Mobile  |  About us  |  Photos  |  Videos  |  Subscriptions  |  RSS Feeds  |  Today's Paper  |  Classifieds  |  Contact Us
The Daily Star
FRIDAY, 25 APR 2014
11:16 AM Beirut time
Weather    
Beirut
28 °C
Blom Index
BLOM
1,214.01down
Science
Follow this story Print RSS Feed ePaper share this
NASA's Mars chief frets over heat shield for probe
Associated Press
In this undated image provided by NASA, Mars Rover Opportunity catches  its own late-afternoon shadow in a view eastward across Endeavour Crater  on Mars. (AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State University)
In this undated image provided by NASA, Mars Rover Opportunity catches its own late-afternoon shadow in a view eastward across Endeavour Crater on Mars. (AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State University)
A+ A-

FARNBOROUGH, England: So far, the scorecard for missions to Mars reads attempts 40, successes 14.

Not so good.

Well over 60 percent of Earth missions to Mars have failed, ever since the pioneering efforts of the former Soviet Union in the 1960s and including Britain's high-profile Beagle 2 space probe.

As NASA's latest mission to Mars heads closer to the Red Planet, the head of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, Doug McCuistion, acknowledged Tuesday that many things could still go wrong before its scheduled Aug. 6 landing date.

The one thing that worries him most is if the spacecraft's heat shield will detach as planned when the U.S. Mars Science Laboratory mission sets down a large, mobile laboratory on Mars - the rover Curiosity.

"If you look at the scorecard, Earth is doing less than 50 percent; less than 50 percent of Earth's missions to Mars have been successful," McCuistion, a former U.S. fighter pilot, said at the Farnborough Airshow south of London.

In the seven minutes before its planned touchdown, the U.S. spacecraft has a number of tasks it has to complete for Curiosity to make a safe landing. First it must get rid of the heat shield and avoid a subsequent collision with it. Then it has to slow its descent to the Red Planet with the aid of a massive parachute as well as use rockets mounted around the rim of an upper stage. In the final seconds, the upper stage of the spacecraft acts as a sky crane, lowering the upright rover on a tether to the surface.

In spite of the challenges, McCuistion remains positive that the $2.5 billion mission will be a success and praises the unprecedented international cooperation between NASA and companies like German electronics company Siemens AG.

After all, NASA, the world's biggest space agency, enjoyed success with its twin Mars Exploration Rovers in the mid-2000s.

"I can't really give you a hard number .... but I think we are in a medium-to-low risk environment," McCuistion said.

After spending eight months travelling to Mars, Curiosity will spend 23 months analyzing dozens of samples drilled from rocks or scooped from the ground as it explores Mars with greater range than any previous rover.

Mars missions all share the same ultimate goal: Seeing whether Earth's nearest planetary neighbor can sustain life. President Barack Obama has set a goal of the 2030s for a manned mission to Mars, but with budgetary constraints, NASA faces a tough task defending its current $18 billion annual budget.

NASA is hoping a scorecard of 15 successful trips to Mars will help in that task.

 
Home Science
 
     
 
United States of America
Advertisement
Comments  

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

comments powered by Disqus
Advertisement


Baabda 2014
Advertisement
Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Linked In Follow us on Google+ Subscribe to our Live Feed
Multimedia
Images  
Pictures of the day
A selection of images from around the world- Thursday April 24, 2014
View all view all
Advertisement
Rami G. Khouri
Rami G. Khouri
Israel shows Zionism’s true colors
Michael Young
Michael Young
For Christians, blessed are the dividers
David Ignatius
David Ignatius
An Iran deal is close, but we’re not there yet
View all view all
Advertisement
cartoon
 
Click to View Articles
 
 
News
Business
Opinion
Sports
Culture
Technology
Entertainment
Privacy Policy | Anti-Spamming Policy | Disclaimer | Copyright Notice
© 2014 The Daily Star - All Rights Reserved - Designed and Developed By IDS