USU official still marveling over Mars mission

A week after Utah State University professor and former longtime NASA employee Stephen Whitmore witnessed the successful descent of NASA’s Curiosity onto the Mars surface, he is still marveling over what he referred to as a truly, “scary mission.”

On KVNU’s Crosstalk show Friday, Whitmore said in other successful Mars probes the landings have been primarily planned for safety on flat, open places. He also said this Martian probe has a different mission than others sent to the red planet.

“One of the keys on this mission is to look for, if not the physical presence of water on the surface of Mars, to look for the effect of what water does when it dissolves rock,” Whitmore said. “Limestone is a classic example of that and you can see that in the mineralogy.

“So they had to land in a very tight landing space. Because of that it was a guided re-entry. It was the first time that has been done.”

Amazingly, Whitmore said this was all done robotically in order to make it work like clockwork.

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