Monday, August 6, 2012 article on Curiosity's landing

I realized that I had a story in More Curiosity than you can shake a stick at and other space and astronomy news that I could write for and post tonight before the landing. Here's what I whipped up in just over an hour and succeeded in getting an 8.0 out of 8.0 on's quality rating scale.

Artist's conception of the sky crane gently lowering the Curiosity rover onto the surface of Mars.  Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

U of M engineers playing important role in Curiosity's 'seven minutes of terror'
When Curiosity lands tonight on Mars, a handful of Michigan faculty and recent alumni will be more than casual spectators to the event. They have already tested what could happen as the Mars Science Laboratory's rover is lowered onto the Martian surface and will see if their predictions will be confirmed.

The landing process is complex enough. Curiosity, which is as long as an SUV and heavier than a Mini Cooper, will first ride to a mile above the surface suspended from a parachute, then jettison the parachute and ride the last mile down using retrorockets. For the last 60 feet, the rover will be lowered by cables from the landing craft to the surface while the rockets keep the landing craft hovering above.

Mark Pokora, who worked on a class project related to the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) in 2009, had this to say about the procedure in a mulitimedia presentation. "Whenever I show someone NASA's video of the landing process, they're like, 'That's really cool, but also kind of insane.'"
Much more at the link, including the University of Michigan Engineering video on YouTube with their own take on NASA's "7 minutes of terror" video.

This video provides a quick overview of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, including the "7 minutes of terror" that NASA coined to describe the unprecedented landing plan designed for the mission.

Michigan Engineering faculty, staff and students have played a role in the NASA mission, which will set the Curiosity rover on a carefully selected site called Gale Crater.
Here's to a successful landing, which would be sweet!

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