Or, possibly, the most brilliant thing they ever did. Hard to say.
Perhaps you’ve heard about the Seven Minutes of Terror. This pertains to the process of landing the robot Curiosity on Mars. There are several steps and most of the steps have the following characteristics:
1) It won’t work if the previous step doesn’t happen just right;
2) It really can’t work anyway; and
3) The outcome of any given step is very likely to screw up the next step.
A kind of cycle of potential failure. Some of the steps are designed just to address the inter-step interference problem. For instance, the landing craft will be slowed down by a parachute, but that won’t slow it down enough, so rockets will takeover. But they can’t have rockets pushing the craft back up into the parachute. So there is this intermediate step where the landing craft free falls down from the parachute (thus speeding up a little) then rockets shoot it off to the side, horizontally, then the rockets slow it down and at this point the parachute needs to fall freely past the now rocket-propelled robotic rover.
Yeah, good luck with that, NASA!
Man, I wish they had run this by me first, I would have told them to simplify. Like by using a big spring or something.
But this could be an opportunity. We can generate a betting pool to determine which step goes wrong and why, with “nothing went wrong” and “we don’t know it seems to be missing” as two of the options. Any takers?
Here’s a video from NASA in which they hype the hell out of this thing. I think the approach here is to make failure exciting. Just in case.
Embedded video from
So, what’s your wager?
Image of landing site from NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS