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Challenges of Landing "Curiosity" on Mars


Director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Charles Elachi is speaker at upcoming NSF Distinguished Lecture

On May 16, the Directorate for Engineering at the National Science Foundation will host a Distinguished Lecture on the challenges of landing the rover, “Curiosity,” on Mars.

Charles Elachi, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, will discuss the intricate technical challenges and engineering steps undertaken to successfully land Curiosity.

The feat, accomplished on Aug. 5, 2012, was one of the most challenging technical endeavors ever undertaken by NASA. It involved an eight-year design and development phase and a nine-month cruise to Mars. Following that, the car-sized rover, carrying a dozen scientific instruments, was “sky craned” onto the surface.

As part of his presentation, Elachi will describe the performance of Curiosity during the last six months, as well as the scientific results so far. In addition, he will discuss future plans for exploring Earth’s solar system and the universe, particularly the technological challenges that need to be overcome.

Members of the media and public are welcome to attend, but space is limited. Reporters may contact Bobbie Mixon at or (703) 292-8485; other members of the public can contact Kishan Baheti at or (703) 292-8339.

Who: Charles Elachi

What: Challenges of Landing “Curiosity” on Mars

When: Thursday, May 16, 2013,
10 a.m. ET

Where: National Science Foundation Stafford I, Room 375
4201 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, Va. 22230

About Charles Elachi:

Charles Elachi was appointed director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in May 2001. He is also vice president of the California Institute of Technology. He received a Bachelor of Science degree (1968) in physics from University of Grenoble, France; a diplomingenieur (1968) in engineering from the Polytechnic Institute, Grenoble; and Master of Science (1969) and doctoral (1971) degrees in electrical sciences from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. He also has a Master of Science (1983) degree in geology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a Master of Business Administration degree (1979) from the University of Southern California. He joined JPL in 1970 and is a professor of electrical engineering and planetary science at Caltech.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2012, its budget was $7.0 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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