In early November the California Space Grant Consortium and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination held a dynamic seminar with NASA/JPL’s Brian Schratz, lead engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Entry Descent and Landing (EDL) telecommunications team. Speaking to a packed auditorium in UC San Diego’s Structural & Materials Engineering Building Presentation Lab, Mr. Schratz described NASA’s past missions in the Mars Exploration Program, which found evidence for sustained interactions with liquid water, and the current MSL mission to explore a local region on Mars as a potential habitat for life, past or present.
Mr. Schratz described the role of the his telecom team during the landing sequence, ensuring the hardware and software were transmitting critical information to the three orbiting Mars spacecraft and NASA Deep Space Network. He also showed an exciting video of the reactions across the United States during the Mars landing and the overwhelming worldwide response to this incredible accomplishment.
Of the many visual aids brought by Mr. Schratz, the most interesting were the full-scale tires from the rover’s engineering model with tracks in Morse Code spelling out “JPL”. While a practical measure for visual odometry allowing JPL engineers to track the position, orientation, and distance traveled, it is a touching tribute to the NASA center that designed the one-ton rover.
Archive video of the full seminar is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4i2hSlGWI0&feature=g-upl.
Bio: Brian Schratz was the lead engineer for the Entry Descent and Landing (EDL) telecommunications on NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission, which safely delivered the Curiosity rover to the surface of Mars on August 5, 2012. Mr. Schratz received his Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering, with honors, from The Pennsylvania State University in 2006. He received his M.S. in E.E. from Penn State in 2008 as a fellow of NASA’s Graduate Student Research Program. As a student, he led and/or developed instruments for several balloon, rocket, and satellite projects. Mr. Schratz was a member of the Tau Beta Pi National Engineering Honors Society and the Eta Kappa Nu International Honors Society for Electrical and Computer Engineers. Prior to joining JPL full-time in 2009, he completed a Fulbright fellowship in Norway.
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