Posts Tagged ‘mars science laboratory’

from NASA, December 13, 2011 Tuesday

Pete Crow photograph of the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory, Saturday morning, November 26, 2011, from the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

WASHINGTON — NASA’s car-sized Curiosity rover has begun monitoring
space radiation during its 8-month trip from Earth to Mars. The
research will aid in planning for future human missions to the Red

Curiosity launched on Nov. 26 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., aboard the
Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). The rover carries an instrument called
the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) that monitors high-energy
atomic and subatomic particles from the sun, distant supernovas and
other sources.

These particles constitute radiation that could be harmful to any
microbes or astronauts in space or on Mars. The rover also will
monitor radiation on the surface of Mars after its August 2012

“RAD is serving as a proxy for an astronaut inside a spacecraft on the
way to Mars,” said Don Hassler, RAD’s principal investigator from the
Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo.”The instrument is deep
inside the spacecraft, the way an astronaut would be. Understanding
the effects of the spacecraft on the radiation field will be valuable
in designing craft for astronauts to travel to Mars.”

Previous monitoring of energetic-particle radiation in space has used
instruments at or near the surface of various spacecraft. The RAD
instrument is on the rover inside the spacecraft and shielded by
other components of MSL, including the aeroshell that will protect
the rover during descent through the upper atmosphere of Mars.

The "days to launch" sign during the Shuttle missions was on State Road 3 but, surprise, for the Mars Science Laboratory launch it popped up just inside the State Highway 405 guard gate.

Spacecraft structures, while providing shielding, also can contribute
to secondary particles generated when high-energy particles strike
the spacecraft. In some circumstances, secondary particles could be
more hazardous than primary ones.

These first measurements mark the start of the science return from a
mission that will use 10 instruments on Curiosity to assess whether
Mars’ Gale Crater could be or has been favorable for microbial life.

“While Curiosity will not look for signs of life on Mars, what it
might find could be a game- changer about the origin and evolution of
life on Earth and elsewhere in the universe,” said Doug McCuistion,
director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in
Washington. “One thing is certain: the rover’s discoveries will
provide critical data that will impact human and robotic planning and
research for decades.”

As of noon EST on Dec. 14, the spacecraft will have traveled 31.9
million miles (51.3 million kilometers) of its 352-million-mile
(567-million-kilometer) flight to Mars. The first trajectory
correction maneuver during the trip is being planned for mid-January.

Southwest Research Institute, together with Christian Albrechts
University in Kiel, Germany, built RAD with funding from the Human
Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters,
Washington, and Germany’s national aerospace research center,
Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt.

The mission is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for
the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The mission’s
rover was designed, developed and assembled at JPL.

Information about the mission is available at:


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On Monday the media center was empty and the KSC media staff said they were glad to see the media back. It has been so lonely without us. Maybe, maybe not. With only an exception or two the NASA KSC pr staff is terrific to deal with.

Launch-minus-Four-Days L-4, Monday November 21, 2011


Safety procedures for the Mars Science Laboratory’s (MSL) Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG)


Michael Meyer, lead scientist Mars Exploration Program
John Grotzinger, project scientist, MSL, California Institute of Technology
Bethany Ehlmann, scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), assistant professor, California Institute of Technology

Example of a wheel from the MSL (MSL has six) in the Media Center at KSC. The rover was designed in Pasadena, CA, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. JPL was so proud they put their name on the tire (like Firestone) and were told by a peevish NASA to take their name off. They did, but take a look at those odd holes in the tire. Those holes are Morse Code letters J, P and L.


visit: Launch Equipment Test Facility
visit: Operations and Checkout Building for Orion Manned Space Capsule
visit: Multi-Payload Processing Facility
visit: Canister Rotation Facility

Five Days to Go: The Countdown begins
The launch of the Mars Science Laboratory, a two-ton rover packed with the ability to conduct scientific experiments is five days away. Thanksgiving is Thursday, so the launch clock will go from L-2 on Wednesday, skip Thursday, and L-1 will be on Friday.

NASA has packed the week with briefings for the media and, when the Tweeters are allowed in on Friday, there will be a bunch more briefings for them.

Sunday night, November 20, 2011
Months ago I requested credentials for the launch, uncertain that I would be in Florida. Most of the fall I have been in Los Angeles or Austin at Red Studios, at the American Film Market and at the Austin Film Festival.

I remembered that the launch was going to be about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is next Thursday. I log on to the NASA Media site and download the schedule.

Uh-oh, Briefings begin in the morning.

I ponder this. Carol Anne, who photographs for me, is in Virginia. She will not return until Monday night and I will need to pick her up at the airport in Orlando. I’ve lost her arrival time, but can figure it out. The NASA briefings begin at 11 Monday morning and go most of the day. I need to build in an extra hour to pick up my credentials, a task complicated by NASA sometimes credentialing at the badging office on State Highway 405, and at other times on State Road 3.

Normally a quick call to the NASA Press office tells me where to go. But during the summer my iPhone brunched down my telephone book.

I take a deep breath and bet on the State Road 405 badging office and, bet correctly. But then the badging officer demands that I show her my “Credential Letter” in addition to my passport and my driver’s license. No one has ever asked me to print out the email confirming my accreditation before.

We stare. Isn’t name in the computer? Yes. So am I not accredited? Silent staring. I have not budgeted what will not cost at least another hour, still I have to give up …

“I will go find somewhere and print it out,” I finally say giving up, smiling my aging choir boy smile.

With that she hands me my badge. “Next time,” she says, “have that letter.”

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On Monday morning the Tweet tent was ready for the Tweeters, loaded with high tech equipment. But wait -- the Tweeters don't come until Friday because the launch has been pushed back a day. So will all of this expensive stuff sit out here under the sun for most of the week? Apparently so -- a dour guard tells me he has settled in to babysit everything 24/7 until the Tweeters show up.

The Media Center, 10:30 am

I sign up for all of the tours for the day and am almost the only one on the list. I banter with Jennifer and Laurel and re-punch the media numbers into my iPhone. The media center is empty.

Will I need to request work space? No. Only 178 media are accredited and half or more will not show up. This means that this time Tweeters, at 150, will almost match the number of media.

I have a list of access requests and discuss them. I am told with a single exception fulfilling them should be no problem. I’m given the contacts and the email addresses. Will it really be this easy now that 90-percent of the media is gone and we’re back to un-manned missions where human life is no longer at stake?

It sure looks like it.

11 am The KSC Radiological Control Center (RADCC)
The Mars Science Laboratory carries is powered by uranium. If that canister of uranium is ruptured on launch, it could contaminate a wide area around the launch site.

NASA this morning wants the media to see the precautions they are taking, and to see an example of the canister itself. First we visit the Radiological Control Center which monitors more than one hundred radiation devices in a huge swatch of central Florida. Then we are tasken into a separate control room which, in the event of an accident, will be responsible for informing the media.

It’s very convincing. These guys cannot afford an accident, especially one that radiates central Florida. It ain’t gonna happen (and on Saturday, it doesn’t).

Lots of stuff is in the same building as the Radiological Control Center, including a dorm of the third floor for the astronauts.


The media was welcomed and greeted in the foyer before going upstairs to the control rooms. NASA is very sensitive that any danger issues be addressed and answered.


Example of one of several different radiological monitoring devices NASA placed in large numbers over a huge swatch of central Florida. These devices are sending data constantly and are being monitored in the Radiological Control Center constantly during and following launch.


Many of the facilities at Kennedy Space Center are now being re-purposed with the end of the Space Shuttle program. Feeling tension and need a massage? The massage therapist has moved. This sign is prominent in the foyer of the building where the Radiological Control Center is located.


If something bad happens during launch (and it never has) these guys would know first. The remote monitoring devices are reporting constantly to these monitors.


The Cowbell. This is a busy and not always quiet room. If something bad happens or if the attention of everyone in the room is required, CLANG, CLANG, CLANG the cowbell is used. The bell was demonstrated for the unruly media and is quite convincing. My ears are still ringing. Moo.


Department of Energy official explains how the MSL is powered, and why the uranium in the MSL can be launched safely. Later in the week he told me that the MSL will have power to operate as long as 14 years, long after the MSL is expected to be operations on the surface of Mars.


MSL's power source. Small but powerful and so completely sealed that all efforts to smash the capsule and expose the uranium failed. They figured out how to seal it up; they never managed to bust it open. Nonetheless, a large operation stands by in the Radiological Control Center should the capsule rupture and scatter uranium.


This is the press room where, should there be a radiological danger after launch of the MSL, the press and public will be informed. Big operation. Never been needed.


Pride in NASA, and pride in the accomplishments of the American space program are everywhere, even as these offices empty out and people lose their jobs. The shuttle is gone and the future of the United States in space, while not tenuous, is not as robust as it once was when we were launching humans into space.


Michael Meyer (second from left), Bethany Ehlmann (second from right) and John Grotzinger (far right) spent an hour in early afternoon discussing "What do we know about Mars?" The answer is, a lot, including that water appears to be trapped there and while it is not conclusive that life ever existed on Mars, there's growing suspicion that it may have, and may still. Meyer is the lead scientist on the Mars Exploration Program. Ehlmann is a scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and an assistant professor at California Institute of Technology. Grotzinger is project scientist, Mars Science Laboratory and California Institue of Technology. NASA has moderators (far left) for all conferences, usually drawn from their public relations staffs.


KSC Launch Equipment Test Facility is a rarely seen place because testing is often going on here, and testing can be hazardous. These days the facility has many fewer people, including only one remaining government NASA employee.


Tests are carefully studied and controlled from this room. This is the Control Room in the Launch Equipment Test Facility.


Orion, which looks like an Apollo capsule on sterioids, is supposed to be the next generation NASA space vehicle. As with Apollo, this vehicle is meant to travel deeper into space than low earth orbit where the shuttle and the International Space Station traveled. It is hoped that Orion can land on an asteroid, the Moon or even Mars. Until late 2012 it was, however, a capsule without a rocket or a mission. This building is known officially as "The Checkout Building for Orion" and has been extensively repurposed for its earlier uses.


The shuttle;s Canister Rotation Facility now houses the Orion escape mechanism. After the deaths of the Columbia astronauts on STS-107 great re-design effort was put into affording future astronauts more opportunities to survive. How to escape and survive an accident involving Orion is being studied in this building.


The escape mechanism would pull the Orion capsule away from the rocket and allow it to land by parachute on water or land. Escaping quickly enough is no simple matter either technologically, or for the astronauts themselves. The G-force required to escape is 15 Gs, a gravity force that the human body can only endure about three seconds. By contrast Apollo subjected Astronauts to 6-Gs and the Shuttle to 3-Gs.

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.”petecrow/NASA” © 2011 by / Peter M. Crow and the Peter Michael Crow Trust and by Seine/Harbour® Productions, LLC, Studio City, California.

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The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) lifts off in a picture perfect launch from Pad 41, Kennedy Space Center at 10:02 am EST, Saturday morning, November 26, 2011. The MSL will land on Mars on August 6, 2012, at Gale Crater. It will begin an exploration that could last years.

The current header shows the MSL several more seconds into the launch.

Control of the MSL mission will be in Pasadena, California, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory which developed Curiousity and managed to sneak its name onto the rover’s tire in Morse Code.

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Yeah, I took these launch photos (CLICK to ENLARGE them) from the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building at KSC.

This is a series of about 20 photographs of the launch, many of which will be posted here in coming days. I will also post photo reports, day by day, starting on Monday, November 21 (L-4) through the launch on November 26 (L-0). Because of Thanksgiving, L-2 was Wednesday, and L-1 was Friday. The launch count was suspended for a day on Thanksgiving.

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To find NASA’s video of the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory click HERE — then look to the right for the launch video.

The launch video, from NASA, runs 3:59 and begins 15 seconds before the launch.

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Both of the photographs below are 3D. NASA provided the Tweeters with red/green glasses. You’ll have to find your own 3D glasses, but if you do, you’ll find these photos are in 3D … we checked … but this 3D picture will not work with 3D glasses you nabbed at the multiplex. You need glasses with one red, and one green, lens as shown in the bottom picture.

Curiousity in 3D. -- CLICK to ENLARGE


Carol Anne Swagler, Seine/Harbour™ Productions, wears 3D glasses in the Tweet Tent during the MSL Launch on November 25, 2011. Ms. Swagler is not in 3D, but if you wear 3D glasses, you will find the photographs behind her are in 3D. == CLICK to ENLARGE

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The blog petecrow/NASA is copyrighted property of Seine/Harbour™ Productions, Studio, City, California, © 2011. Visit selections from our historic photographic archive of more than 300,000 photographs dating back to the American Civil War HERE.

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Mars Science Laboratory launches no earlier than Saturday, November 26, 2011, 10:02 am EST.

The Landing is scheduled for August 6, 2012.

See NASA’s animation of how MSL’s Curiosity rover will land on Mars HERE.

Watch the launch live on Saturday morning NASA TV.

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The Mars Science Lab, atop an Atlas rocket, is moved from its hangar (left) to Pad 41 (right — the four lightning towers) where it is scheduled to begin a 9 month trip to the surface of Mars at 10:02 am, Saturday, November 26, 2011. This photo, taken about 9 am, Friday, November 25, 2011, shows the MSL stack about midway between the pad and the hangar. The photo was taken from The Beach House, a relaxation villa for astronauts (and once a private from before the space center took the property) on the Atlantic Ocean beach. On the extreme far right of this photograph, Pad 39-A, is visible. The final shuttle missions were launched from 39-A.
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.”petecrow/NASA” © 2011 by / Peter M. Crow and the Peter Michael Crow Trust and by Seine/Harbour® Productions, LLC, Studio City, California.

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Carol Anne Swagler's photograph of the Mars Science Laboratory attached to an Atlas rocket awaiting launch at Kennedy Space Center Pad 41. MSL was moved to the pad on Friday morning, November 25, 2011, one day before anticipated launch at 10:02 am Saturday, November 26, 2011. MSL is scheduled to land on Mars on August 6, 2012. This photograph was taken at 10:40 am Friday, November 25, 2011.

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Pete Crow Seine/Harbour™ Productions and The Grove Sun Daily, is shown on top of the newly re-purposed Launch Pad 39-B at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on November 23, 2011. On the left hand side of this picture the now unused Pad 39-A where shuttles were launched can be seen. Re-purposing Pad 39-B will be completed in 2017 at a cost of $350-million. Also Launch Pad 41 where the Mars Space Laboratory was to be launched on Saturday, November 26, 2011, is visible.

The liftoff of the Mars Science Laboratory is now scheduled for 10:02 EST from Kennedy Space Center, Launch Complex 41.

In coming days, as time permits, I’ll post the photographs of the MSL mission, and write about NASA’s plans now going forward from the Space Shuttle from briefings NASA has held this week for the media.

I also have updated photographs of the Launch Control Center Firing Rooms 1 and 2 which I visited on Wednesday, November 23, of the Vehicle Assembly Building where the shuttle Endeavour is stored, and inside hangar #3 (Orbiter Processing Facility #3) which shortly will be gutted and re-purposed by Boeing which now occupies OPF-3.

I will also post photographs of the now re-purposed Launch Pad 39-B (above) which was demolished last summer and has been partially rebuilt.

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petecrow/NASA is copyright 2011 by Peter Michael Crow and by Seine/Harbour™ Productions, Studio City, California.

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The Mars Science Laboratory ... (courtesy, NASA)

The MSL launch has been pushed back one day from its original launch date. Now the planned launch will be no earlier than Saturday, November 26, 2011.

For NASA updates and more on this mission, click HERE

BRIEFING SCHEDULE, === click TO enlarge

The launch will be from Kennedy Space Center. A series of briefing will be broadcast on line daily starting Monday, November 21

Go to http://www.nasa.gov — then go to live NASA TV using the attached schedule for MSL (Mars Science Laboratory). The schedule for Monday and Tuesday is on the left — click on image to enlarge and read.

Why this Mission really matters.
This is truly a remarkable laboratory that NASA is launching on November 25, 2011. The briefings will explain (again) why Mars matters so much and discuss the nature of Mars and how it is a huge repository of scientific information that will help us better understand Earth.


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