Mars Science Laboratory engineers have a dress rehearsal for Curiosity's landing day on the Red Planet.


Today we did a test of the whole approach and landing all the activities from cruise stage separation through the parachute deploy through the power decent all the way to landing. You would think it was actually landing day, we have everybody in their places in front of the computers looking at what information they would actually see. Essentially it’s like a dress rehearsal of the whole mission.

We’re simulating what the team will do and see as the vehicle lands on Mars. We don’t actually use the spacecraft obviously; we use the test bed as our spacecraft for these tests. Its running just like it was approaching Mars, so it’s sending us information, we can send all that data up here and it looks to us like the spacecraft even though obviously it’s sitting on the ground.

We also have a simulated data for what the DSN would be getting, for navigation data for example and when we combine all that together pretty intricately actually so it really feels like were actually there and were actually getting ready to land on Mars.

This one is what we call the nominal ORT where everything just goes exactly the way its suppose to. The spacecraft behaves perfectly the navigation is very straight forward and so there’s no surprises. Next time we’ll have a group of Gremlins through some curve balls at us basically, at the team to make sure they can respond if the spacecraft has a problem, prepare the team for what they’ll have to do on actual landing day.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
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