As the culmination of one of the most exciting space missions ever witnessed by the world, the Mars Rover, Curiosity, landed on the Martian surface on Sunday, 6th August, 2012. The landing was after a journey of more than eight months across more than 567 million km of space since the space craft was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida by NASA on November 26, 2011. It will be there on the Mar’s surface for about two-year term seeking evidence for life on the Red Planet. The $2.5 billion Curiosity project, formally called the Mars Science Laboratory, is NASA's first astrobiology mission since the 1970s-era Viking probes.
NASA described the feat as perhaps the most complex achieved in robotic spaceflight. Moments later the descend, Curiosity beamed back its first three images from the Martian surface, one of them showing a wheel of the vehicle.
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Curiosity, the car-sized nuclear-powered, mobile scientific laboratory, is about twice as long and five times as heavy as the Spirit and Opportunity Mars exploration rovers, and carries over ten times the mass of scientific instruments. The MSL spacecraft that transported it to Mars successfully carried out a more accurate landing than previous rovers, within a landing ellipse of 7 by 20 km in the Aeolis Palus region of Gale Crater in Mars' southern hemisphere. This location is near the mountain Aeolis Mons. The Rover is designed to explore for at least 687 Earth days (1 Martian year) over a range of 5 by 20 km.
The Indian Connection
Ravi Prakash is a NASA rock scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory who has helped in the process of entry, descent, and landing of NASA’s rover ‘Curiosity’. Prakash, who joined NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in the year 2005 has been working at the Mars Science Laboratory ever since.
Prakash holds a B.S. in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and a M.S. in aerospace engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Sengupta is an aerospace engineer and a member of the entry, descent, and landing (EDL) sequence team of the project. Sengupta is the person who tested a parachute, an important mission element which will decide the destiny of the U.S. spacecraft. The parachute will open up and slow down the spacecraft from supersonic to subsonic speeds, reports G.S. Mudur of Yahoo. Sengupta holds a PhD in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California.
Amitabh Ghosh, an IITian from Kharagpur was a key member of the team who identified the landing site for ‘curiosity’, the Gale crater location. Ghosh also played a prominent role in various other missions by NASA such as Mars Pathfinder Mission and MER (Mars Exploration Rover) mission. He was the only Asian in the Pathfinder mission by NASA. Amitabh Ghosh has been honoured with NASA Mars Pathfinder Achievement Award in the year 1997 and the NASA Mars Exploration Rover Achievement Award in 2004, for his marvelous contributions.