I had nothing to do with MSL (the Mars Science Laboratory), and I’ve never been involved in anything so mission-critical, but I identify with those people. Science and large-system engineering are among the activities which most push the limits of Homo sapiens, distinguishing us from any other living things.
I’m willing to accept that large-group arts activities, such as symphony orchestras, also qualify. But sport doesn’t. I haven’t been gripped by recent sport: not the tennis, the football, or even the Olympics, except for fascination with the opening ceremony. (And I certainly wasn’t gripped by the Jubilee, of course!)
EDL, the 7-minute entry, descent, and landing of Curiosity, was one of the most outrageous endeavours in recent human history. Adam Steltzner (lead engineer for EDL) described it as “audacious”, but that is an inadequate word. It was beautiful! Here is a photo of the parachute phase of the landing taken from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter:
They landed on another planet 14 light-minutes away, and took a photo 6 minutes into the descent from a spacecraft they already had in orbit!
What have religion, politics, or banking ever done in comparison? (Except screw us up).