Mission success for the MSL Entry, Descent, & Landing Instrument (MEDLI) Suite. When the Curiosity rover touched down on the red planet Aug. 6 at 12:32 p.m. CDT, NASA MEDLI researchers were already cheering. The instrumentation payload, carried in the entry vehicle’s heatshield, included an intricate array of sophisticated engineering sensors designed to measure heat, pressure and other conditions impacting the heatshield during atmospheric entry and descent. The shield is jettisoned prior to landing.
The MEDLI suite powered up successfully Aug. 5 during the Mars Science Laboratory’s approach to the red planet. About an hour before entry, descent and landing, the sensor suite’s temperature stabilized at minus-20 degrees Fahrenheit, readying MEDLI for its journey through Mars’ atmosphere. Real-time streaming data from the shield sensors was acquired through much of the vehicle’s entry and descent – barring the brief UHF-frequency communications blackout upon entry – until Curiosity deployed its parachutes and jettisoned its heatshield. The rover touched down smoothly in Gale Crater to begin its two-year primary mission.