Slowing Curiosity

Airmen and civilian engineers from the Arnold Engineering Development Complex played a crucial role in ensuring that the landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars last month was a victory instead of a $2.5 billion tragedy. Curiosity, NASA’s roving space laboratory, touched down on the red planet on Aug. 5. Its nearly nine-month journey was not an easy one, particularly in the final few minutes when the rover entered Mars’ atmosphere and had to complete a complicated set of maneuvers to survive. NASA contracted AEDC, which is headquartered in Tennessee and has operating facilities across the country, to design tests for Curiosity’s landing. In Maryland, an AEDC team used Hypervelocity Wind Tunnel 9 to simulate the descent of Curiosity’s aeroshell. In Tennessee, AEDC engineers assessed candidates for the rover’s heat shield that would have to endure temperatures higher than the melting point of titanium. And, in California, an Arnold team helped test Curiosity’s supersonic parachute that would slow the rover in the last moments of its Mars descent. Click here to continue to the full report.