Curiosity’s Seven Minutes to Mars


Today we all know the Curiosity rover landed on Mars safely, and has been doing great work for a year, but looking back at this original post from July 27, 2012 is a great reminder that doing the hard things comes with no certainty of success. 

There’s something to be said for tackling tasks of immense difficulty. Doing things that are hard changes us – and it changes the world around us.

Yet too often we settle for the easy the answer, the quick fix, and put off the truly brilliant work (yes, the hard work) for some future date.

Not all industries have that option. I may be just a small fox in a big forest, but I struggle to think what constitutes an ‘easy’ solution at an organization such as NASA. On August 6th the Mars Curiosity rover, launched from Earth in November, will land on Mars, and Alex Knapp of summarizes it like this.

To appreciate just how far away Mars is from Earth, consider this: it takes 14 minutes for communications to make a round trip – 7 minutes to get there and 7 minutes back. That’s with radio waves travelling at the speed of light.

Now consider this – when the rover hits the atmosphere on Mars, it will be on the ground 7 minutes later. That means that when NASA gets the signal that the rover has hit the atmosphere, the rover will already have landed – or crashed. So the entire process will be automated.

Yes, automated. A massively complex orchestration of steps designed and developed over several years will be executed in 7 minutes. And it will work, or it won’t.

Watch this short animation of the process.

Fox Tip: Do hard things.


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