@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....
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!
@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.
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.
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