32 thoughts on “I’m Totally Using This Excuse

  1. totally amazing (if I can say that): this mission was so improbable: first we’ll let it roast in the atmosphere a bit; then we’ll deploy the SUPERSONIC drogue chute; then the rockets kick in and we’ll lower the lander to the surface on a cable….
    I want to know how the heck the (totally genius) engineers ever got approval for this one.

  2. Yeah, the name “Rube Goldberg” did come to mind the first time I saw the “7 Minutes of Terror” video, but then I started asking myself: self, how the hell would YOU get a one-ton car-sized rover onto the surface of Mars with no realtime input?

  3. I got all teary when I saw “7 minutes of Terror” myself. It is so awesome. Good cartoon – think I’ll print it out too…

  4. I don’t want to take a lot of credit, but I helped guarantee the successful landing of Curiosity.

    Back in 2004, when the previous-generation rovers were about to land, I took a look at the here’s-how-the-landing-works animation and, based on 30 years of engineering experience, concluded that the people at JPL were nuts. Both rovers landed successfully, of course, despite my pronouncement. So before Curiosity landed, I looked at the landing animation and again declared that the people at JPL were out of their minds. Once I stated my conclusion, their success was assured.

    No need to thank me.

  5. Cue “Power Station”, made famous by hundreds of Warner Brother cartoons. The first time NASA proposed dumping a rover from orbit cushioned in beach balls, I was on live chat with some of the engineers and I made a crack about the plan looking like it was designed by Wile E. Coyote, Super-Genius. It went well, as did this latest incredibly complex landing sequence. Perhaps the Coyote stopped buying from ACME.

  6. @mopomi:

    That shot from the MRO of the landing of the Curiosity is amazingness on top of the general awesome of the landing. The Curiosity was still moving at hundreds of miles an hour, recently decellerated from Mach Shitloads (+/-). The MRO was shooting the photo from *orbit*, moving at, you know, an orbital velocity. They’re both operating based on instructions and information from several light-minutes away. And they got the shot.

  7. Bearpaw: The MRO was taking the picture while yet a *third* spacecraft, Odyssey, was relaying signals from Curiousity. As a commenter on another thread pointed out, we have a developed communications infrastructure ON MARS. Go us!

  8. The Mars communication infrastructure is probably the one place where your unlimited data plan’s usefulness won’t be hampered by network congestion.

  9. One of the happy people today: Clara Ma. She won the 2009 contest to name Curiosity, with the following essay:

    “Curiosity is an everlasting flame that burns in everyone’s mind. It makes me get out of bed in the morning and wonder what surprises life will throw at me that day. Curiosity is such a powerful force. Without it, we wouldn’t be who we are today. When I was younger, I wondered, ‘Why is the sky blue?’, ‘Why do the stars twinkle?’, ‘Why am I me?’, and I still do. I had so many questions, and America is the place where I want to find my answers. Curiosity is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives. We have become explorers and scientists with our need to ask questions and to wonder. Sure, there are many risks and dangers, but despite that, we still continue to wonder and dream and create and hope. We have discovered so much about the world, but still so little. We will never know everything there is to know, but with our burning curiosity, we have learned so much.”

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/meet-the-teen-girl-who-named-the-mars-rover-curiosity/

  10. I’m a new fan of yours and am currently in the middle of The Last Colony. So reading about the Mars landing today was a little jarring…”oh, all we’re celebrating is a little rover on Mars?” :) I forgot that we don’t already have colonies in space!

  11. I love these events. I was up late watching it the NASA feed (and Wheatontweets, of course). I watched the Apollo 11 landing in utero, and made time to watch as many shuttle launches as I could. I watch Sojourner roll out, then the twins a few years later. It’s events like these that usually restore the faith in humanity I lose watching, well, most anything else. Small steps, Ellie.

  12. I also watched Apollo 11 in utero. The view wasn’t very good though. My parents took the TV outside because of the heat.

  13. Is it a coincidence that the remake of “Total Recall” comes out within days of us “getting our ass to Mars” again? I think NOT! ;)

  14. Bearclaw:

    You are quite correct, but…it’s even worse than that.

    The HiRISE imager, which captured this, is not your typical snapshot camera. This camera is what is known as a linescan camera; it has a lot more in common with a flatbed scanner than a Nikon DSLR, in that it builds up an image while scanning past its target. Normally a sharp picture is acquired by calculating how quickly the pixels will need to be read off, based on the speed of the spacecraft and the distance to the surface. This target was not at the surface, and it was moving differently than the martian surface does relative to MRO.

    So, not only did the spacecraft have to be pointed in the right direction at the right time, but it also had to slew in the right direction at the right rate, so the engineering teams had to take into account the motion of the MRO spacecraft, the movement of the MSL on its parachute, the relative motions of the two, AND the motion required to build up a picture to get this sharp picture.

    Imagine using a flatbed scanner to take an in-focus picture—from the top of an SUV while traveling along at 60 mph—of a mosquito flying alongside the highway.

    The HiRISE targeting team is the best in the world at what they do and they were given the A-team orbital engineers at JPL and Lockheed to coordinate this observation.

  15. It would be a tough sell where I work… since most everybody else probably did the same thing.

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