… in other news, we successfully deployed a supersonic parachute and lowered a one-ton car-shaped chemical laboratory to the surface of another planet on a rocket-powered crane.
Maybe I can hire these guys to design my washer/dryer.
Seriously, this is seventeen shades of fantastic. When a roomful of geeks jumps up and down, cries, and hugs one another, you know that it’s all and only good.
They called it “seven minutes of terror,” but it was more “five minutes of tense disquiet, one minute of serious apprehension, and one minute of I’m-gonna-barf.” I watched the explanatory videos, and I’m sorry but that skycrane looked like the most insane idea that ever burst forth from the primate brow. I found two voices going in my head about the skycrane:
“Christ, they’re using THAT? It looks like a lego machine! I hope they field-tested it!”
“Well, it’s not like they have a spare Mars stowed away in a closet at JPL someplace where they can test-drop it, you know.”
” … oh. Right. Oh god, they’re field-testing it now, aren’t they?”
I think everyone at JPL sort of felt the same way about it, because it was interesting to watch the live video of the landing, and see:
“We’re feeling Gs!” *cheer*
“Parachute deployed!” *cheer*
“We’re in powered flight!” *cheer*
“Skycrane is started.” *dead silence*
… just before touchdown when everyone shot out of their seats. In general, it all went so fast and fluidly. When they announced telemetry from Odyssey, I think that was the first, “Holy crap, this might actually happen,” moment.
$7 per taxpayer, and we got this. Some people would rather spend far more to buy a video game that lets them shoot fake rockets at fake people than to spend such a paltry amount sending a real rocket to Mars that will tell us all sorts of fun and potentially useful things. $7, like one of the scientists said, is less than the price of a movie. And this was better than any movie.
Best $7 this taxpayer ever spent.
And it’s only just started!
In a few decades time, I hope that skycrane is lowering a payload that contains people, and I hope they are looking up from inside thinking to themselves, “Wow, those Curiosity folks who designed that thing back in the day sure knew their stuff, didn’t they?”