Friday, November 2, 2012

Curiosity Engineer Talks About "Seven Minutes of Terror"

NASA researchers called it the "seven minutes of terror:" the time difference between the moment when the Mars rover Curiosity would actually touch down on the red planet and the moment when the ground crew, on Earth, would find out if everything had gone according to plan.

Brian Schratz, the engineer in charge of telecommunications during Curiosity's descent and entry relived some of these moments during a talk to the Jacobs School of Engineering Friday. He spoke to an audience of about 200 students, faculty and staff members at the new Structural and Materials Engineering building. He even brought props, including some spare rover tires, spare fabric from the rover's supersonic parachute and a miniature replica of Curiosity.

Here are some interesting and fun quotes from Schratz's talk:

"Mars is our best chance to find life itself...or its building blocks."

On the importance of communications: the only thing worse than losing a Multi-billion dollar mission is not knowing why.

Landing Curiosity while monitoring other Mars orbiters is like an orchestrated ballet.

On landing day: it was just a really weird day when everything when the right way.

On orbiter pictures of Curiosity: We basically made a mess of the surface. It's really cool to see where we are on Mars from something else than us.

The landing was a mix of relief and worry: "Yes!" when something worked. "Oh no!" immediately after as engineers were worrying about something else.

I didn't realize how far in the pond the ripples would go (from the landing).

Study hard and come work for us!

Want more information on internships and fellowships at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena? Go here:

1 comment:

  1. This post is well written and informative. I don't comment often, but it doesn't cost me anything to say it when its true.
    Mini Project in Mechanical Engineering