John Grunsfeld

  • Aired:  08/01/12
  •  | Views: 21,099

NASA physicist John Grunsfeld maps out Curiosity's landing course and considers whether or not there's life on Mars. (6:28)

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

>> STEPHEN: QUOAL BACK,

EVERYBODY.

THANKS FOR STICK WITH US, FOLKS.

MY GUEST TONIGHT IS A NASA ASTRONAUT WHO HAS SPENT 58 DAYS IN SPACE.

HE NOW HAS THE BONE DENSITY OF A SAND HILL CRANE.

PLEASE WELCOME JOHN GRUNSFELD.

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

THANKS SO MUCH FOR COMING ON.

>> MY PLEASURE.

>> STEPHEN: I'M AN ENORMOUS FAN OF AMERICA'S SPACE PROGRAM.

WE STILL HAVE ONE, RIGHT?

>> ABSOLUTELY.

>> STEPHEN: YOU ARE NASA'S ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR FOR THE SCIENCE MISSION DIRECTORATE.

THAT SOUNDS COMPLICATED.

>> I'M THE SCIENCE GUY.

>> STEPHEN: OKAY.

YOU HAVE A MISSION TO MARS GOING ON RIGHT NOW.

IT STARTS ON THE SURFACE OF THE PLANET MARS ON MONDAY AT WHAT TIME?

>> 1.31 A.M. NEW YORK TIME.

>> STEPHEN: THAT'S WHAT IT LANDS.

>> YES.

>> STEPHEN: WE HAVE A NASA ANIMATION SHOWING HOW YOU ARE GOING TO LAND THE ROVER ON MARS.

TALK US THROUGH HOW YOU ARE GOING TO DO IT.

>> IT'S BEEN TRAVELING FOR MONTHS TO MARS AND FINALLY ON LATE SUNDAY NIGHT EARLY MONDAY

MORNING, THE SPACE CRAFT WILL SEPARATE AND HIT THE TOP OF MARS ATMOSPHERE.

IT'S IN THE CRUISE SPACE.

ONCE IT HITS IT HAS A HEAT SHIELD LIKE THE APOLLO PROGRAM.

AS IT ANTS THE ATMOSPHERE IT WILL SLOW DOWN REACHING 10G'S OF AK SELL RACE.

WE'LL POP OUT A SUPER SONIC PARACHUTE.

THAT SLOWS IT DOWN SO DROP THE WHOLE THING OUT OF THE BOTTOM WHERE ROCKETS WILL FIRE.

IT WILL HOVER OVER THE SURFACE OF MARS AND LET DOWN ON A CRANE UNTIL IT CAN SIT DOWN ON THE

SURFACE SO CURIOSITY CAN START ROVING.

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

>> STEPHEN: NOT SCIENCE FICTION THAT'S REALLY GOING TO HAPPEN ON MONDAY?

IT'S REALLY GOING TO HAPPEN.

IT TAKES SEVEN MINUTES FROM THE TOP OF THE ATMOSPHERE TO THE SURFACE OF MARS.

IT'S ALL REMOTE CONTROL.

WE DON'T HAVE ANYBODY -- NEIL ARMSTRONG IS NOT THERE DRIVING IT DOWN.

>> STEPHEN: DID NEIL NOT WANT TO DO IT?

IS HE TOO BIG OF A GUY FOR MAR?

>> WE MIGHT GET HIM THERE BUT NOT BRING HIM BACK.

>> STEPHEN: THAT'S A TOUGH GIG.

>> IT IS.

>> STEPHEN: IT TAKES SEVEN MINUTES FOR IT TO ENTER THE ATMOSPHERE, GET DOWN AND LAND.

>> YES.

>> STEPHEN: WHEN DO YOU KNOW WHETHER IT'S WORK SOMETHING IN

HOW LONG BEFORE YOU FIND OUT.

>> WE HAVE THE MARS ODYSSEY SPACE CRAFT AND MARS RECONNANCE

ON BITTER ORBITING AND THEY'LL RECEIVE THE SIGNIFICANT NALZ AND SEND THEM TO EARTH AND DIRECT

LINKS AS IT COMES DOWN.

WE'LL GET INDICATION NOT IN REALTIME BUT AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.

THE REASON WE DON'T HAVE REALTIME IS IT TAKES 14 MINUTES FOR THE SIGNAL TO GET FROM MARS

TO THE EARTH AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT.

>> STEPHEN: IT HAPPENS AND 14 MINUTES LATER WE KNOW WHAT HAPPENED ON MARS.

ACTUALLY FASTER THAN NBC CAN TELL US WHAT IS HAPPENING IN LONDON.

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

WOW, IMPRESSIVE.

IS THERE ANY CHANCE IT'S GOING TO RUN INTO THE OPPORTUNITY ROVER UP THERE?

BECAUSE OPPORTUNITY IS UP THERE STILL ALIVE, SNRIET.

>> YES.

>> STEPHEN: AND I IMAGINE VERY LONELY.

>> IT MAY BE.

>> STEPHEN: THAT BRINGS UP AN INTERESTING QUESTION --

>> THAT BRINGS UP AN INTERESTING QUESTION.

I'M GOING TO MAKE A BOLD PREDICTION IT WILL DISCOVER ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

IT WILL ROVE AROUND FOR TWO YEARS DRILLING INTO THE ROCKS ANN CURRY LIESING IF THERE WAS

LIFE OR MARS OR ORGANIC MATERIAL BUT IT'S NOT GOING TO DISCOVER ANYTHING.

>> STEPHEN: WELL, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

>> BUT THE SCIENTISTS ON EARTH ARE GOING TO DISCOVER INCREDIBLE THINGS.

IT'S GOING TO BE TWO YEARS OF AMAZING SCIENCE.

>> STEPHEN: THE ROBOT WILL GET INFORMATION IT WON'T MAKE THE CONNECTION.

>> YES.

>> STEPHEN: YOU SCARED ME FOR A MOMENT.

I THOUGHT IT WAS A CASH DUMP FOR THE GOVERNMENT.

>> I DON'T THINK OPPORTUNITY IS THAT LONELY.

>> STEPHEN: WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DISCOVER?

THIS IS THE FIRST MISSION WHERE WE SENT AN ORGANIC CHEMISTRY LABORATORY TO THE SURFACE OF

MARS WITH THE HIGH DEF CAMERAS,

ROVING CAPABLE, AN ARM THAT CAN DPLIEL ROCK I. IT WILL TAKE THE ROCK AND LOOK TO SEE IF MARS

EVER HAD AN ENVIRONMENT THAT COULD HAVE SUSTAINED LIFE.

>> STEPHEN: WHAT IS THE LINE THAT WE CROSS IN OUR DISCOVERY THAT WE GO THAT IS THERE IS OR

WAS LIFE ON MAR SNRCHES IT'S A TOUGH ROAD.

THIS ROVER MAY NOT TELL US THE ANSWER BUT GIVES US A BIG LEAP.

ORGANIC COMPOUNDS, THE KIND OF THINGS THAT LIFE MAKES THAT MIGHT OVERTIME CRUST IN ROCK,

ALMOST A FOSSIL SIGNATURE THAT LIFE COULD HAVE EXISTED.

>> STEPHEN: IF WE FOUND LIFE OR EVEN EVIDENCE OF LIFE ON MARS THAT WOULD BE THE BIGGEST MOST

EARTH SHATTERING TEAR YOUR BOOKS LIVE IN A CAVE MOMENT IN ALL OF HUMAN HIM.

IT WOULD BE UP THERE WITH DISCOVERY FIRE, DON'T YOU THINK?

>> I THINK SO.

I THINK THE HEADLINE WOULD SAY THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.

>> STEPHEN: IT DOES BECAUSE IT MAKES YOU WONDER, YOU KNOW,

GENESIS, YOU KNOW?

[ LAUGHTER ]

GENESIS WASN'T UNTIL THE FOURTH DAY THAT GOD CREATED ANY LIVING CREATURES.

THEN THE FIFTH DAY WAS ANIMALS AND THEN THE SIXTH DAY IT WAS MAN AND THEN ON THE SEVENTH DAY

HE RESTED.

MAYBE THAT'S A LIE.

MAYBE HE WENT TO MARS.

[ LAUGHTER ]

>> THE QUESTION OF WHETHER WE'RE ALONE -- WHETHER THERE'S LIFE

ELSEWHERE IS THE BIG FUNDAMENTAL QUESTION THIS SAY BIG STEP.

THE CURIOSITY ROVER ON THE SURFACE OF MARS IS A BIG STEP IN THAT DIRECTION.

>> STEPHEN: GOOD LUCK.

WHAT TIME AGAIN SHOULD WE BE WATCHING?

>> 1.31 A.M. ON THE BIG SCREENS IN TIMES SQUARE.

>> STEPHEN: MY SHOW REBROADCASTS THEN COULD YOU DO IT ANOTHER TIME?

>> IT'S A LILIENTHAL STOANCHTS OKAY WE'VE BE RIGHT -- IT'S A LITTLE LATE FOR

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