Congratulations to everyone involved with the Mars Science Laboratory launch!
Curiosity launched today at 10:02 am (Update: according to a NASA Kennedy tweet the official liftoff time was 10:02:00.211 a.m. EST – how’s that for precision!?) on a partly cloudy but otherwise good day at the Cape. The weather threatened to put things off early in the day with a little bit more rain than expected in the area, but otherwise things seemed to go really well. It was actually pretty funny to hear a NASA weather forecast that mentioned the incoming cosmic ray flux: “The proton flux is within bounds”. You don’t hear that on CBC! 🙂
Omar Baez, the NASA Launch Manager, commented
“…All the right things that they wanted to do in those crucial few minutes happened like clockwork.”
“The Atlas and Centaur were flawless. They got us to where the satelite needed to go we hit the window right at the beginning and everything appears nominal for the flight.”
During the countdown they focused closely on the wind and some of the rain bearing clouds in the area, but there was nothing of note to report other than a small couple of telemetry issues.
The interplanetary injection burn, and separation of the Curiosity spacecraft from the Centaur rocket all seemed to go perfectly from the vantage point of the onboard camera on the rocket (you could see the happy faces in the control room!) Can’t find a video of this on line yet… Update! Here it is. The spacecraft was picked up by the Deep Space Network just minutes later.
You can see the whole launch sequence here – it was just a perfect lift-off on a great day for flying!
Relief! (If I feel that way, I can’t begin to feel how good all the scientists and engineers that have worked for years on this project must feel!) Now we wait 8 months for Curiosity to make it’s way to Mars. Inertia and gravity are in control of the spacecraft now. But… when it gets close to Mars, things get really interesting…