Mars Science Laboratory

One of the many extraordinary aspects of NASA’s successful landing of the Curiosity rover onto the surface of Mars Aug. 5 was ensuring the spacecraft had the information it would need to make its own decisions in the final moments of its descent without any help from mission controllers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. And at least some of the credit can be attributed to the advanced work of two earthbound high performance computing systems called Nebula and Galaxy.

“What’s most nerve-racking is that the first time Curiosity goes through the whole landing sequence is on Mars,” said Ben Cichy, JPL’s chief software engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory, which includes the Curiosity rover and its scientific instruments. “By the time we heard about it, it was already over.” Keep reading →