Billions of dollars and future support of NASA’s space program hinged on the successful landing of Mars rover Curiosity when it dropped through the Red Planet’s atmosphere back in August. Fortunately, everything went off without a hitch when the car-size rover touched down on Mars’ surface on Aug. 5.
We can imagine it would have been a small-scale catastrophe had the rover not safely landed on Mars. Even the team watching over Curiosity’s treacherous landing phase was surprised to have pulled off such a risky manoeuvre, which involved lowering the one-ton robot via a rocket-powered sky crane.
In that event that Curiosity crashed, NASA’s Administrator Charles Bolden says the agency had a back-up plan, reports Jason Koebler of U.S News & World Report.
Bolden explained the plan to a crowd at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday:
“Plan B would have been to remind the world we still have a functioning rover, Opportunity, getting data from the surface of Mars, that we still have the Mars reconnaissance orbiter. We still have enough things gathering data to help us understand the potential of exploring the planet,” Bolden said. “Would [a crash] have been a setback? Yes, it would have. Would it have been the end of the world? Not by any stretch of the imagination.”
Curiosity has been hanging out on Mars for more than a month now, while continuing to beam back unprecedented images of the Martian landscape. To date, Curiosity is in perfect health and has driven about 850 feet across her landing site Gale Crater.
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