Curiosity Rover is now tweeting its stuff. Things are going to get pretty exciting over the next few days as the space ship comes in for a landing on the Planet Mars. Meanwhile, the Mars Orbiter has made positional adjustments that will facilitate sending information back about the 15 minutes of terror.
NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has successfully adjusted its orbital location to be in a better position to provide prompt confirmation of the August landing of the Curiosity rover.
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft carrying Curiosity can send limited information directly to Earth as it enters Mars' atmosphere. Before the landing, Earth will set below the Martian horizon from the descending spacecraft's perspective, ending that direct route of communication. Odyssey will help to speed up the indirect communication process.
NASA reported during a July 16 news conference that Odyssey, which originally was planned to provide a near-real-time communication link with Curiosity, had entered safe mode July 11. This situation would have affected communication operations, but not the rover's landing. Without a repositioning maneuver, Odyssey would have arrived over the landing area about two minutes after Curiosity landed.
A spacecraft thruster burn Tuesday, July 24, lasting about six seconds has nudged Odyssey about six minutes ahead in its orbit. Odyssey is now operating normally, and confirmation of Curiosity's landing is expected to reach Earth at about 10:31 p.m. PDT on Aug. 5 (early Aug. 6, EDT and Universal Time), as originally planned.
"Information we are receiving indicates the maneuver has completed as planned," said Mars Odyssey Project Manager Gaylon McSmith of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Odyssey has been working at Mars longer than any other spacecraft, so it is appropriate that it has a special role in supporting the newest arrival."
Excellent ... These sorts of contortions become typical of ageing platforms doing work they weren't originally scheduled to do; I certainly don't envy the folks involved - there's always a lot of work to be done and a lot of work to be checked in these situations and it's usually additional work for people who already have a lot to deal with. Those folks are doing a great job with the limited (and occasionally failing) resources they have at hand. Hell, a lot of these instruments are working years beyond their designed operational period, but folks will keep pushing 'em so long as they can get something useful back.