Future of Mars Exploration May Ride on NASA’s Rover Landing
Image: This artist’s scoreboard displays a fictional game between Mars and Earth, with Mars in the lead. It refers to the success rate of sending missions to Mars, both as orbiters and landers. Of the previous 39 missions targeted for Mars from around the world, 15 have been successes and 24 failures. For baseball fans, that’s a batting average of .385. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The excitement, tension and anxiety is palpable here as NASA’s huge Mars rover Curiosity nears its daring dive onto the Red Planet.
The $2.5 billion rover is on track to land via a rocket-powered sky crane on Sunday, Aug. 5, at 10:31 p.m. PDT (1:31 a.m. EDT, 0531 GMT on Monday) to begin NASA’s two-year Mars Science Laboratory mission. Given the complexity of the rover’s entry, descent and landing – portrayed as “seven minutes of terror – a worrisome view is to add “enter miracle here” as part of that touchdown mantra, some say.
“This is an event of enormous importance for the future of Mars exploration,” said longtime Mars exploration advocate Robert Zubrin on Friday (Aug. 3) at 15th annual international Mars Society Convention opening.