Engineering Curiosity’s EDL

Note:  The announcement below is from the San Jose State University College of Engineering. This talk is being given tomorrow (Jan 24, 2013).  I’m posting it now to give people a head’s up, and because there doesn’t seem to be any other web announcement of the talk.  As I get more precise details, I’ll update the page.  If you are a participant or have more specifics, feel free to leave a comment. One more thing, if you saw JPL’s excellent “7 Minutes of Terror” video prior to Curiosity landing on Mars, then you know who Anita Sengupta is. Here’s chance for a more detailed look at Mars entry, descent, and landing … aka EDL.


SJSU MAE Dept Seminar
Thursday, Jan 24, 2013, 5-7pm
SJSU Davidson College of Engineering, San Jose

Engineering Curiosity’s Entry Descent and Landing on Mars

Dr. Anita Sengupta
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory


This August NASA landed its most capable robotic geologist on the surface of the Red Planet. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission landed a 2000 lb rover, the size of a compact car, to explore the planes of Mars. The rover, aptly named Curiosity, will search for organic compounds, characterize the climate and geology, and continue the search for life.  One of the most challenging aspects of the mission, from an engineering perspective, was safely landing the rover on the surface. The entry descent and landing (EDL) system used a heat shield to accommodate its hypersonic entry conditions, followed by a supersonic parachute, and eight retro rockets for the powered descent phase. For its final terminal descent, a maneuver called the sky crane was used where the rover was lowered on tethers for touchdown. The talk will describe the motivation for Mars Exploration and how the MSL EDL engineering challenges were tackled with computational modeling and cutting edge experimental techniques.

The Speaker

Dr. Anita Sengupta is an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). She has been developing entry system and propulsion technologies for Mars, Venus, and deep space missions for the past decade. She is currently the Project Manager for the Cold Atom Laboratory Mission, an ultra-cold quantum gas experiment to be launched to the International Space Station in 2016. She previously was the lead systems engineer for the MSL supersonic parachute, leading the development of a Mars Ascent Vehicle, the principal investigator for the Orion Vehicle Drogue Parachute Subscale Test Program, entry system lead for a Venus lander mission, lead systems engineer for a Mars Sample return mission concept, and Co-Investigator of several plasma propulsion development programs including VHITAL, NEXIS, and Prometheus 1. Prior to joining JPL she worked in industry on the Delta IV Launch Vehicle, X37 Vehicle, Space Shuttle, and Commercial Communication Satellites (XM-radio). She received her PhD and MS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California, where she is currently teaching Spacecraft Design in the Astronautics Department. She received her BS in Aerospace Engineering from Boston University.

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