Mid-Week Science News Update: Space ballet

80 million miles down. 275 million to go.

We interrupt our regularly scheduled afternoon radio silence with a Mars Rover Curiosity update. From our in-house space correspondent comes word that the Curiosity has successfully performed the first of two planned space ballets on its 352-million-mile journey to Mars.

During the three-hour choreographed maneuver, the Curiosity fired its thrusters some 200 times in a sequence designed to place it on a more direct flight path to Mars. Although flawlessly executed, this course correction won’t be the last. NASA expects the Curiosity to complete a second relatively minor course correction in mid-March.

Without the course corrections, the Curiosity would have missed Mars altogether. NASA deliberately aims the Rover just off-target at launch to prevent the upper stage of the rocket from hitting Mars. Apparently even if you aren’t sure there’s life on Mars, it’s considered poor form to pelt potential planetary neighbors with space debris.*

Though these course corrections are planned well in advance and are a relatively commonplace occurrence (previous Rovers have had to make similar corrections on their journeys), we at Caterpickles Central are still pretty happy that the Rovers make time to dance while traveling at 10,200 miles per hour.

*Personally, I hope NASA also planned a trajectory far far away from Kepler 22b. It would be extremely unfortunate if the rocket crashed into our nearest habitable neighbor and caused an intergalactic incident just at the very moment we Earthlings arrived, hat in hand, looking for a new planet to colonize.

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About Shala Howell

Writer of things ranging from optical network switching white papers to genetic testing patient education materials to historical fiction set in an 1880s asylum. When I’m not scratching my head over pesky characters who refuse to do things how I want them done or dreaming of my next book (which will of course be much easier to write than the current one), my writerly self can be found blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, or musing about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.wordpress.com.
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