PASADENA, Calif.--The Mars Science Laboratory rover, still attached to its drum-shaped interplanetary cruise stage, closed in on the red planet Saturday, steadily accelerating under the increasing tug of the planet's gravity as it streaked toward a precisely targeted plunge into the martian atmosphere overnight Sunday for a high-stakes descent to the surface.
"The spacecraft and ground systems are all healthy and performing as expected," said MSL mission manager Arthur Amador. "The spacecraft is now in the EDL (entry, descent and landing) approach configuration, in our final approach orientation, pointing our medium gain antenna within a degree of the Earth. We've got a strong telecom signal, receiving data at 2,000 bits per second.
(Credit: NASA graphic)
"The power subsystem is healthy, our rover batteries are charged to 100 percent. The thermal and propulsion systems are nominal with stable temperatures and pressures and the DSN (Deep Space Network) continues to perform well, tracking the spacecraft continuously and conducting two differential ranging passes per day."
As of Saturday morning, the Mars Science Laboratory was just 2.8 million miles from Mars after logging nearly 350 million miles since launch from Cape... [Read more]