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Even though Curiosity won't be communicating directly with Earth at touchdown, data about the landing will reach Earth promptly.

Odyssey will be in view of both Earth and Curiosity, in position to immediately forward to Earth the data stream it is receiving during the touchdown.

"We have restricted airspace and a large dry lakebed that is useful in simulating several Mars-like features.

Dryden is also conveniently close to JPL, so troubleshooting the system and fixing any issues has been relatively easy to accomplish," she said.

Mars Science Lab mission components such as Curiosity, the descent stage, the cruise stage and the aeroshell are currently undergoing assembly and testing at JPL in Pasadena, Calif., in preparation for an autumn 2011 launch.

Curiosity is scheduled to reach Mars in the summer of 2012.

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Landing on Mars is always difficult, with success uncertain.

When Curiosity Cam is off air, you will see a slideshow of Mars and rover images.

› Send questions or comments NASA Dryden provided logistics and other support for a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory team on-site that tested the landing radar system for the next Mars rover mission, called the Mars Science Laboratory.

“Our JPL team is thrilled to have accomplished this critical radar field test at Dryden,” said Steven Lee, MSL’s Guidance, Navigation, and Control Systems manager.

“The large, flat expanse of Rogers Dry Lake provided an ideal venue for our initial tests.

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