Watched the "live" broadcast of the Phoenix Mars lander on "The Science Channel" at 4pm PDT today. I am still fascinated with our ability to fly by, orbit, and land "eyes" on other planets. The "as if you were standing there" views are just amazing.
The missions are so often successful, that it is easy to forget just how incredibly difficult they really are. Years and years go into the design, construction, testing and re-testing of every component. One of the scientists on the broadcast had a comment that stuck with me. Asked what would happen if one of the 12 retro-rockets failed on the lander. He answered, "The other 11 would take us right to the crash site".
What grabs you is the intense emotion by the often stoic scientists, engineers, and technicians who put years of their lives into these projects. You end up pulling for them.....knowing how badly they want to be successful. You can only imagine the devastation they feel when a mission fails. Talk about 'reality' television......this is it. It's difficult not to get tears in your eyes when you see the joy and relief on their faces when they get word of a successful orbit or landing.