Summer is again in our rear-view window. What a summer it was though, thanks in large part to the ingenuity of today’s military and aerospace (mil/aero) engineers armed with innovative, high-tech tools.
Where were you on the night of 5 August 2012? (Shines light on face.)
If you were like this geek, you were on the edge of your seat watching a historic broadcast. It was many things at once: history, drama, suspense, science fiction, and documentary. Mil/aero geeks likely had many windows open, taking in all the sights and sounds NASA offered up that night (ranging from NASA TV online coverage to a real-time Twitter feed, and more).
With wide eyes and a quickening pulse, people the world over were planted in front of a broadcast of the “7 minutes of terror”—the name NASA officials ascribed to the final seven minutes of the Curiosity’s decent and landing (also known as Entry Descent Landing or EDL).
It took seven minutes from the time Curiosity entered the Mars atmosphere until it touched down on the surface of the Red Planet, at Gale Crater near the base of Mount Sharp. The unprecedented event, the landing of the roughly one-ton robot involved six vehicle configurations, 76 pyrotechnic devices, 500,000 lines of software code, and zero margin for error.
Seven minutes felt like an eternity on Earth. In seven minutes, the unmanned Curiosity had to decelerate from a speed of approximately 13,000 miles per hour (mph) to zero. This geek sat on the edge of his seat with the NASA/JPL staff eagerly waiting to learn if Curiosity had made it to its new Martian home in Gale Crater.