November 29, 2011

Curiosity landing

The Mars explorer named Curiosity was launched successfully on Saturday and is expected to land on the planet on August 6, 2012. Because Curiosity is a much larger object than previous explorers, engineers needed to develop a new way of giving it a soft landing and this new technique is causing some anxiety to mission scientists about whether the rover can survive the landing. Some of them refer to the final stages of the landing as 'six minutes of terror'.

You can see an animation (made back in 2005) of what the landing should look like.

Here is a test run of the final stage done in the laboratory.


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This sort of project captures why I don't wish to pay less in taxes.

I hate that so much of my paycheck goes to the Pentagon. I'd rather think it goes to schools, NIH, NSF, and NASA.

Has anyone else noticed that the wheels of Curiosity have apertures in an odd pattern? These holes are not spaced evenly axially nor circumferentially. I wonder why. Perhaps this aids in clawing out of deep sand??

Posted by Peter on November 29, 2011 09:49 PM


I agree. This is the kind of thing that America is really good at, creates goodwill and admiration in the rest of the world, and should be spending money on.

I had not noticed the wheel pattern. Given that one of the earlier Mars rovers got stuck in the sand, your explanation sounds plausible.

Posted by Mano on November 29, 2011 10:00 PM

When man landed on the moon many people who do not believe.
But advances in technology will certainly be able to explore space, including Mars.
I'm sure one day will be even further

Posted by Free Radio Fm on November 30, 2011 07:58 AM

Shalom Mano,

Six minutes of terror indeed.

I'm sure there will be no English/Metric conversion problems this time.

I do wish we could get to see the landing live, allowing for lag, of course.



Posted by Jeff Hess on November 30, 2011 08:35 AM

I'm hesitant to support sending satellites to foreign bodies because of the low risk of success. Many have ended up in failure with no results, which make the public gun-shy about supporting such missions. (Examples: The Beagle to Mars, the ESA satellite that captured debris from the tail of a comet and crashed.)

That said, satellites produce real science, unlike the waste, egotism, and nationalism of "manned" space flight. The mission to Mars will be a failure, a disaster of dead astronauts at best marooned on Mars or dead on impact. And the money wasted on it will make the public unwilling to support any further missions, even low-risk satellites that produce real results.

I would much rather see more money pumped into missions like the James Webb telescope. The Hubble produced more usable science than all the manned space missions combined.


Posted by P Smith on November 30, 2011 01:06 PM