The blog I chose to comment and write on was this post about Curiosity. The Mars rover conducted a series of complex soil samples that allow it to determine if Mars could have ever supported microbial life. The most amazing thing about this specific rover is the number of scientific instruments on it compared to past rovers. The scientific instrument payload on Spirit and Opportunity were about 20lbs compared to Curiosity’s 140lbs.While overall, Curiosity weighed in at 2000lbs to their 400lbs.
Obviously with a much larger machine, ensuring a safe landing is a far more difficult task. This video from NASA explains the landing process. Basically the pod had to go through the atmosphere, deploy a parachute, sense it’s distance from the ground,begin descending the rover via a sky crane, deposit the rover, and jettison itself to a safe distance. All while NASA had no contact with the machine during the “Seven minutes of Terror” after it entered the atmosphere.
With the death of Neil Armstrong and the discontinuation of the space shuttle, NASA has been falling on tough times. The Space Race is over and the government does not seem to understand the importance of NASA to the scientific community. The success of the Curiosity rover was a victory for the future of US space exploration. So it is not wonder that they are excited. The amazing HD photos and video OF ITS OWN DESCENT! Will hopefully re-spark the nation’s interest in space exploration. And lets not forget one of the most important things to gain from this mission: Since NASA successfully landed a rover the size of a small SUV on Mars, maybe someday they can fit a few people in there as well.