The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Monday, August 6, 2012

Curiosity Rover Successfully Lands on Mars

It's 2:14 in the morning and I have just watched NASA successfully land the Curiosity Mars Rover on the red planet. This makes 15 successful landing/orbitings of Mars vs 24 failures in the history of Mars exploration. We are getting better at this. So far, every rover sent (Mars apparently likes them) has landed successfully.

This landing makes history as it involved the use of a brand new landing system, the Sky Crane, which allowed the very heavy (Mini Cooper-sized) rover to be landed within a crater near the area of exploration. This system had never been used before and all its components worked flawlessly. When it rocketed away from the rover, it had about a pound of fuel left. That's efficient. Now begins two years of glorious exploration that attempts to answer the question "Did Mars ever have what it takes to support life on the planet's surface?" This is a big day for us all.

The Sky Crane system may be used in the future to help land equipment for humans to use in manned exploration of the planet. This is a very exciting moment and was well worth losing a little sleep over.

I think back to the space exploration of my childhood and teen years of the 1960s and 1970s and think about how much has changed. You could not watch a landing like this back then. You could not receive such quick answers to the question "Did we make it?" NASA could not have made such precision landings (the Viking spacecraft needed a safe area larger than the entire Gale Crater to guarantee it landed intact). Nobody had personal computers on which to watch NASA TV and see the action live as only reporters did back in the day. And nobody dreamed of this iPad and wireless keyboard I'm using to write this blog post ... or the Internet, or the blog to place the post in. We're making some pretty impressive strides.

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