NASA celebrated a huge victory overnight as the rover Curiosity safely landed on Mars.
Scientists and engineers, including some who have attended and worked for Purdue University, have spent years working on the $2.5 billion mission.
RTV6's Stacia Matthews caught up with Professor Steve Schneider at Purdue's Aerospace Sciences Lab where he helped develop the heat shield for the robotic explorer Curiosity.
"It's an honor for us to be a part of a success mission that is a major one with national interest," Schneider told Matthews.
Schneider got the call from NASA asking for his assistance five years ago.
"It's always fun when somebody calls you and they want your expertise," he said. "I feel like I'm doing something right."
Schneider's mission was to keep the one-ton robot from burning up as it approached the planet.
Curiosity zipped through the Martian atmosphere at a blistering 13,000 mph, but it had to slow down to a crawl to gently touch down in just 7 minutes.
It was a flawless landing.
"I worked in the area of how
the flow near the surface transitions from smooth and laminate to unsteady and turbulent," he said.
Purdue alumnus Douglas Adams, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory parachute cognizant engineer, helped design, build, test and deliver the parachute decelerator system on the spacecraft.
"Being next to something so massive that is moving so quickly gave me an understanding of how an ant must feel when a foot comes to step on it," Adams said in a news release.
"The parachute had to be robust because it faced grueling conditions," Adams continued. "Here on Earth, a parachute begins to slow an object as it is being deployed, but on Mars the entry vehicle hardly slowed at all until the parachute fully opened. It had to hold up to a very sudden onset of tremendous force."
For the next two years, the rover will explore craters that might have once contained water and look for signs of life.
"What many of us are hoping for is a return mission where you could land a slightly bigger rover that locks into a craft-free, back-to-Earth analysis," Schneider said.
Copyright Copyright 2012 by
All rights reserved.
This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.