“When people look at it, it looks crazy.”
Thus begins the YouTube video of the Jet Propulsion Lab, currently engaged in hoping and praying for (and guiding!) Curiosity’s landing on August 6.
It’s rather a magnificent video, enriched equally with facts and details to induce excitement. It’s clear and straightforward, too.
The Tech Museum, where I volunteer, has a lovely replica of the Curiosity, as well as a few videos on the process. There are interviews with the engineers, who all have an almost paternal/maternal attitude towards their creation (as well they should). What I love the most about the interviews and this particular video is the sheer enthusiasm the engineers bring to the table.
It’s energizing in a way that I hope will remind the average layperson what engineering really is: taking a complex problem and breaking it down, solving it creatively. In this instance, it’s the idea of creating several stages to get the rover to land — and finally just lowering it to the surface. The Tech video showed a gigantic thing dropping from the sky like a spider. Dramatic? Yes. Deservedly so.
And in case you thought dropping a ton of complicated sensors on another planet wasn’t sci-fi enough, here’s a news article from PopSci explaining how we can conserve water after the apocalypse.
If that doesn’t remind you of Dune’s stillsuits (without, well, the suits) then I don’t know what will.