NASA Curiosity Mars Landing
For the past eight months, the Mars rover Curiosity has been traveling through space in a protective capsule at speeds up to 70,000mph. On August 5th, 2012, it entered Mars’ atmosphere at 13,000mph and slowed to under 2mph, just 21 feet from the surface. As it hovered above the ground, the module carrying Curiosity lowered it on a crane to a gentle landing with no assistance from Earth. There was only one chance to get it right.
So NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) first ran hundreds of simulations to plan for multiple conditions – some impossible to replicate on Earth. This meant enlisting large teams of scientists and engineers across the country to work with the most advanced software and hardware available.