University of Michigan students, scientists cheer as Curiosity rover lands on Mars

Although 352 million miles away, some of rover's parts have U-M ties

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -

The Curiosity rover is 352 million miles away from Earth, but parts of it have been close to Michigan for about four years.

Before it landed on Mars and even took off from Cape Canaveral last fall, parts of the Curiosity took shape on a bench in a lab at the University of Michigan.

It was an emotional day on Monday as jet propulsion lab scientists cheered as if they had won the Super Bowl.

VIEW: U-M multimedia site about Curiosity

Mars rover landing has Michigan connection

Early Monday morning at the U-M Space Research Lab, students and scientists alike applauded the scientists, some of whom work here.

Doctoral candidate Shannon Curry was in awe of the Rube Goldberg Mechanics that set the rover down on Mars' surface.

"Truth is stranger than fiction," says Curry. "It was something that had you not seen how much work went into it and how much engineering talent went into making sure it was successful you'd think it was made up."

Curry saw first hand, helping U-M professor Dr. Nilton Renno, research what Mars dust would do to Curiosity's instruments.

"For young scientists like myself that's how we all will get jobs," says Curry. "The idea that people are excited about Mars and people went to see this rover be successful, it is just really exciting."

Building the rover's circuit boards

More reserved is electrical engineer Ken Arnett, who spent the last four years working on five Curiosity circuit boards for the monitoring and measuring power supply and the flight computer.

Arnett says what happened on Monday is one of the reasons he loves his job.

"We got on the surface, now we need to start turning on the instruments and see how they perform," says Arnett. "When most of them are working and sending back data I'll be relieved and happier."

Now the hope here is there will be another Mars rover, it's called "Moma," which would launch a year from now in November 2013. The funding is up in the air right now, but they're crossing their fingers.

WATCH: Curiosity's 7 minutes of terror

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