10 July 2012

MSL Landing Dress Rehearsal

Posted by Ryan Anderson

Now that I have moved out to Flagstaff and am starting to get settled in, it’s time to leave! I’m headed to JPL this week for the final Operational Readiness Test (ORT) before MSL lands. This test will be a “dress rehearsal” of events as they are expected to occur when Curiosity lands on August 5, and for the following 2 sols. We will even be working on Mars time this week, so even though I am only going a few hundred miles, I’m going to have to try to shift my sleep cycle so that I am awake and alert all night! If you want to knwo what time it is on Mars, then check out this handy little program called Mars24. Luckily, even though I am technically on duty for the sols right after landing, everything at the beginning of the mission is pretty much canned, so I will not have a lot of intense responsibilities right away.

As we approach the fateful day, the MSL team is scrambling to take care of last-minute tasks. One of those tasks is to take a much closer look at the geology within the new landing ellipse. We have divided the ellipse up into tiny postage stamps, and team members have volunteered to study a handful of these stamps and map the geologic units that we see. Then, a couple of weeks from now, everyone’s mini-maps will be merged to create a high fidelity map of features that MSL might encounter early in its mission.

As we approach the landing, I’m going to try to post more frequent updates here, and of course once MSL lands I’ll try to blog as much as I am able/allowed to. 27 days and counting! Ahhh!