grad Adam Steltzner played a central role in the "stunningly smooth" landing of the Mars Curiosity Rover on Sunday night.
Steltzner, who is the leader of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., called the landing "extremely clean" in a San Jose Mercury News article. Steltzner and his team were responsible for thinking up a new way to approach Mars to explore the possibility of alien life, past or present
The landing represents the beginning of what will be the most sustained human study of our closest planetary neighbor. The rover, which landed on Mars late last night, sent a small 64X64 pixel thumbnail image of itself to confirm its arrival.
According to NASA, the chance of landing safely on Mars is only about 40 percent, taking into account data from all missions from all countries. Although the Curiosity Rover is not designed to seek life in particular, its mission is to study the planet's ecology and chemical compounds, lending clues to the possiblity of non-human life forms.