Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

7 Minutes of Terror

PostedJuly 15, 2012

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Three weeks from today, NASA will deposit a rover on Mars. They’re calling it “the most advanced robot ever sent to another world” and say getting on the surface will involve “seven minutes of terror.”

Randy Atkins: Once the spacecraft carrying the rover “Curiosity” reaches the Mars atmosphere, onboard computers must direct an incredible series of perfectly choreographed steps to deliver the vehicle safely to the surface. NASA engineers describe the mission in an entertaining video.

Adam Steltzner: It is the result of reasoned engineering thought, but it still looks crazy.

Randy Atkins: In seven minutes – during which engineers will have no communication with the craft – the rover will slow from 13-thousand miles-an-hour to gentle touchdown through a combination of rocket thrusters, tricky maneuvers, and a special parachute that…

Anita Sengupta: …has to be able to withstand 65,000 pounds of force even though the parachute itself only weights about a hundred pounds.

Randy Atkins: As the video’s closing screen shot says, “Dare Mighty Things.” With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.