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Space History for January 11

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Race To Space
Someone will win the prize...
               ... but at what cost?
Visit to find out more!

Galileo Galilei discovered the fourth of Jupiter's four largest moons (Ganymede). The four are called the "Galilean moons" in his honor.

Messier added the Whirlpool galaxy M51 (spiral galaxy in Canes Venatici) to his catalog, which he had discovered on 13 October 1773.

Uranus' moons Titania and Oberon were discovered by William Herschel.

Born, Roger Lewis, US aviation executive (Lockheed, Curtiss Wright, Pan Am)

Roger Lewis (11 January 1912, Los Angeles - 12 November 1987, Washington, DC) was an American manager. He was Chairman of General Dynamics and the first president of the government-owned railway company Amtrak.


Roger Lewis grew up as the son of a Union Pacific Railroad ticket vendor. Later he studied at Stanford University. In 1938, he married Elly Thummler of the Netherlands.

After graduating, he began working in Sheet Metal Processing at Lockheed Aircraft in 1934. In the following years, he held various positions at Lockheed. During the Second World War, he held primary responsibilty for purchase and ensuring aircraft production always had enough material available. 1947-1950 he worked as a vice president at Canadair in Montreal, Canada. After that, he was Vice President of Curtiss-Wright. From 1953 to 1955 he served as Assistant Secretary to the United States Secretary of the Air Force in charge of procurement. In 1955 he moved back to the private sector. For the next seven years Roger Lewis served as executive vice president of central administration at Pan Am. There he was responsible for some projects for national defense.

In 1962, Henry Crown hired him to run the financially ailing aircraft group General Dynamics. He served as Chairman, President and CEO in succession, and successfully eliminated the company's financial difficulties. In 1966, he and other managers forced Crown to relinquish his majority stake in the company. In 1970, General Dynamics again ran into financial difficulties, due to problems with the F-111 fighter-bomber and the shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts. Consequently, Crown regained control, and Roger Lewis left the company.

In April 1971 he became the first president of the quasi-public National Railway Passenger Corporation (dba Amtrak). His work was heavily criticized because he failed to reduce the deficit and rail service was reduced by half. His contract ended in 1975, and he was replaced by Paul H. Reistrup.

Thereafter, Roger Lewis worked as a consultant for various companies.

See also NY Times obituary of Roger Lewis

Born, Lev Dyomin (at Moscow, Russian SFSR), Colonel Soviet AF, Soviet cosmonaut (Soyuz 15; nearly 2d 0.25h in spaceflight) (deceased)

Lev Stepanovich Dyomin (11 January 1926 - 18 December 1998) was a Soviet cosmonaut who flew on the Soyuz 15 mission. Demin received a doctoral degree in engineering from the Soviet Air Force Engineering Academy and gained the rank of Colonel in the Soviet Air Force. He only made a single spaceflight before resigning from the space program in 1982 and taking up deep-sea research. Demin died of cancer in 1998.

Cosmonauts Lev Dyomin (right) and Gennadi Sarafanov pictured on a 1974 USSR stamp
Source: Wikipedia

K. Reinmuth discovered asteroid #1126 Otero.

Amelia Earhart became the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California ("non-stop, of course").

1968 16:19:00 GMT
NASA's Explorer 36 (GEOS-B) was launched into retrograde Earth orbit (1082/1570 km, 112.2 minute period, 105.8 degree inclination).

NASA's GEOS 2 (Geodetic Earth Orbiting Satellite), launched 11 January 1968, was a gravity-gradient-stabilized, solar-cell-powered spacecraft carrying electronic and geodetic instrumentation. The geodetic instrumentation systems included (1) four optical beacons, (2) two C-band radar transponders, (3) a passive radar reflector, (4) a sequential collation of radio range transponder, (5) a Goddard range and range rate transponder, (6) laser reflectors, and (7) Doppler beacons. Non-geodetic systems included a laser detector and a Minitrack interferometer beacon. The spacecraft was placed into a retrograde orbit to accomplish the objectives of optimizing optical station visibility periods, and providing complementary data for inclination-dependent terms established by the Explorer 29 (GEOS 1) gravimetric studies. Operational problems occurred in the main power system, optical beacon flash system, and the spacecraft clock. Scheduling adjustments resulted in nominal operations.

1975 21:43:00 GMT
USSR launched Soyuz 17 to the Salyut 4 space station with cosmonauts Grechko and Gubarev aboard.

Soyuz 17 was a manned Soviet mission launched 11 January 1975 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome which docked with the Salyut 4 space station. The flight crew was cosmonauts Grechko and Gubarev. The basic flight objectives were an extensive series of scientific and medical experiments onboard Salyut 4 and observation of effects of prolonged weightlessness on man. The flight was considered successful, and set a Soviet record for time in space. Soyuz 17 returned to Earth almost 30 days later on 9 February 1975, and landed 110 km NE of Tselinograd.

USSR Soyuz 27 linked with Salyut 6 and Soyuz 26, the first time three spacecraft were linked in orbit.

E. Bowell discovered asteroid #3647 Dermott.

1995 09:00:00 GMT
Soyuz TM-20 undocked from Mir's front port at 09:00 GMT with the crew aboard. It withdrew to about two hundred meters from Mir, and then redocked at 09:25 GMT in a test of the automatic Kurs system, which failed in Progress M-24's docking attempt.

Soyuz TM-20 was launched 3 October 1994 with the Mir Expedition EO-17 crew aboard. It carried 10 kg of equipment for use by Merbold in ESA's month-long Euromir 94 experiment program. During automatic approach to Mir's front port, the spacecraft yawed unexpectedly. Viktorenko completed a manual docking without additional incident. Soyuz TM-20 docked at the Mir forward port at 00:28 on 6 October 1994.

The Mir crew of Viktorenko, Kondakova and Polyakov boarded Soyuz TM-20 on 11 January 1995, and undocked from Mir's front port at 09:00 GMT. The spacecraft withdrew to about two hundred meters from Mir, and then redocked at 09:25 GMT in a test of the automatic Kurs system, which had failed in Progress M-24's docking attempt.

Soyuz TM-20 returned to Earth 54 km NE of Arkalyk (50.52 N, 67.35 E) on 22 March 1995 with cosmonauts Alexander Viktorenko, Elena Kondakova and Valeri Polyakov aboard. Polyakov set a record of nearly 438 days in space on the Mir space station in his mission that ended with this landing.

1996 04:41:00 EST (GMT -5:00:00)
NASA launched STS 72 (Endeavour 10, 74th Shuttle mission) to retrieve the Japanese SFU and to deploy and return the OAST-Flyer.

STS 72 was launched 11 January 1996 after a countdown that proceeded smoothly except for a 23 minute delay due to communication glitches between various sites on the ground, and to avoid a potential collision with space debris. The flight was highlighted by retrieval of the Japanese Space Flyer Unit (SFU) on flight day three, deployment on flight day four and retrieval on flight day six of the NASA Office of Aeronautics and Space Technology-Flyer (OAST-Flyer), and two spacewalks as part of a continuing series in preparation for on orbit construction of the International Space Station.

The SFU satellite completed its 10 month scientific mission involving almost a dozen experiments ranging from materials science to biological studies. OAST-Flyer, however, was only in orbit two days, at a distance of approximately 45 miles (72 kilometers) from the orbiter. OAST-Flyer was a platform holding four experiments: Return Flux Experiment (REFLEX) to test the accuracy of computer models predicting spacecraft exposure to contamination; Global Positioning System (GPS) Attitude Determination and Control Experiment (GADACS), to demonstrate GPS technology in space; Solar Exposure to Laser Ordnance Device (SELODE) to test laser ordnance devices; and the Spartan Packet Radio Experiment (SPRE), an amateur radio communications experiment.

Additional cargo bay payloads on STS 72 were: Shuttle Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet (SSBUV) instrument flying for the eighth time, designed to measure ozone concentrations in the atmosphere; a Hitchhiker carrier holding the Shuttle Laser Altimeter-01 (SLA-01)/Get Away Special (GAS) payload; five other GAS canisters held a variety of experiments. SLA-01 was the first of four planned remote sensing flights to accurately measure the distance between Earth's surface and the orbiter.

In-cabin payloads on STS 72 were: Physiological and Anatomical Rodent Experiment/National Institutes of Health-Rodents (PARE/NIH-R3), one in series of experiments designed to study effect of microgravity on rodent anatomy and physiology; Space Tissue Loss/National Institutes of Health-C (STL/NIH-C5) to validate models of microgravity's effects on bone, muscle and cells; Protein Crystal Growth-Single Locker Thermal Enclosure (PCG-STES) for growing high-quality protein crystals; and Commercial Protein Crystal Growth-8 (CPCG-8) payload, which featured crystal growth of new form of recombinant human insulin.

The STS 72 mission ended on 20 January 1996 when Endeavour landed on revolution 141 on Runway 15, Kennedy Space Center, Florida on the first landing opportunity. Rollout distance: 8,770 feet (2,673 meters). Rollout time: 66 seconds. Orbit altitude: 250 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 28.45 degrees. Mission duration: eight days, 22 hours, 1 minute, 47 seconds. Miles traveled: 3.7 million.

The STS 72 flight crew was: Brian Duffy, Commander; Brent W. Jett, Pilot; Leroy Chiao, Mission Specialist; Daniel T. Barry, Mission Specialist; Winston E. Scott, Mission Specialist; Koichi Wakata, Mission Specialist.

1997 06:15:00 EST (GMT -5:00:00)
The Telstar 401 satellite failed, victim of a coronal mass ejection (CME) that had been ravaging Earth's environment for two days.

NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter pulled out of its aerobraking orbit, in preparation for maneuvering into its final science orbit.

NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey is the remaining part of the Mars Surveyor 2001 Project, which originally consisted of two separately launched missions, The Mars Surveyor 2001 Orbiter and the Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander. The lander spacecraft was cancelled as part of the reorganization of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA. The orbiter, renamed the 2001 Mars Odyssey, was nominally planned to orbit Mars for three years with the objective of conducting a detailed mineralogical analysis of the planet's surface from orbit and measuring the radiation environment. The mission had as its primary science goals to gather data to help determine whether the environment on Mars was ever conducive to life, to characterize the climate and geology of Mars, and to study potential radiation hazards to possible future astronaut missions. The orbiter also acted (and is acting, as of 2022) as a communications relay for [future] missions to Mars. It has enough propellant to function until 2025.

The 2001 Mars Odyssey was launched aboard a Delta II 7425 on 7 April 2001. In August, during the cruise to Mars, the MARIE instrument failed to respond during a routine data transfer and was put into hibernation. (Attempts to revive the instrument were successful in March 2002, and MARIE began taking scientific data from orbit on 13 March 2002.) After a seven month cruise the spacecraft reached Mars on 24 October 2001. The spacecraft used a 19.7 minute propulsive maneuver to transfer into an 18.6 hour elliptical capture orbit and used aerobraking until 11 January 2002, when the spacecraft pulled out of the aerobraking orbit into a 201 x 500 km orbit. This orbit was trimmed over the next few weeks until it became a 2-hour, approximately 400 x 400 km polar science orbit on 30 January 2002. The science mapping mission began on 19 February 2002, and on 28 May 2002, NASA reported that Odyssey's GRS had detected large amounts of hydrogen, a sign that there must be ice lying within a meter of the planet's surface. The Orbiter acts as a communications relay for the Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) which arrived in January 2004, the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity, and will possibly also do so for other future missions. Data was collected from orbit until the end of the 917 day nominal mission in July 2004, and the mission was first extended for another Martian year, until September 2006.

One of the orbiter's three flywheels failed in June 2012. However, Odyssey's design included a fourth flywheel, a spare carried against exactly this eventuality. The spare was spun up and successfully brought into service. Since July 2012, Odyssey has been back in full, nominal operation mode following three weeks of 'safe' mode on remote maintenance.

On 11 February 2014, mission control accelerated Odyssey's drift toward a morning-daylight orbit to "enable observation of changing ground temperatures after sunrise and after sunset in thousands of places on Mars". The desired change occurred gradually until the intended orbit geometry was reached on 12 November 2015 when another maneuver was conducted to halt the drift. The new observations could yield insight about the composition of the ground and about temperature-driven processes, such as warm-season flows observed on some slopes, Martian morning clouds seen by the Viking Orbiter 1 in 1976, and geysers fed by spring thawing of carbon dioxide (CO2) ice near Mars' poles.

The 2001 Mars Odyssey carries star cameras, the Mars Radiation Environment Experiment (MARIE), which measures the near-space radiation environment as related to the radiation-related risk to human explorers, the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), which maps the mineralogy of the Martian surface using a high-resolution camera and a thermal infrared imaging spectrometer, and the Gamma-Ray Spectrometer (GRS), which maps the elemental composition of the surface and determines the abundance of hydrogen in the shallow subsurface.

The main body of the 2001 Mars Odyssey is a box of 2.2 meters x 1.7 meters x 2.6 meters. The orbiter is divided into two modules, the upper equipment module and the lower propulsion module. The equipment module holds the equipment deck which supports the engineering components and the science instruments. Above the equipment module, connected by struts, is the science deck, holding the star cameras, high energy neutron detector, UHF antenna, the THEMIS instrument and a deployable 6 meter boom holding the gamma sensor head for the GRS. A set of solar array panels extends out from one side of the main bus. A parabolic high-gain dish antenna is mounted on a mast extending from one corner of the bottom of the bus. The MARIE instrument is mounted inside the spacecraft. In the propulsion module are the fuel, oxidizer and helium pressurization tanks, and the main engine. The main engine is a hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide rocket which can produce 65.3 kg thrust, mounted in the bottom part of the propulsion module. The spacecraft had a launch mass of 725.0 kg, including 348.7 kg of fuel.

Attitude control is provided by four 0.1 kg thrusters and the spacecraft can be turned using four 2.3 kg thrusters. The spacecraft is three-axis stabilized using three primary reaction wheels and one backup. Navigation is provided by a Sun sensor, a star camera, and an inertial measurement unit. Power is provided by the gallium arsenide solar cells in the solar panel and a 16 amp-hr nickel hydrogen battery. Communications between the orbiter and Earth are in X-band via the high-gain antenna, and communications between the orbiter and any Mars landers are via the UHF antenna. Thermal control is achieved using a system of heaters, radiators, louvers, insulating blankets and thermal paint. Command and data handling is through a RAD6000 computer with 128 Mbytes RAM and 3 Mbytes of non-volatile memory.

See also the NASA/JPL 2001 Mars Odyssey Home Page

NASA's Mars Science Laboratroy spacecraft successfully refined its trajectory with a three-hour series of thruster-engine firings, advancing the Curiosity rover's landing time by about 14 hours.

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 15:02:00 UTC (10:02AM EST) on 26 November 2011. The spacecraft flight system had a launch mass of 3,893 kg (8,583 lb), consisting of an Earth-Mars fueled cruise stage (539 kg (1,188 lb)), the entry-descent-landing (EDL) system (2,401 kg (5,293 lb) including 390 kg (860 lb) of landing propellant), and an 899 kg (1,982 lb) mobile rover with an integrated instrument package. On 11 January 2012, the spacecraft successfully refined its trajectory with a three-hour series of thruster-engine firings, advancing the rover's landing time by about 14 hours.

Selection of Gale Crater for the landing during preflight planning had followed consideration of more than thirty locations by more than 100 scientists participating in a series of open workshops. The selection process benefited from examining candidate sites with NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and earlier orbiters, and from the rover mission's capability of landing within a target area only about 20 kilometers (12 miles) long. That precision, about a fivefold improvement on earlier Mars landings, made sites eligible that would otherwise be excluded for encompassing nearby unsuitable terrain. The Gale Crater landing site, about the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, is so close to the crater wall and Mount Sharp that it would not have been considered safe if the mission were not using this improved precision.

Science findings began months before landing as Curiosity made measurements of radiation levels during the flight from Earth to Mars that will help NASA design for astronaut safety on future human missions to Mars.

The Mars rover Curiosity landed successfully on the floor of Gale Crater at 05:32 UTC on 6 August 2012, at 4.6 degrees south latitude, 137.4 degrees east longitude and minus 4,501 meters (2.8 miles) elevation. Engineers designed the spacecraft to steer itself during descent through Mars' atmosphere with a series of S-curve maneuvers similar to those used by astronauts piloting NASA space shuttles. During the three minutes before touchdown, the spacecraft slowed its descent with a parachute, then used retrorockets mounted around the rim of its upper stage. The parachute descent was observed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, see Wikipedia for the image and some notes. In the final seconds of the landing sequence, the upper stage acted as a sky crane, lowering the upright rover on a tether to land on its wheels. The touchdown site, Bradbury Landing, is near the foot of a layered mountain, Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons). Curiosity landed on target and only 2.4 km (1.5 mi) from its center.

Some low resolution Hazcam images were immediately sent to Earth by relay orbiters confirming the rover's wheels were deployed correctly and on the ground. Three hours later, the rover began transmitting detailed data on its systems' status as well as on its entry, descent and landing experience. On 8 August 2012, Mission Control began upgrading the rover's dual computers by deleting the entry-descent-landing software, then uploading and installing the surface operation software; the switchover was completed by 15 August. On 15 August, the rover began several days of instrument checks and mobility tests. The first laser test of the ChemCam on Mars was performed on a rock, N165 ("Coronation" rock), on 19 August.

In the first few weeks after landing, images from the rover showed that Curiosity touched down right in an area where water once coursed vigorously over the surface. The evidence for stream flow was in rounded pebbles mixed with hardened sand in conglomerate rocks at and near the landing site. Analysis of Mars' atmospheric composition early in the mission provided evidence that the planet has lost much of its original atmosphere by a process favoring loss from the top of the atmosphere rather than interaction with the surface.

In the initial months of the surface mission, the rover team drove Curiosity eastward toward an area of interest called "Glenelg," where three types of terrain intersect. The rover analyzed its first scoops of soil on the way to Glenelg. In the Glenelg area, it collected the first samples of material ever drilled from rocks on Mars. Analysis of the first drilled sample, from a rock target called "John Klein," provided the evidence of conditions favorable for life in Mars' early history: geological and mineralogical evidence for sustained liquid water, other key elemental ingredients for life, a chemical energy source, and water not too acidic or too salty.

Within the first eight months of a planned 23-month primary mission, Curiosity met its major objective of finding evidence of a past environment well suited to supporting microbial life.

On 7 October 2012, a mysterious "bright object" (image) discovered in the sand at Rocknest, drew scientific interest. Several close-up pictures were taken of the object and preliminary interpretations by scientists suggest the object to be "debris from the spacecraft." Further images in the nearby sand detected other "bright particles." The newly discovered objects are presently thought to be "native Martian material". (2015)

On 4 July 2013, Curiosity finished its investigations in the Glenelg area and began a southwestward trek toward an entry point to the lower layers of Mount Sharp. There, at the main destination for the mission, researchers anticipate finding further evidence about habitable past environments and about how the ancient Martian environment evolved to become much drier. As of 29 July 2014, the rover had traveled about 73% of the way, an estimated linear distance of 6.1 km (3.8 mi) of the total 8.4 km (5.2 mi) trip, to the mountain base since leaving its "start" point in Yellowknife Bay. (see also Where is the rover now?)

On 6 August 2013, Curiosity audibly played "Happy Birthday to You" in honor of the one Earth year mark of its Martian landing. This was the first time that a song was played on a foreign planet; making "Happy Birthday" the first song and Curiosity the first device used to play music on a foreign planet. This was also the first time music was transmitted between two planets. On 24 June 2014, Curiosity completed a Martian year (687 Earth days) on Mars.

On 26 September 2013, NASA scientists reported the Mars Curiosity rover detected "abundant, easily accessible" water (1.5 to 3 weight percent) in soil samples at the Rocknest region of Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater.

On 3 June 2014, Curiosity observed the planet Mercury transiting the Sun, marking the first time a planetary transit has been observed from a celestial body besides Earth.

On 11 July 2015, Curiosity's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photographed an extremely unusual high silica rock fragment dubbed "Lamoose" (image). The rock, about 4 inches (10 centimeters) across, is fine-grained, perhaps finely layered, and apparently etched by the wind. [Ed. note: If I were on Mars and had seen this "rock" I would have picked it up to turn it over to see what the other side looks like.] Other nearby rocks in that portion of the "Marias Pass" area of Mt. Sharp also have unusually high concentrations of silica, first detected in the area by the Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) laser spectrometer. This rock was targeted for follow-up study by the MAHLI and the arm-mounted Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS). Silica is a compound containing silicon and oxygen, commonly found on Earth as quartz. It is a primary raw material for Portland cement, many ceramics such as earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain, and is used in the production of glass for windows, bottles, etc. High levels of silica could indicate ideal conditions for preserving ancient organic material, if they are present. (Press release: NASA's Curiosity Rover Inspects Unusual Bedrock, issued 23 July 2015)

For more information about the Curiosity rover and its continuing science experiments and discoveries, visit NASA's Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity Web page or the JPL link below.

-Rover Details-

Curiosity has a mass of 899 kg (1,982 lb) including 80 kg (180 lb) of scientific instruments, including equipment to gather and process samples of rocks and soil, distributing them to onboard test chambers inside analytical instruments. It inherited many design elements from previous rovers, including six-wheel drive, a rocker-bogie suspension system, and cameras mounted on a mast to help the mission's team on Earth select exploration targets and driving routes. The rover is 2.9 m (9.5 ft) long by 2.7 m (8.9 ft) wide by 2.2 m (7.2 ft) in height. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California, builder of the Mars Science Laboratory, engineered Curiosity to roll over obstacles up to 65 centimeters (25 inches) high and to travel about 200 meters (660 feet) per day on Martian terrain at a rate up to 90 m (300 ft) per hour.

Curiosity is powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG), producing electricity from the heat of plutonium-238's radioactive decay. The RTG gives the mission an operating lifespan on the surface of "a full Mars year (687 Earth days) or more." At launch, the generator provided about 110 watts of electrical power. Warm fluids heated by the generator's excess heat are plumbed throughout the rover to keep electronics and other systems at acceptable operating temperatures. Although the total power from the generator will decline over the course of the mission, it was still providing 105 or more watts a year after landing; it is expected to still be supplying 100 watts after ten years.

Curiosity is equipped with several means of communication, an X band small deep space transponder for communication directly to Earth via NASA's Deep Space Network and a UHF Electra-Lite software-defined radio for communicating with Mars orbiters. The X-band system has one radio, with a 15 W power amplifier, and two antennas: a low-gain omnidirectional antenna that can communicate with Earth at very low data rates (15 bit/s at maximum range), regardless of rover orientation, and a high-gain antenna that can communicate at speeds up to 32 kbit/s, but must be aimed. The UHF system has two radios (approximately 9 W transmit power), sharing one omnidirectional antenna. This can communicate with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Odyssey orbiter (ODY) at speeds up to 2 Mbit/s and 256 kbit/s, respectively, but each orbiter is only able to communicate with Curiosity for about 8 minutes per day. The orbiters have larger antennas and more powerful radios, and can relay data to earth faster than the rover could do directly. Therefore, most of the data returned by Curiosity is via the UHF relay links with MRO and ODY. The data return via the communication infrastructure as implemented at MDL, and the rate observed during the first 10 days was approximately 31 megabytes per day. In 2013, after the first year since Curiosity's landing, the orbiters had already downlinked 190 gigabits of data from Curiosity.

Typically 225 kbit/day of commands are transmitted to the rover directly from Earth, at a data rate of 1–2 kbit/s, during a 15-minute (900 second) transmit window, while the larger volumes of data collected by the rover are returned via satellite relay. The one-way communication delay with Earth varies from 4 to 22 minutes, depending on the planets' relative positions.

-Science Payload-

In April 2004, NASA solicited proposals for specific instruments and investigations to be carried by Mars Science Laboratory. The agency selected eight of the proposals later that year and also reached agreements with Russia and Spain to carry instruments those nations provided. Curiosity carries the most advanced payload of scientific gear ever used on Mars' surface, a payload more than 10 times as massive as those of earlier Mars rovers. More than 400 scientists from around the world participate in the science operations.

A suite of instruments named Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) analyzes samples of material collected and delivered by the rover's arm, plus atmospheric samples. It includes a gas chromatograph, a mass spectrometer and a tunable laser spectrometer with combined capabilities to identify a wide range of carbon-containing compounds and determine the ratios of different isotopes of key elements. Isotope ratios are clues to understanding the history of Mars' atmosphere and water.

An X-ray diffraction and fluorescence instrument called CheMin also examines samples gathered by the robotic arm. It is designed to identify and quantify the minerals in rocks and soils, and to measure bulk composition.

Mounted on the arm, the Mars Hand Lens Imager takes extreme close-up pictures of rocks, soil and, if present, ice, revealing details smaller than the width of a human hair. It can also focus on hard-to-reach objects more than an arm's length away and has taken images assembled into dramatic self-portraits of Curiosity.

Also on the arm, the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer determines the relative abundances of different elements in rocks and soils.

The Mast Camera, mounted at about human-eye height, images the rover's surroundings in high-resolution stereo and color, with the capability to take and store high definition video sequences. It can also be used for viewing materials collected or treated by the arm.

An instrument named ChemCam uses laser pulses to vaporize thin layers of material from Martian rocks or soil targets up to 7 meters (23 feet) away. It includes both a spectrometer to identify the types of atoms excited by the beam, and a telescope to capture detailed images of the area illuminated by the beam. The laser and telescope sit on the rover's mast and share with the Mast Camera the role of informing researchers' choices about which objects in the area make the best targets for approaching to examine with other instruments.

The rover's Radiation Assessment Detector characterizes the radiation environment at the surface of Mars. This information is necessary for planning human exploration of Mars and is relevant to assessing the planet's ability to harbor life.

In the two minutes before landing, the Mars Descent Imager captured color, high-definition video of the landing region to provide geological context for the investigations on the ground and to aid precise determination of the landing site. Pointed toward the ground, it can also be used for surface imaging as the rover explores.

Spain's Ministry of Education and Science provided the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station to measure atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity, winds, plus ultraviolet radiation levels.

Russia's Federal Space Agency provided the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons instrument to measure subsurface hydrogen up to 1 meter (3 feet) below the surface. Detections of hydrogen may indicate the presence of water bound in minerals.

In addition to the science payload, equipment of the rover's engineering infrastructure contributes to scientific observations. Like the Mars Exploration Rovers, Curiosity has a stereo Navigation Camera on its mast and low-slung, stereo Hazard-Avoidance cameras. The wide view of the Navigation Camera is also used to aid targeting of other instruments and to survey the sky for clouds and dust. Equipment called the Sample Acquisition/Sample Preparation and Handling System includes tools to remove dust from rock surfaces, scoop up soil, drill into rocks to collect powdered samples from rocks' interiors, sort samples by particle size with sieves, and deliver samples to laboratory instruments.

The Mars Science Laboratory Entry, Descent and Landing Instrument Suite was a set of engineering sensors that measured atmospheric conditions and performance of the spacecraft during the arrival-day plunge through the atmosphere, to aid in design of future missions.

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