The MSL spacecraft should enter the martian atmosphere in just over nine hours. It will do what is always difficult — land on a planetary body — in a new and challenging way. It will be a tremendously impressive feat of autonomous space robotics if it succeeds, and crushing disappointment if it fails. Either way, it’ll be a big day in the history of planetary exploration.
This is the first time a mission I’m working on will reach another planet. It’s tremendously exciting. I’ve been reading and daydreaming about space missions and planetary exploration since childhood, and I’ve always thought taking part in those would be the kind of thing worth spending my life doing. With MSL approaching its entry to Mars, I stand at the threshold of doing just that.
Landing on Mars is always difficult; it doesn’t always succeed. The landing sequence for MSL is complex and ambitious. I’m sure, however, that the engineers who developed the landing system for MSL have done the best they possibly can. The spacecraft is in flight, and the autonomous landing sequence is already running. From here, there’s nothing more to do than wait and watch.