enRoute What did it feel like when the rover finally reached its destination, after you’d been working on the mission for so long?
Farah Alibay We were excited, but nervous, too, because there was nothing we could do to change how things played out. When the landing was complete and we heard the word “touchdown,” we were so happy – we could finally breathe a sigh of relief. The realization that we’d arrived on another planet was simply unreal.
ER You’ve said that the seven minutes before the landing were the most critical. What was going on at your headquarters at the time?
FA We had live data, so we knew exactly what was happening step by step: the separation of the solar panels, the opening of the parachute, the separation of the parachute and the activation of the jetpack for the landing. There was no way I could stay in my chair, so I paced around in my corner while watching the data come in, trying to breathe to relieve my stress. Those were the seven fastest and yet longest minutes of my life.