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Space History for June 3

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Born, David Gregory, Scottish astronomer (inverse square law of gravitation, achromatic telescopes)

A transit of Venus across the face of the Sun was observed by scientific expeditions all over the world.

C H F Peters discovered asteroid #144 Vibilia and #145 Adeona.

Alexander Graham Bell transmitted the first wireless telephone message on his newly-invented "photophone."

The first long distance electric power transmission line in the United States was completed, running 14 miles between a generator at Willamette Falls and downtown Portland, Oregon.

Born, Heinz Ludwig Schnarowski, German rocket engineer, member of the German Rocket Team in the United States after World War II

Born, Dieter Karl F. Huzel, German rocket engineer, member of the German Rocket Team in the United States after World War II

Dieter Huzel (3 June 1912 - 2 November 1994) was a German rocket engineer, a guided missile propulsion expert during World War II working at Peenemunde. He was brought to the United States under Operation Paperclip and became a member of the German Rocket Team at Fort Bliss, Texas in January 1947. He was soon hired by North American Aviation, providing a key link in transfer of the V-2 rocket engine technology to the group that would later become Rocketdyne. He is also author of Peenemunde to Canaveral, an autobiographical account of rocketry beginning at the Peenemunde Rocket Development Center on the Baltic Sea where the V-2 rocket was developed, to Cape Canaveral and launching the Redstone missile in 1953.

Died, N. Camille Flammarion, French astronomer, writer, Mars researcher, popularizer of astronomy

The Goodyear airship "Pilgrim," the first with an enclosed cabin, made its first flight.

The 200" (5.08 m) Hale telescope was dedicated at Palomar Observatory, California.

A construction contract for Launch Complex 34 at Cape Canaveral, Florida, which became the site of the first Saturn launches, was awarded. Actual construction began on 8 June.

Ten million shares of the Communications Satellite Corporation were offered in its initial public stock offering.

Northrop-Ventura began qualification testing of the Earth landing system for Apollo with a drop of boilerplate 19 at El Centro, California. The entire landing sequence took place as planned, all parachutes performed well.

1965 10:15:59 EST (GMT -5:00:00)
NASA launched Gemini 4, during which Ed White became the first American to "walk" in space.

Gemini 4, launched 3 June 1965, was the second manned and first long duration mission in the Gemini program, and carried James McDivitt and Edward White on a 4 day, 62 orbit, 98 hour flight. The mission included the first American spacewalk in which White also became the first person to use jet propulsion to maneuver himself in space while on a spacewalk. Gemini 4 was also the first mission to be controlled from the mission control center in Houston. The main objectives of the mission were to test the performance of the astronauts and capsule, evaluating effects on the crew of prolonged exposure to the space environment, and to evaluate work procedures, schedules, and flight planning for an extended length of time in space. Secondary objectives included demonstration of extravehicular activity (EVA) in space, conducting stationkeeping and rendezvous maneuvers, evaluating spacecraft systems, demonstrating the capability to make significant in-plane and out-of-plane maneuvers, demonstrating the ability of the orbit attitude and maneuver system (OAMS) to back up the retrorockets, and conducting 11 experiments.

Gemini 4 was launched from Complex 19 at 10:15:59.562 am EST, and inserted into a 162.3 x 282.1 km Earth orbit at 10:22:05. The orbit was raised to 166 x 290 km during the first revolution to attempt a rendezvous with the second stage. The stationkeeping exercise was cancelled early in the second revolution: After depletion of 42% of the fuel (most of the OAMS propellant allocated for the exercise), it was determined that use of more fuel through further efforts would jeopardize primary mission objectives, and could mean the cancellation of several secondary objectives.

The flight crew began preparing for EVA immediately after terminating the stationkeeping exercise. Although preparations went smoothly, McDivitt decided to delay EVA for one revolution, both because of the high level of activity required and because deletion of the rendezvous attempt reduced the tightness of the schedule. White donned special gear and pressurized his suit at 3.7 psi. McDivitt depressurized the cabin, bringing the pressure to zero at 2:33:35 pm EST, and the hatch was opened at 2:34, 4 hours 18 minutes into the flight. White stood up two minutes later and exited the spacecraft using a hand-held gas gun at 2:46, becoming the first American to walk in space. White was attached to the spacecraft by an 8 meter tether. The gas gun fuel supply was depleted in 3 minutes, after which White pulled on the tether and twisted his body to maneuver around the spacecraft. The extravehicular activity (EVA) lasted 23 minutes, after which White pulled himself back into the spacecraft. Difficulty was encountered sealing the hatch, but working together the astronauts finally closed it, at 3:10 pm EST. Cabin repressurization began at 3:12:50.

The Gemini 4 space walk was hurriedly included after the Russian first in Voskhod 2. White seemed to have a lot more fun than Leonov. and McDivitt took the pictures that came to symbolize man in space.

Drifting flight was maintained for the next 30 hours to conserve propellant. An inadvertent alteration of the computer memory during the 48th revolution in an attempt to correct an apparent computer malfunction made the planned computer controlled reentry impossible. A zero-lift ballistic reentry, similar to that used by the Mercury program, was started at the beginning of revolution 62 with retrofire at 11:56:00 am EST on June 7. Gemini 4 splashed down 16 minutes later at 12:12:11 pm EST in the western Atlantic at 27.73 N, 74.18 W, about 725 km east of Cape Kennedy, 81 km from the target. Total elapsed mission time was 97:56:12. The crew were recovered by helicopter 34 minutes later, flown to the aircraft carrier USS Wasp at 1:09 pm, and the capsule was recovered at 2:28 pm, a little more than 100 hours after Gemini 4 had been launched.

The experiments performed during the mission were electrostatic charge (MSC-1), proton-electron spectrometer (MSC-2), triaxial magnetometer (MSC-3), two-color Earth limb photos (MSC-4), inflight exerciser (M-3), inflight phonocardiogram (M-4), bone demineralization (M-6), synoptic terrain photos (S-5), synoptic weather photos (S-6), dim and twilight phenomena (S-28), radiation (D-8), and simple navigation (D-9). All experiemnts were performed successfully. All other objectives except the rendezvous and computer controlled reentry were achieved.

1965 14:46:00 EST (GMT -5:00:00)
Ed White became the first American to walk in space, and the first to use jet (rocket) propulsion on a space walk.
see above

Ed White performing America's first spacewalk, during the Gemini 4 mission, NASA photo

1966 13:39:33 GMT
NASA launched the Gemini 9 Earth orbiting mission carrying Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan.

During the first launch attempt of the Gemini 9 mission, while the crew waited buttoned up in the spacecraft on the pad, their Agena docking target field blew up on the way to orbit on 17 May 1966. NASA then decided to use an Atlas to launch an Agena docking collar only. This was called the Augmented Target Docking Adapter, and was successfully launched on 1 June 1966, but telemetry indicated that the shroud had failed to jettison properly. Gemini 9 was to launch shortly thereafter, but a ground equipment failure resulted in a two day postponement.

Gemini 9A, launched 3 June 1966, was the seventh manned and third rendezvous mission of the Gemini series of Earth orbiting spacecraft. It carried astronauts Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan. Primary mission objectives were to demonstrate (1) rendezvous techniques and docking with a target vehicle to simulate manuevers to be carried out on future Apollo missions, (2) an ExtraVehicular Activity (EVA) spacewalk to test the Astronaut Maneuvering Unit (AMU), and (3) precision landing capability. Scientific objectives included obtaining zodiacal light and airglow horizon photographs. Two micrometeorite studies were to be carried out, and there were also one medical and two technological experiments.

Gemini 9A was launched on from Complex 19 at 8:39:33 am EST and inserted into a 158.8 x 266.9 km orbit. After three orbital maneuvers, rendezvous within 8 meters of the ATDA was achieved on the third revolution. It was confirmed that the launch shroud on the ATDA had failed to deploy and was blocking the docking port. The flight plan was then revised to include two equiperiod passive rerendezvous maneuvers in place of the docking. The first, using optical techniques without on-board radar, was completed at 3:15 pm EST after 6 hours 36 minutes ground elapsed time, and the second, a rendezvous from above simulating rendezvous of an Apollo Command Module with a Lunar Module after abort from the Moon, was completed at 6:21 am EST on 4 June, after 21 hours 42 minutes ground elapsed flight time. Final departure from the ATDA took place at 7:38 am EST.

The scheduled EVA was postponed due to crew fatigue, and the second flight day was devoted to experiments.

On 5 June at 10:02 am EST, the Gemini capsule was depressurized and the hatch above Cernan opened. Cernan was out of the spacecraft at 10:19, attached by an 8 meter long tether which was connected to Gemini's oxygen supply. He had no gas maneuvering unit as was used on Gemini 4. He retrieved the micrometeorite impact detector attached to the side of the capsule, and then moved about the spacecraft. He had great difficulty manuevering and maintaining orientation on the long tether. He took photographs of Gemini from the full length of the tether, and finally moved to the back of the capsule where the Astronaut Maneuvering Unit (AMU) was mounted. He was scheduled to don the AMU, disconnect from the Gemini oxygen supply (although he would still be attached to the spacecraft with a longer, thinner tether) and move to 45 meters from the capsule. The task of donning the AMU took "four to five times more work than anticipated", overwhelming Cernan's environmental control system, and causing his faceplate to fog up, limiting his visibility. It was also discovered that the AMU radio transmissions were garbled. These problems caused Stafford to recall Cernan to the spacecraft. He reentered the spacecraft at 12:05 pm, and the hatch was closed at 12:10. Cernan was the third person to walk in space, and his total time of 2 hours, 8 minutes was the longest spacewalk yet.

The rest of the third flight day was spent on experiments.

Retrofire occurred at the end of the 45th revolution on 6 June at 8:26:17 am EST. Splashdown was at 9:00:23 in the western Atlantic at 27.87 N, 75.00 W, 550 km east of Cape Kennedy and 0.7 km from the target point. The astronauts stayed inside the spacecraft and were brought aboard the recovery ship USS Wasp at 9:53 am. Total mission elapsed time was 72:20:50. Of the primary objectives, three rendezvous techniques were demonstrated, although docking could not be achieved due to the failure of the augmented target docking shroud to jettision. Testing of the AMU was not completed. The Agena micrometeorite experiment hardware was lost when the Agena target vehicle failed to achieve orbit. Other experiments functioned normally.

See for an "exploded view" diagram of the Gemini capsule, showing its internal structure and component layout.

The science fiction television series Star Trek aired its final new episode after being canceled by NBC, allegedly because of poor ratings. The show had premiered on 8 September 1966, and has become the most widely rebroadcast program in history.

1969 12:57:00 GMT
USSR launched Cosmos 285, possibly a solar flare monitor, for investigation of the upper atmosphere and outer space.

A Soviet supersonic Tupolev Tu-144 crashed at the Paris air show near Goussainville, France, killing 14, the first crash of a supersonic passenger aircraft.

Died (Tu-144 crash), Vladimir Nikolaevich Benderov, Soviet cosmonaut candidate, flew the Tupolev EPOS (Experimentalny Pilotiruyamy Orbitalny Samolyot) MiG-21 testbed

1974 23:09:11 GMT
NASA launched Hawkeye 1 (Explorer 52) to conduct solar wind experiments.

1975 09:00:00 GMT
USSR launched DS-U3-IK S/N 5 from Kapustin Yar, but the first stage failed 84 seconds after launch.

1980 15:07:00 GMT
The crew of USSR Soyuz 36, Farkas and Kubasov, returned to Earth aboard Soyuz 35, landing 140 km southeast of Dzehezkazgan.

1982 21:36:00 GMT
USSR launched Cosmos 1374 into orbit, a subscale version of the Spiral space plane.

Cosmos 1374, launched 3 June 1982, was a subscale version of the USSR Spiral spaceplane. After 1.25 revolutions of the Earth, it was deorbited and recovered by Soviet naval forces in the Indian Ocean at 17 degrees South, 98 degrees East, 560 km south of Cocos Islands. It made a 600 km cross-range maneuver during reentry. The recovery was filmed by an Australian Orion reconnaissance aircraft, revealing the configuration to the West for the first time.

E F Helin discovered asteroid #3767.

Died, Ernst Geissler, German guided missile expert during World War II, member of the German Rocket Team in the US after the war, at Fort Bliss, White Stands, and Huntsville, Director, Aeroballistics Division, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (1960)

Died, Robert Noyce, American inventor (integrated circuit, with Kilby), founded of Fairchild Semiconductor

Robert Noyce (12 December 1927 - 3 June 1990), nicknamed the Mayor of Silicon Valley, co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957 and Intel in 1968. He is also credited (along with Jack Kilby) with the invention of the integrated circuit or microchip.

1992 00:50:00 GMT
USSR launched eight communications satellites, Cosmos 2187 - Cosmos 2194, into orbit from Plesetsk, on a Kosmos 11K65M booster.

Died, J. Presper Eckert, inventor of the ENIAC computer

1997 23:20:06 GMT
An Ariane 44L launched from Kourou carried the Inmarsat 3 F4 and Indian Insat 2D communications satellites to geostationary orbit. Inmarsat 3 F4 was positioned at 54 deg W, Insat 2D at 72 deg E.

1999 17:39:00 CDT (GMT -5:00:00)
NASA's STS 96 (Discovery) undocked from the International Space Station (ISS), ending the first docking of the Shuttle to the ISS.

On 27 May 1999, NASA launched the space shuttle Discovery as STS 96 to visit the new International Space Station (ISS) for six days of docked activities. This flight was the first shuttle docking at the fledgling space outpost. Its configuration at the time consisted of the PMA-2 docking port, NASA's Unity node, the NASA-owned, Russian-built Zarya module, and the PMA-1 docking unit connecting Unity and Zarya. Discovery docked at the PMA-2 end of the International Space Station on 29 May 1999.

The major objective of the mission was the transfer of almost two tons of logistical supplies to the ISS. The supplies were used to not only continue the outfitting of the Unity and Zarya modules already joined together in orbit, but for use by a subsequent Shuttle assembly crew to set up the Russian Service Module for occupancy by a three man crew early in 2000.

The seven crew members also collected data from an experiment designed to test the amount of vibration imparted on shuttle-based payloads, and began to demonstrate the effect of shuttle technological upgrades, through the use of orbiter health monitoring devices designed to improve the quality of life aboard future shuttles while making their use more efficient.

The first major task for the shuttle astronauts was a spacewalk to outfit the Zarya and Unity Modules and the mating adapter to which they are attached. Astronauts Tamara Jernigan and Daniel Barry conducted a 7 hour, 55 minute spacewalk in support of International Space Station assembly on 30 May 1999. Their assignments included installing foot restraints, handrails and tool bags for use by future spacewalkers on the station. They also installed two cranes and an insulating cover, and then inspected an early communications system on the Unity Module: The ODS/EAL docking/airlock truss carried two TSA (Tool Stowage Assembly) packets with space walk tools. The Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC), built by Energia and DASA-Bremen, carried parts of the Strela crane and the US OTD crane, as well as the SHOSS box containing three bags of tools and equipment to store on ISS's exterior.

After the EVA, the crew focused on transferring nearly 1,360 kilograms (3,000 pounds) of equipment from the shuttle to the ISS for use by future station crews. They transferred equipment from the Spacehab Logistics Double Module in the shuttle's payload bay to the interior of the station. The crew also replaced battery recharge controller modules in the six batteries stored inside the Zarya Module. A power distribution unit and transceiver in the Unity Module was replaced, enabling controllers from Mission Control in Houston, Texas to send comands to the station via an Early Communications System.

Discovery undocked from the ISS on 3 June, leaving the station without a crew aboard, as planned.

On 5 June, the astronauts deployed a small satellite from the payload bay called STARSHINE, which was observed by international students on Earth as they calculated its precise orbit and the rate of its orbital decay over time.

STS 96 ended on 6 June 1999 when Discovery landed on Runway 15 at the Shuttle Landing Facility, Kennedy Space Center, Florida. It was the eleventh night landing in the shuttle program history as Discovery completed a 6.4-million kilometer (4-million mile) trek to resupply the ISS. Orbit altitude: 210 nautical miles. Orbit inclination: 51.6 degrees.

The flight crew for STS 96 was: Kent V. Rominger, Commander; Rick D. Husband, Pilot; Tamara E. Jernigan, Mission Specialist 1; Ellen Ochoa, Mission Specialist 2; Daniel T. Barry, Mission Specialist 3; Julie Payette, Mission Specialist 4; Valery Tokarev, Mission Specialist 5.

NASA's Curiosity rover observed the planet Mercury transiting the Sun, as viewed from Mars, marking the first time a planetary transit was observed from a celestial body other than Earth.

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 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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