On Monday morning, at roughly 1:30 AM Eastern Standard Time, NASA's Curiosity rover completed its seven-minute descent through the Martian atmosphere and touched down on the red planet. Astronomer Derrick Pitt appeared on Monday's The Ed Show to explain why Curiosity's safe landing was such a remarkable achievement.
"It shows that NASA is still pushing hard in its efforts to completely identify and describe everything we can about this solar system," Pitt told host Ed Schultz. He said that the rover was sent to Mars to search for locations that might be hospitable to some type of life.
Though the rover's landing was successful, that was never going to be a sure thing; as both Pitt and Schultz noted, Curiosity's descent through the atmosphere is now being called "the seven minutes of terror."
"Talk about a risky endeavor," Pitt said. "This was the most hair-raising, nail-biting entry situation that has ever been devised. But it's exactly what needed to be done for this kind of spacecraft coming in."
Schultz noted that Curiosity is "the largest and most advanced spacecraft ever sent to another planet." The scientists at NASA's Mars Science Laboratory had been working towards Curiosity's landing for the past decade. The rover will be collecting data from the surface of Mars for the next two years.