Adam Steltzner spent nine years working to turn seven minutes of terror into NASA’s finest hour since the landing of Apollo 11 on the Sea of Tranquility. His is a fascinating insider’s view of one of the most amazing space exploration feats in the history of humankind. And here he tells you how, when, and why it all happened—a story of invention, camaraderie, and courage that ended in triumph when most expected them to fail.
Above everything, the story of EDL—the acronym for the Entry, Descent and Landing phase of the Mars Science Laboratory mission—was hard work, creation, testing, and re-testing.
There was no magic eureka moment in this challenge. Steltzner—the phase and development lead for EDL—and his team spent their work hours in intense brainstorming sessions. One of them—when they came up with the now famous sky crane—lasted for three days.
Slowly, refining previous ideas, turning others around, and then tweaking them all until they got it just right, Steltzner and his rock-star team invented and developed this brilliantly crazy way to land a vehicle on the surface of another planet. All that was left was to wait for almost a decade to see if everything worked out as they expected.
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