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August 7, 2012

Dell Clusters Help NASA Stick Landing of Mars Rover

Robert Gelber

While the world’s greatest athletes were competing for gold at this year’s summer Olympics, some of the greatest minds in space exploration were similarly attempting a world-class achievement. On Sunday evening, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), also known as Curiosity, successfully landed on Mars with help from HPC resources. Yesterday, Dell announced that two clusters housed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) assisted with the complex landing sequence.

Galaxy and Nebula systems, each based on Dell’s PowerEdge servers, were used to analyze large amounts of data in preparation of the Curiosity’s landing sequence. Prior to the launch, the clusters were tasked with validating parameters created by the mission team. This information was then uploaded to the rover one week before its arrival.

The anticipation was nerve-wracking to say the least. This was a project that had been active since 2004 and cost $2.5 billion. The delivery method was one of a kind, as the Curiosity team had to develop unique systems to safely lands the car-sized rover on the red planet. The moment was aptly named “seven minutes of terror”.

Thankfully, the landing was successful, marking a memorable event in NASA’s history. Jere Carroll, general manager of civilian agencies at Dell Federal, spoke of the collaboration while congratulating the NASA team.

“We’re proud to work hand-in-hand with NASA, a true American institution that provides the world with the understanding that modern day pioneering delivers optimism and the drive to go further,” he said. “Most importantly, we are honored to be able to test and validate this mission’s most critical portion, landing on the Red Planet.”

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