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The Amazing Mars Landing

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: I stayed up late last night, ladies and gentlemen, consuming adult beverages while watching the 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.

When the people at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory got the signal that they were entering the atmosphere, the thing was either on the surface already or blown to bits. They didn't know, because of the delay. So everything they learned was 14 minutes after the fact. And the video that they prepared, the animation to show what all was happening here to make this happen... For example, just one thing.

The largest parachute ever made was invented for this thing, created, to hold 65,000 pounds. It weighed 100 pounds itself. But it would only slow the thing down to a hundred miles an hour. You can't land at a hundred miles an hour. It got to a certain altitude, and then rockets fired to soften the landing. However, the rockets firing (they thought they knew) would create a massive dust storm that would bury the rover unless they somehow moved it laterally after starting all this so the dust was going to end up elsewhere.

This is a minute example of what had to happen. The heat shield had to come off at the right time. There was a chain, also. Because of the rockets and the dust they had to... Well, I'm not gonna try to explain this without pictures. But the rover itself descended on an 18- or 20-foot chain link. I don't know what the material was, but the chain link from the so-called mother ship... When the rockets on the rover fire to take it down to the surface, this thing at the top of the chain has to be shot off way far in the distance so it doesn't land on top of the rover.

And there were countless thousands of things like that. They had to hit the exact point of entry in the Martian atmosphere to find this landing spot. And they can't fly it. They're not in real time. You know, it does become an aircraft once it enters the Martian atmosphere, but they can't fly it. They don't have real-time data. Everything was in this computer program with 500,000 lines of code. This was American ingenuity. This was American excellence. This was a most amazing thing.

And then the pictures were almost immediate. Within ten minutes of this thing hitting the ground they got the first pictures back showing it on the ground, showing one of the wheels. (interruption) What was the question, HR? (interruption) (laughing) HR wants to know if it's near the flag. Yeah, Sheila Jackson Lee was visiting NASA in Houston. That's her district. She was in the Johnson Space Center for a previous Mars rover mission and that little rover... This thing is huge by the way. This rover is huge. This rover is larger than a Volkswagen, it looks like. It's huge, for what it is.

These other rovers were Tinkertoys.

And one of those missions, they brought Sheila Jackson Lee in. She's a member of Congress. You know, show her the money is being well spent. And, as it's shown moving around the Martian surface, she said, "Is it gonna go to where the astronauts planted the flag?" Of course, the staff of the Johnson Space Center said, "Okay, we got a woman here who doesn't have the slightest idea that we're talking about Mars, not the moon. How do we, A, not laugh; and then how do we answer her question without embarrassing her 'cause there's a lot of other people here?" (interruption)

Oh, that's right, folks. I'm sorry. We didn't build that. We didn't build the space program. Never mind. We didn't build that.

No, wait a minute!

We damn well did build it 'cause there aren't any roads and bridges up there yet.

We damn well did build it!

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Folks, I just sent a couple of pictures up to Koko at the website that I want him to link to, and he's doing that now. The Mars rover... This is amazing. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Satellite actually took pictures of Curiosity (that's the name of the spacecraft, the rover) landing with the parachute deployed. The parachute is more heavy-duty than any that's ever been invented. It's blurry, it's black and white, but it is a picture from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Satellite as the Curiosity is landing, before it's separated from the parachute. It's amazing. It's literally amazing that we had our orbiter up there positioned in time -- close enough, lens able to zoom in enough -- to get a picture.

END TRANSCRIPT

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