The Amazing Mars Landing

This was a technological feat that is difficult to describe. You actually need a video, animation video that was produced to see this, or a series of slides to show how they got this rover on the surface. I don’t know if this means anything to you. Five hundred thousand lines of computer code. It was a computer program that was written to take this thing from reentry to the Martian atmosphere down to the surface, 500,000 lines of code is I can’t tell you how many technological executions. If just one of them had failed, this thing would be history. Just one small item in the 500,000 lines of code.

I remember when I worked in Kansas City, the radio station’s KUDL — “Cuddle” — went through a bunch of format changes. It was oldies and then hard rock. Then it became automated format and all the deejays got fired. I was spared as assistant program director. And you know what that meant? Programming the automation machine. Now, back then, I’ll never forget this. You programmed every day for the next 12 hours and then hoped you didn’t get sick, car didn’t break down, sleep late, but on Friday when you had to program for the whole weekend, it took an hour, and this was keypunch. It was punching holes in tape. You had to do this for whatever, 72 hours, every song, every commercial in the right order, and if there was one — let’s say you’d done 71 hours, you’re starting the 72nd hour, you make a mistake, you have to start all over. The first 71 hours are worthless. You couldn’t edit it. It made me think of this last night when I’m watching what happened. But it is stunning what we pulled off here, by an agency that Obama has shut down, essentially.

These people ought to be — and they were — they were hooting and hollering. They were having the best time when this thing landed. They didn’t know it. In fact, there’s a 14-minute delay from the time a transmission starts near Mars before it reaches here. Radio signals travel pretty much at the speed of light. The mission was 36 weeks. That’s nine months. It took nine months to get there, but a radio message takes 14 minutes.



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