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South African National Space Agency to help NASA monitor launch of new Mars probe

November 17, 2011

Yesterday, the South African National Space Agency (Sansa) announced that its space operations directorate will be involved in the upcoming NASA launch of the Mars Science Laboratory probe, according to Engineering News.

"It is a privilege to be part of this space mission and this gives testament to the technological expertise that is available in South Africa to support such large-scale investments," Tiaan Strydom, Sansa Space Operations telemetry, tracking and control international contract manager, told the news source.

The Mars probe is scheduled to be launched on an Atlas V/541 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on November 25 and this is where the South African space program comes in. Sansa will be in charge of monitoring the separation of the probe and the launch rocket once they have safely left Earth's atmosphere.

People can make calls to South Africa to discuss the latest Mars mission. The news source reports that the laboratory contains a Mars rover, Curiosity, that is five times bigger than any of the previous rovers, and it is designed to operate for at least a year on the planet's surface to collect and analyze soil samples. The hope is that Curiosity will be able to determine whether Mars has ever been capable of sustaining life.

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