Science Questions

How was Curiosity's Landing Mechanism Tested?

Sat, 4th Aug 2012

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Mike Insch, via Facebook asked:

Given the relative failure rate of Mars missions, and also given that the rover must land fully autonomously (due to communications lag), what measures have been taken to ensure that the de-orbit, landing, deployment and on-surface commissioning of the Curiosity Rover go as planned - without catastrophic failure during the critical phases of the de-orbit and landing of the Rover?


David -   Well, I wasn’t associated with that part of it, but they’ve done testing of almost every aspect.  The supersonic parachute, they tested the landing radar using aeroplanes and helicopters, they’ve tested the actual final little winching down of the rover here at JPL, and I guess I would say, in fact, modern missions done by NASA have had a much better success record.  I did go through all the different reviews of the landing system because I was interested and I came away realising that first of all, I never wanted to be in a class with one of those engineers because I would just got wiped slick, and secondly, that they're very good and I think this thing is going to work.


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I see one problem in the testing of the MSL winching platform the much lower gravity on Mars, was it possible to boost the power of the hovering rockets to compensate for this in Earthbound tests.  syhprum, Wed, 8th Aug 2012

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