MSL Faces Trajectory Maneuver

MSL Trajectory

An engine firing on Jan. 11 will be the biggest maneuver that NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft will perform on its flight between Earth and Mars.

The action will use a choreographed sequence of firings of eight thruster engines during a period of about 175 minutes beginning at 3 p.m. PST (6 p.m. EST or 2300 Universal Time). It will redirect the spacecraft more precisely toward Mars to land at Gale Crater. The trajectory resulting from the mission’s Nov. 26, 2011, launch intentionally misses Mars to prevent the upper stage of the launch vehicle from hitting the planet. That upper stage was not cleaned the way the spacecraft itself was to protect Mars from Earth’s microbes.

The maneuver is designed to impart a velocity change of about 12.3 miles per hour (5.5 meters per second).

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