From the mind of Marls:
With all due respect to our Olympians, this week’s most impressive performance by the United States may be taking place over 36 million miles away. By the time you read this we will have either taken a huge step forward in an effort to advance our understanding of the cosmos or we will have crashed $2.5 billion worth of space junk into Mars.
While I understand that G:TB’s staff usually limits their science discussions to Rob’s musings on the Large Hadron Collider, I thought that audacity of NASA’s Curiosity Lander deserved a post of its own.
Back in November of last year, NASA launched the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft with the intent of landing a golf cart sized Curiosity lander on Mars. The size of this latest Mars lander created some enormous challenges with regard to landing it safely on the planet surface. Namely, how the hell do you stop the f’ing thing? At about 1:25 EDT on August 6th, the spacecraft traveling at 13,000 miles per hour starts its decent into the Martian atmosphere and begins what NASA rather theatrically calls “7 Minutes of Terror”. I thought that might be hyperbole until I watched this video.
For those of you too lazy to watch the video, essentially it details (using some groovy movie trailer music) the six stages required to land this sucker, including a heat shield, supersonic parachute, rockets, and a “skycrane”. All of this will be done without assist from mission control, which gets information from the craft on a 14 minute delay meaning the lander’s fate will be sealed 7 minutes before anybody could do anything about it.
The scientists in the video seem really sure that this is going to work. I have to admit, I’m not nearly as confident in the ability for this seemingly MacGyverized plan. That being said, good luck smart chicks and dudes, make us all proud. Just please don’t wear lime green high-tops and a diamond encrusted grill to the presser.