Texas A&M Professor Playing Big Role in NASA Rover Mission

By: Michael Oder Email
By: Michael Oder Email

"Really tense, nerve-wracking seven minutes" is how Texas A&M atmospheric sciences professor Mark Lemmon described the moments before NASA's rover 'Curiosity' touched down on the planet's surface.

Cheers and applause echoed through the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory late Sunday after the most high-tech interplanetary rover ever built signaled it had survived a harrowing plunge through the thin Mars atmosphere.

"Everyone was happy," shared Lemmon.

"A lot of tension left the room!"

See Professor Lemmon's BVTM interview in the video player above.

Minutes after the landing signal reached Earth at 10:32 p.m. PDT, Curiosity beamed back the first black-and-white pictures from inside the crater showing its wheel and its shadow, cast by the afternoon sun.

The arrival was an engineering tour de force, debuting never-before-tried acrobatics packed into "seven minutes of terror" as Curiosity sliced through the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 mph.

In a Hollywood-style finish, cables delicately lowered the rover to the ground at a snail-paced 2 mph. A video camera was set to capture the most dramatic moments - which would give Earthlings their first glimpse of a touchdown on another world.

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