You don’t have to be at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab to get live, edge of your seat, coverage of a rover landing on Mars. The rover Curiosity is set to land on the red planet Sunday night, and the public is invited to attend a Mars Rover Landing Party on the University of Utah campus.
A video clip from NASA’s website describes the entry, descent, and landing process – or EDL – as 7 minutes of terror.
“We’ve got literally 7 minutes to get from the top of the atmosphere to the surface of Mars, going from 13,000 miles an hour to 0 in perfect sequence, perfect choreography, perfect timing, and the computer has to do it all by itself,” explains EDL engineer Tom Rivelinni, “If any one thing doesn’t work just right, it’s game over.”
At the University of Utah, the public can watch this drama unfold in real time with a satellite feed direct from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. The Mars Rover Landing Party starts at 9:30 at the U’s Language and Communications building. Utah’s NASA ambassador Patrick Wiggins says he’ll be glued to the feed to watch all the stages of entry and descent before the landing is set to take place at 11:30.
“They acknowledge this really looks crazy, but they’ve had years to perfect the details, and they’re quite confident,” says Wiggins, “Of course, I’m still going to be on the edge of my seat Sunday night waiting to see how this thing comes off.”
Wiggins says the event will feature telescopic views of Mars and Saturn, a Mars rover replica, and computer simulators where people can try their hand at operating a rover themselves.