While athletes celebrated the peak of human physical performance in London, NASA scientists were busy breaking other kinds of records in outer space. The latest Mars Rover, Curiosity, just landed on the surface of the red planet and transmitted the first images of itself. It’s been a voyage and a descent strategy that can only be called audacious.
When we first saw the seven minutes of terror video, it was to remind us of the number of things that could go spectacularly wrong. The complexity of the landing stages was the main trouble. But the rover seems to have landed absolutely on target, without a hitch, transmitting heart beat information via Odyssey and sending back images all the way.
And the first image?
That is a wheel on Mars!
Watching the NASA live stream was wonderful. People clapping every successful stage of the mission (“Parachute deployed! Powered flight!”), the growing certainty that we were going to make it, the final confirmation that Curiosity had touched down and the first images. The room erupted in cheers and clapping. I distinctly saw a few people in tears, hugging everyone within reach.
This is history in the making.
Here’s a nice Wired article summarizing the rover’s capabilities. I’m most impressed by the nuclear-powered lab and the resolution on the Hand Lens Images. The Wall Street Journal, surprisingly, has a good close up shot of the Rover’s sensors as well. I can’t wait for information from the rover over the next two years.
Onward and upward!