A Montana Connection with Mars
Many people watched the latest NASA roving robot land on the planet Mars this summer.
The complicated landing maneuver was nicknamed "Seven Minutes of Hell" as the Curiosity rover shot through the atmosphere, first trailing a high altitude parachute, then dangling from a rocket platform that needed to let the rover touchdown, then cut loose and fly away.
It all worked. And one of the people celebrating with champagne and hugs was Jaime Waydo, a Montana native who has played an instrumental role in creating the Curiosity rover.
Waydo, who grew up in Gallatin County, attending Manhattan Christian School and then Montana State University, has been at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasdadena, California, since 2000 and was one of the team leaders for the rover.
Her team's work is just now being put to the test. They were responsible for the mobility system - wheels and suspension for the car-sized robot. The first tests are going well as Curiosity checks its systems and prepares to begin moving around the Mars landscape, exploring the red planet.
In an article published by MSU News Service, Waydo says she learned about the Viking Mars landers in junior high school and wanted to send something to the planet. The Viking spacecraft were very successful in the 1970s, but were stationary.
The latest landers have all had wheels and Curiosity, about the size of a car, is the heaviest rover so far.