Mars Curiosity Landing Seminar

November 2, 2012

In early November the California Space Grant Consortium and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination held a dynamic seminar with NASA/JPL’s Brian Schratz, lead engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Entry Descent and Landing (EDL) telecommunications team. Speaking to a packed auditorium in UC San Diego’s Structural & Materials Engineering Building Presentation Lab, Mr. Schratz described NASA’s past missions in the Mars Exploration Program, which found evidence for sustained interactions with liquid water, and the current MSL mission to explore a local region on Mars as a potential habitat for life, past or present.

Mr. Schratz described the role of the his telecom team during the landing sequence, ensuring the hardware and software were transmitting critical information to the three orbiting Mars spacecraft and NASA Deep Space Network. He also showed an exciting video of the reactions across the United States during the Mars landing and the overwhelming worldwide response to this incredible accomplishment.

Of the many visual aids brought by Mr. Schratz, the most interesting were the full-scale tires from the rover’s engineering model with tracks in Morse Code spelling out “JPL”. While a practical measure for visual odometry allowing JPL engineers to track the position, orientation, and distance traveled, it is a touching tribute to the NASA center that designed the one-ton rover.