SMD Associate Administrator John Grunsfeld’s Message on the Curiosity Rover’s Landing on Mars, Monday, Aug. 6, 1:31 a.m. EDT
In just three days, we will attempt the hardest mission in the history of robotic planetary exploration – the landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars. Almost everything about this mission is new and bold: a new guidance system for reaching a far smaller target area, a new landing system, a new power system, and a new state-of-the-art onboard science laboratory. Curiosity is truly incredible. Although the entry, descent and landing is complex and difficult, I’m confident that our talented NASA employees have provided us with the best possible chance of success.
This mission is the culmination of dedicated work from over 7,000 employees in at least 37 states, and they couldn’t be more ready for the landing.
In just seven minutes, the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft carrying Curiosity must slow down from about 13,000 mph to zero to allow the rover to land on the surface. The heat shield, the rockets, the sky-crane, and numerous other components all have to work as planned.
If everything goes as planned, we will have the first signal, and possibly even photos, back from the planet’s surface shortly following landing. To enable this, last week, we repositioned the Odyssey spacecraft in orbit around Mars to better relay the signal coming from Curiosity.
We’ve been studying Mars with rovers, landers and orbiters for years, discovering and learning more about our neighboring planet with each mission. One of Curiosity’s jobs is to help find the answer to a big question about Mars: Are there habitats that could have supported – or might still support – life on Mars?
This mission is generating excitement, wonder and inspiration worldwide. I know many of you will be watching with us on NASA TV or online. As a NASA employee, your friends, family and community will look to you as a source of information for the latest details.
Many NASA centers, museums around the country, and even Times Square are hosting events to watch the live coverage coming from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Go to http://www.nasa.gov/mars for updates and to find public landing events near you.
I hope you’ll help spread the excitement about this historic landing. You are an important part of the NASA team, and a critical part of sharing the Mars story.
John M. Grunsfeld
Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate