At 3:31pm Monday, the NASA/CSIRO Canberra Deep Space Communication Centre (aka Tidbinbilla Tracking Station) will play a pivotal role in the most important space mission going right now. The Mars Science Laboratory (nicknamed Curiosity) will land on Mars after a 7-minute crazy ride to slow it from a relative velocity of 12,844 km/hr. And all transmissions from the landing will come via Tidbinbilla.
Anyone will be able to go out to the tracking station and be a part of the Mars Landing Party on the day.
The station will open to the public from 9:00am and the activities include:
- • Regular mission updates, expert commentary and presentations
• Live coverage from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA TV)
• Mars/MSL information packs
• MSL exhibition and Mars gallery
• Mars ‘trivia’ and ‘show & tell’ competitions
If you do go out there it is very important that you turn off any radio transmitters – including turning phones to flight mode and turning off wireless on any notebooks/tablets. They can detect active phones in the control centre and NASA can’t afford to have anything interfering with their signal.
But if you can’t make it out there, they will have a live Ustream feed going from 2:00pm.
If you’d like some background information on the mission, I have interviews on my blog with the lead rover driver Matt Heverly and Marion Anderson, a geologist from Monash Uni who was part of the landing site selection process.