I agree with you completely. The act of "invention" is why I became an engineer. I can't sing, can't dance, have no real musical abilities but I can design components and ( eventually) make them work. I definitely applaud the NASA team and wish them more success and many more landings. One question--does the NASA team for Curiosity ramain in place for the duration of the program or is the team reduced in size, consequently going on to other projects? Always wanted to know this one.
@nitpicker: I think this mission actually did a lot to showcase modern-day engineers and their work. There's a young guy central to this mission (I think I read he's been working at NASA for nine years) who's become an Internet sensation and the rock-star equivalent in the world of engineering and space exploration. They call him Mohawk Guy, but in real life, his name is Bobak Ferdowsi, a native of Oakland, CA, and graduate of MIT, who is a flight engineer on the Curiosity mission.
Thanks, kenish, Good explanations, I concur with both points. Full autonomy will be absolutely essential as un-manned craft continue reaching deeper into space. And your logical explanation of (Slower Descent) = ( More Fuel) = (Heavier Payload) makes complete sense, which I failed to consider. Thanks for keeping me clear!
@JimT- The insurmountable problem (at least with current understanding of physics) is the 14 minute travel time for signals. That's a 28-minute control loop delay if Earth is involved. It would be almost impossible to close the loop in a stable manner with Earth-based control unless the descent time is many times longer. A slower descent requires more weight to provide deceleration which eats into useful payload. Giving the lander more autonomy allows a faster descent time and NASA went for 100%.
More important in my mind is to push the envelope of autonomous control...the farther space probes range in the future the more necessary it will be.
True, the suspense is a big negative but that's just an issue for us humans....
Hey Naperlou- I agree; -- on two points. At the very tail of the previous article I posted a congratulatory comment after the landing on Monday morning, but I also lampooned Mr. Obama's quoted congratulatory comment as "hollow". Almost seemed as if he was betting against them.
On the other note, comparing the technical complexities to a Rube Goldberg device, the lampoon continues. If I was given that first set of difficult variables at the onset of the challenge, (14 minute delay coupled with 7 minute descent) I think I would have suggested engineering a slower landing to take 28 minutes! Seems like an easier problem to solve!
I don't have cable so I watched it live via Space.com and nasa.gov. Just like all of the real and aborted Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo launches I was intent on witnessing every anticipated step and exulting in each success. It didn't matter that it was 14 minutes delayed. Their success reminded me of why I became an engineer. I love the feeling that comes when something I conceived of comes to fruition. What a high. As Herbert Hoover said about his career as an engineer ". . . the engineer himself looks back at the unending stream of goodness which flows from his successes with satisfactions that few professions may know. And the verdict of his fellow professionals is all the accolade he wants." Congratulations to the team!
I stayed to watch and while impressed with the result was more than disappointed with the televised portion. Why were over forty blue shirts necessary in control? If necessary, what were they monitoring? Were they all engineers or were manufacturer reps there? We saw NASA administrators in the back, but no mention of why they were there. There was a 14 minute communications delay so were we watching the equivalent of Olympic TV delayed "real time"? Where was the coverage of key points? For example, When was the parachute deployed and jettisoned? What was the range of impact for a "safe" landing? What would of happened had the crane cables not separated? Would Curiosity vehicle been crushed or overturned? How far away is the delivery crane? Where was the followup and event closure. Backslapping was deserved, after all that was apparent complete success after eight years planning and delivery, but there was no disipline that the room. While the work was spectacular, the public presentation was a disaster, and that is why space is underfunded. Oh, and by the way, if you want engineers and scientists to be rock stars, tell the public what they do in a way that the viewer can understand AND want to emulate. Where is the modern day Jules Bergman and his crew?
This is indeed a great accomplishment. Reading about the process in previous articles, it seemed that the process was, well, a bit crazy (I think I mentioned Rube Goldberg). Crazy or not, it worked. This is a real engineering triumph.