The Mars Rover Has Landed!
Not only was this crazy idea pulled off. But it was concluded that the execution was close to perfect. Or as close to perfect as an 8 month journey through space can produce.
In interviews with The Los Angeles Times, engineers said initial reviews of Curiosity’s final minutes in flight revealed a startling fact: the landing ran into fewer problems than any of the hundreds of simulations they had run over the last two years. ”It was cleaner than any of our tests,” said Al Chen, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer and a member of the mission’s landing team, shaking his head with amazement. “It was a blast.”
“We could not even imagine in our wildest dreams it going as well as it did,” said Adam Steltzner, the lead mechanic engineer for entry.
Nasa’s most complex extra-planetary landing, Curiosity touched down on Mars’ Gale Crater at 1:32 AM (EST) on Monday, August 6, 2012.
The harrowing 7 minutes that brought Curiosity from 13,000 mph to a gentle touch down, a feat that involved seemingly impossible scientific manipulation, signaled the beginning of what promises to be one of the most ambitious planetary missions in our history. The successful landing induced whoops, applause and hollers in jubilant Nasa engineers and scientists, passionate journalists and amazed viewers around the world.
This strop-motion video shows 297 frames from the Mars Descent Imager aboard the Nasa’ Curiosity Rover as it descended onto Mar’s surface.
The Rover’s Twitter account, @MarsCuriosity tweeted this video late Monday afternoon. Over 800,000 Twitter users have flocked to follow the Rover’s text, photo and video updates from space. I must say, the updates are quite exciting.
The team – roughly 400 scientists and 300 or so engineers – will be working on the planet for the next 90 Martian days, or Sols. The rover slept for the first 16 hours upon landing, giving the team time to go through immersive training to learn how to interact in an efficient way. “We have to learn how to use this very complicated machine that we’ve built,” said mission manager Mark Watkins.
Once settled, the spectacular robot will pave the way for at least two years of gathering scientific information about Mars’ formation and whether it once contained life.
During the press conference, Jet Propulsion Laboratory director Charles Elachi explains, “This [$2.5 billion] ‘movie’ cost less than $7 per American citizen and look at the excitement it produced.” He continues, “tomorrow, we are going to start exploring Mars. Next week will bring new discoveries and we continue to explore the solar system and universe, because our curiosity knows no bounds.”