Monday, August 06, 2012

Curiosity About Mars

This is an entry about the Mars Science Laboratory, or MSL, a.k.a. Curiosity. I have absolutely nothing to add to what's already been written. This is instead my little electronic scrapbook section for one of the most exciting space missions since Apollo 11.

Since I live on the east cost in Orlando, I stayed up past my bedtime to watch the video streams from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory located at the California Institute of Technology. Because of the three hour time difference between the two coasts it was 1:31am local Orlando time when Curiosity successfully landed on Mars.
I was so happy for the mission command crew when the final successful indicators came down from Mars that Curiosity had safely landed, but nowhere near as elated as they obviously where. I wish I could have been there at least as a witness, a bystander to all the joy and relief they felt that this part of the mission to Mars was successfully concluded. And I was so happy to see indicators from the orbiting Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and this incredible shot of Curiosity with its large supersonic parachute deployed. This shows how far we've come in planetary exploration when we have a constellation of satellites around Mars to help with the MSL, even capturing its entry over the surface of Mars.
I'm waiting along with everyone else for Curiosity to start its science mission. Everything so far seems to be in perfect working order, at least the plethora of cameras. That's one of the multitude of reasons I'm so keyed up about the MSL. In addition to the fact that it's a one ton plutonium powered six-wheel drive vehicle about the size of a Mini Cooper, it bristles with experiments and seventeen cameras attached all over the vehicle. It's supposed to last for years on end, and unlike Spirit and Opportunity, not be effected by the seasons with dust collecting on solar panels. Curiosity was designed from the get-go to last a good long time, measured in years. Perhaps it will last longer than Opportunity, which is now in its eighth functional year on Mars.
it's going to be an exciting time in planetary and Mars science. I sincerely hope that kids all over the U.S. and the world are excited and motivated by Curiosity to seek a career in science and engineering, or if not that, then to develop a lifetime sense of wonder and yes, curiosity, about the universe above their heads.

2 comments:

  1. I couldn't have said it better. I was up at 1:30 last night like an expectant father and was absolutely thrilled when the confirmation came through that Curiosity was safely on the ground. I felt like I did when I was a kid watching the Apollo missions and dreaming of the day men would go to Mars.

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  2. For me the most thrilling shot by far was above shot from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. A man made eye witnessing a man made object descending onto the surface of an alien world. It really brought home the magnitude of our accomplishments in the realm of space exploration.

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