Officials with the European Space Agency (ESA) announce that their Mars Express orbiter will support NASA in its effort to land the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover Curiosity on the surface of the Red Planet. This is scheduled to occur on the morning of August 6 (GMT).
Throughout the atmospheric entry process, the descent stage, and the landing phase, Mars Express will keep an eye on Curiosity's performances, relaying crucial telemetry data back to Earth. This crucial interval is precisely when direct contact with the landing vehicle is impossible to establish.
Mars Express will not be alone in its efforts to monitor the MSL. NASA will use its Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecrafts to keep an eye on the new rover as well. The MSL mission took $2.5 billion to complete, and represents the most ambitious rover project to date.
“We began optimizing our orbit several months ago, so that Mars Express will have an orbit that is properly ‘phased’ and provides good visibility of MSL’s planned trajectory,” Mars Express spacecraft operations manager, Michel Denis, says.