had environments favorable for microbial life, including the chemical ingredients for life. Ames scientist David Blake is the principal investigator for CheMin, an X-ray diffraction and fluorescence instrument designed to identify and quantify the minerals in rocks and soils, and to measure bulk composition. CheMin data will be useful in the search for potential mineral biosignatures, energy sources for life or indicators of past habitable environments.

All of the science instruments on Curiosity utilize Mars Science Laboratory InterfaCE (MSLICE), a software tool developed to plan the actions of the Mars rover. The planning software ensures that mission scientists can work closely with rover and instrument engineers to create a plan that is both safe for the rover to perform and maximizes scientific research. NASA Ames designed and developed the planning and scheduling software for MSLICE.

NASA Ames also played a part preparing MSL for its entry into the Red Planet's atmosphere next year. MSL will be protected from Mars’ atmosphere by a unique thermal protection system consisting of tiles made of phenolic impregnated carbon ablator (PICA) material invented at NASA Ames.

Embedded in the MSL spacecraft's heat shield is a set of sensors named MSL Entry, Descent, and Landing Instrument (MEDLI) Suite to measure atmospheric conditions and performance of the heat shield. MEDLI consists of seven pressure sensors and seven plugs with multiple temperature sensors. The instrument suite was designed and developed by NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va, and NASA Ames designed and built the thermal sensing plugs. NASA Ames also designed and performed the qualification and certification testing of the spacecraft's thermal protection system.

On Saturday, Nov. 26 NASA TV coverage of the launch will begin at 4:30 a.m. PST. Recorded launch status reports will be available starting Nov. 21 on the Kennedy Space Center media phone line, 1- 321-867-2525. Extensive prelaunch and launch day coverage of the liftoff of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft aboard an Atlas V rocket will be available on NASA's home page: http://www.nasa.gov

Reporters interested in viewing the live broadcast at NASA Ames must send requests for media credentials to Jessica Culler, Jessica.s.culler@nasa.gov or call 650-604-4789 by 1 p.m. PST Friday, Nov. 25, 2011.

NASA's Exploration Center is the large white dome located at the main gate of NASA's Ames Research Center. To reach NASA Ames, take U.S. Highway 101 to the Moffett Field, NASA Parkway exit and drive east on Moffett Boulevard towards the main gate and bear right into the parking lot. For more information about the Mars Science Laboratory, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/msl

For information about the NASA Ames, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames

 

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