Curiosity Approaching Mars, Artist's Concept
This is an artist's concept of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft approaching Mars.
To ensure a successful entry, descent, and landing, engineers began intensive preparations during the approach phase, 45 days before the spacecraft entered the Martian atmosphere. It lasted until the spacecraft entered the Martian atmosphere, which extends 2,113 miles (3522.2 kilometers) as measured from the center of the red planet.
The activities that engineers typically focus on during the approach phase include:
During the approach phase, the amount of requested tracking by the Deep Space Network was substantially increased to allow engineers to determine more accurate trajectory solutions in the final weeks before arrival at Mars. This tracking supported the safe delivery of the Mars Science Laboratory landing system to the surface of Mars. The Deep Space Network's 34-meter and 70-meter antennas provided tracking coverage of the spacecraft during the approach phase.