How was Curiosity's Landing Mechanism Tested?

05 August 2012

Question

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?

Answer

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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