Test at NASA Dryden of Radar System for Next Mars Landing
This test for the radar system to be used during the August 2012 descent and landing of NASA Mars rover Curiosity mounted an engineering test model of the radar system onto the nose of a helicopter.
During the final stage of descent, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission will use a "sky crane" maneuver to lower Curiosity on a bridle from the mission's rocket-powered descent stage. The descent stage will carry Curiosity's flight radar.
This test on May 12, 2010, at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., included lowering a rover mockup on a tether from the helicopter to assess how the sky crane maneuver will affect descent-speed determinations by the radar.
Wolfe Air Aviation, of Pasadena, Calif., provided the Eurocopter AS350 helicopter and crew for the tests. The helicopter's Gyron gimbal mounting system, provided by Nettmann Systems International, usually carries aerial video camera equipment for the motion picture industry.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The project will launch Curiosity in late 2011 on a mission to one of the most intriguing areas on Mars, where it will investigate whether conditions have favored development of microbial life and preservation of evidence for life in the rock record.