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Martian Diaries

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Breathing Deeply
By Robert Manning

Deceleration of Mars Science Laboratory in Martian Atmosphere, Artist's Concept
This artist's concept depicts the interaction of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft with the upper atmosphere of Mars during the entry, descent and landing of the Curiosity rover onto the Martian surface.

We just passed a major milestone!

We sent the commands to the rover to get the sequence started up. If we did nothing else the rover would probably land ok even now. We keep knocking on wood, everything is going so well. There is a lot of excitement in the air and we can see that enthusiasm from outside of Mars Science Laboratory project and outside of JPL and NASA is starting to build. My friend John Beck's "7-minutes of terror" viral video really helped get the word out.

I am feeling busy but not as nervous as I should perhaps be. I have been nervous and anxious about the Mars Science Lab mission for years now as I tried to get things done ... testing, analysis, more testing more thinking more improvements. Now that we have done it, I think we can safely say that we have scaled the mountain of work - at least for landing. (We still have a lot of work to complete testing for some of surface operations.) Is this enough to guarantee a safe landing? No. There are no guarantees. I do wish there were.

I wish we could take it out on a few test flights before we do it for real. But the laws of physics don't allow me to fully test this on Earth as a full up system. Close, but still a quilt work of overlapping tests. This mash up of technologies needed to land and do roving science is too new and too complex for us to promise anything. We won't know until we try.

I am breathing deeply.