When the Mars rover Curiosity lands Sunday evening, Aug. 5, all the action on Earth will be centered in mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
We expect tensions to be high as mission team members guide Curiosity through its entry, descent and landing on Mars, dubbed the “7 minutes of terror.”
But to ease some of the anxiety, scientists keep a can of peanuts in the room as a “good-luck charm.” Apparently, it’s a decades-old ritual that began after a series of failed missions in the 1960s. The crunchy food has been working its magic ever since.
According to NASA:
Good-luck peanuts made their first appearance in 1964 during the Ranger 7 mission. JPL had six failures prior to this effort. The Ranger 7 launch day arrived and with it came the peanuts. The mission performed flawlessly, as did its peanut-powered successors, Ranger’s 8 and 9. Up until the Voyager mission, peanuts showed up only at launch. Nowadays, they are often seen in mission control facilities during critical mission stages such as orbit insertions, flybys and landings, or any other event of high anxiety or risk.
If you’re interested in learning more about the team members behind the Mars mission, the space agency has a cool interactive page that lets you meet the whole crew, including the dry-roasted control room staple.
Below is a panoramic view of mission control. Notice the can of peanuts promptly in the centre.
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