‘It’s a bloody miracle it made it down in one piece!’ is the assessment of British contraption aficionado W Heath Robinson on the landing of NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover on Monday.
‘The only piece of knotted string in evidence was the mission controller’s shoe lace. And where were the oversized ornate polished wood and brass levers?’ asks Mr Heath Robinson, who was the consultant on the failed Beagle 2 Mars Explorer in 2003.
‘No-one in that control room was on standby with the beeswax and Brasso,’ he points out. ‘And the lowering of the rover from the sky crane could have been done by some chap in tweeds and a deerstalker back on earth winding a big wheel to control the winch.’
‘NASA might have got away with it this time,’ Mr Heath Robinson warns, ‘but if they keep putting science and precision engineering over Sellotape, string and chewing gum, then sooner or later they’re going to come down to earth – or wherever they happen to be – with one hell of a bang.’