Information on the Aug. 6 attempt to land NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover on the red planet may be delayed because a glitch in the agency’s Mars-orbiting Odyssey satellite could put it out of position to relay real-time telemetry, CNET reports.
“Odyssey lost a reaction wheel a few weeks ago,” said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA headquarters in Washington. “That was totally unexpected. Reaction wheels are utilized to help manage spacecraft attitude and momentum in space. We haven’t fully worked out the issue related to that loss yet, but we have plenty of backup systems.”
McCuistion said the problem will not affect the rover’s ability to execute its seven-minute autonomous entry, descent and landing sequence. “It’s all a communications issue,” he said.
With the Mars Science Laboratory, NASA is attempting a so-called sky crane landing technique. As the rover descends under the power of eight rocket engines, it will be lowered on a long cable directly to the martian surface. Once its wheels make contact, the cable will be cut and the rocket-powered descent stage will fly off to a crash landing.