The rover Spirit successfully landed in Mars on the evening of a January 3rd. The event was broadcast live on the NASA Channel. Did you see the final moments of the vehicle entry and landing? My wife and I did. It was truly inspiring.
Although at times it is easy to get lost in all of the TLA (Three Letter Acronym’s), the young engineer calling out the sequence of events did a marvelous job of speaking English for the rest of us. It was incredible to see the amount of Passion the entire NASA team projected. Even my wife (who started to search for the remote when my channel surfing landed on the NASA channel), was completely enthralled with the Passion, energy and excitement this team illustrated. She said in a depressed tone, “I want a job like that.”
Can you imagine the engineer who came up with the airbags idea and landing technique?
“OK here’s my idea. The vehicle enters the atmosphere at 900 miles per hour, right? At that point we deploy a drag parachute to slow it down just a little bit. We drop the thing away from the rocket package, but keep the two connected with a long cord. Then, right before it slams into the surface, we fire the rockets to slow the descent, inflate a bunch of soccer ball shaped air bags around it, and cut the cord. Now this part is really cool. We let it bounce across the surface a couple of dozen times like a schoolyard kickball. It will probably only bounce a couple of miles before it stops. What the hell, it’s only worth $80 million.”