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TASC Team Helps NASA Get Curiosity Safely to Mars

August 22, 2012

Chantilly, VA – With its arrival on Mars, NASA’s space rover Curiosity began a two-year period of scientific exploration on the Red Planet, culminating a multi-year project that at times faced monumental hurdles. Helping Curiosity clear those hurdles was an expert team of scientists and engineers from TASC and its partners who work on NASA’s Independent Verification & Validation (IV&V) program.

"Many men and women from across the United States contributed to the success of this mission, including more than 15 specialists from the TASC team," says Rich Robison, TASC’s program manager for the NASA IV&V program. "We provided evidence-based assurance that the safety and mission-critical software of the Mars Science Laboratory mission would operate dependably and safely, and helped ensure that each phase of the mission would proceed as planned, even in adverse conditions."

TASC began working with NASA on Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) in 2006, when members of TASC’s IV&V team in Fairmont, WV, were brought in to assess MSL’s highest-risk, mission-critical areas. During a major portion of that period, TASC’s Shirley Savarino, who was awarded the NASA IV&V Engineering Excellence Award in 2010, led the team’s efforts. In addition to other project areas, the TASC team analyzed the mission software related to the guidance navigation and control; entry, descent and landing; and surface operations on Mars.

"We were cheering right along with our friends and colleagues from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab when Curiosity successfully touched down," says Robison. "Watching Curiosity do what it was supposed to do gave us a tremendous feeling of pride and satisfaction."

Curiosity landed on Mars at 10:32 p.m. PDT, on Sunday, August 5, following a 36-week flight. It was launched in November 2011. The most sophisticated rover ever built, the one-ton vehicle carries 10 scientific instruments, which it will use to determine whether life ever existed on Mars and whether the planet could sustain life in the future.

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