There's nothing more manly: Painstaking efforts to land a "car" on Mars
Jerry Seinfeld once said that it has been a motivational desire for man to conquer the moon — and drive around when they got there. I think the same applies here, except that since the conditions for actual driving around are logistically unfavorable due to travel time to Mars from our good old Earth, scientists have invested over USD $2 billion and a lot of delay to putting a titanium clad lander (with wheels) on Mars. The MSL as it is called, weights a ton and it is there to be used for collecting samples to be shot and sent back to Earth.
Watch the video, and you’ll see just how elaborate the landing system works, as the huge rover parachutes down and detaches from two other stages of the lander. That’s USD $2 billion to develop what includes a “sky crane” — the technology used to land a ton of equipment and it seems that they only have one shot:
“The only place you can test it end-to-end is on Mars, so it carries a certain risk,” says Dr McCuistion.
“Setting down MSL is definitely the most nerve-wracking part. It’s hard to hold your breath for six minutes.”
If all goes well, Nasa says the stage will be set for the next big step forward – bringing samples back from Mars.
This is something that Nasa and the European Space Agency (Esa) were planning to work on collaboratively. This mission’s creeping budget, however, brought the two agencies together early to work on an orbiter set for launch in 2016.
Watch the video depicting the theoretical 100% success rate for landing.