Washington: ESA’s Mars Express acquired signals from NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory as it delivered the car-sized Curiosity rover onto the Red planet’s surface.
ESA’s New Norcia tracking station also picked up signals directly from the NASA mission, 248 million km away at Mars.
Signals recorded by Mars Express during MSL’s entry and descent were successfully received at ESOC, ESA’s European Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany.
The open-loop recording of radio Doppler and signal spectrum transmitted by the NASA mission were stored on Mars Express and then downloaded to Earth.
The recorded signals were transferred to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, for analysis immediately upon receipt at ESOC. Similar direct-to-Earth recordings made at ESA’s New Norcia ground station in Australia were also sent to NASA.
Curiosity’s descent was also tracked by NASA’s own Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft; confirmation of touchdown was provided by Odyssey directly to NASA at 07:31 CEST.
“Congratulations to our NASA colleagues on a hugely successful landing. The Mars Express team welcomes a new friend in the neighbourhood,” said Paolo Ferri, ESA’s Head of Solar and Planetary Mission Operations.
Mars Express picked up MSL signals about 10 minutes before it entered the atmosphere, travelling at 21 000 km/h, for its critical descent and landing phase.