If you plan on watching the scheduled touchdown of NASA's Mars rover on Sunday night, you had better read this so that you'll know what people are talking about.
Fascinated by NASA's latest Mars mission and planning to tune in?
Well, good luck understanding the space agency's everyday lingo, which resembles a sort of Martian alphabet soup.
In the highly specialized world of spacecraft engineering, there are many moving parts and pieces — not to mention processes. Names and descriptions are often reduced to acronyms and abbreviations, which are faster to string together in a sentence but can end up sounding downright alien.
So if you want to know if MSL will nail the EDL and what it can do on different sols, you have to learn the language.
Even speakers acknowledge the jargon is sometimes jarring.
"It's kind of our own slang," explained Michael Watkins, mission manager of NASA's $2.5 billion Mars project set to land on Sunday night. "It's a shorthand way to talk about these very complicated systems."
He added: "Even folks from other missions have no idea what we're talking about."
There's no getting around the reality that NASA scientists and engineers are an acronym-phile bunch.
Let's start with the rover's name. In the halls of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, it's called MSL — short for Mars Science Laboratory. Spacecraft typically have technical names before being rechristened by the public through naming contests sponsored by NASA.