Friday 3rd August Pasadena
The wall sized, high resolution printout of the landing site is fantastic. We have been clustering around it, picking out new features which are less obvious in fragmented quadrants on our PCs. The surface is exhumed – anotherwords recent deposits have been eroded away, leaving ancient surfaces. Although Mount Sharp with the clay is the main target of the mission, our landing ellipse is fascinating in its own right. We also see the big dune field we will have to skirt around to get to Mt. Sharp.
I put my cross near the centre of the 99% probability ellipse but displaced a bit towards the north. The wind will tend to give some dispersion from the centre of the ellipse.
In the final 2 hours on Sunday night there will be limited communication from the probe to Earth but not from Earth to the probe. We will get signals directly from the probe and via Mars Odyssey which will be within line of sight of the aeroshell with Curiosity inside it. At this stage no more trajectory corrections are possible. It will take 14 minutes for the data to get back to Earth. The main data relay for Curiosity will be Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Perhaps we will get a photo of the parachute stage of the Curiosity landing. However it will take a day or more for lots of images to be returned to Earth. These will be needed to work out our exact landing spot. Not sure if there is a prize for guessing correctly what the exact spot is but a safe landing is all we want anyway.
More work on software today followed by a trip to the Hollywood Bowl with the Chemcam team
There is a lot of interest in the landing both in the US and in the UK. I think for some it is the pure science, others the technology (will Skycrane work etc.) and for some people it is the new exploration of space that excites, together with the drama of landing.