F*ck yes! Curiosity lands on Mars!

It was spectacularly ambitious and terrifying complicated, but at 10:31pm Pacific time, the MSL rover, Curiosity, touched down softly on the surface of Mars, and sent back its first thumbnail image of the horizon through a fisheye lens.

First thumbnail image returned to Earth from MSL/Curiosity after its landing on Mars.  Courtesy of NASA.

First thumbnail image returned to Earth from MSL/Curiosity after its landing on Mars. Courtesy of NASA.

I watched the rover’s launch in November from my bedroom and shed a private tear of pride and hope. Tonight I was at NASA Ames in California, sharing many tears of happiness and relief.  Nearly ten thousand people packed out the parade ground inside Ames, watching the two huge screens as mission control checked off each automated stage from NASA’s JPL in Pasadena.  Ripples of applause at the switching of antennae and data feeds turned to hearty cheers and then whoops and shouts of delight as entry began, the parachute was deployed, the retro-boosters set in, and finally, MSL touched down on Mars.  It’s hard to believe any image has caused such universal joy as that first 64×64 thumbnail of the Martian surface.

Mission control for MSL/Curiosity Landing at NASA JPL via the big screens at NASA Ames.

Mission control for MSL/Curiosity Landing at NASA JPL via the big screens at NASA Ames.

Over the last few weeks I had become increasingly tired of watching NASA’s cinematic ‘7 minutes of terror’ trailer, and explaining the to best of my knowledge the intricacies of the upcoming landing.  But the event tonight, experienced not only by the scientists involved, and the thousands packed into NASA centres across America, but by the whole world through unrivalled live streaming, is something that can not be easily explained or forgotten.  Watching the landing, I had chills that had nothing to do with the coolness of the night, and seeing its success, there is a warmth and elation that is nothing to do with the celebratory swigs of fizz.

We have landed toys on Mars before, small rovers the size of remote control cars, and barely better equipped.  In comparison, the behemoth we have just lowered out of the sky from a freaking jet pack, is a fully equipped geochemical and geological laboratory.  It’s the size of a small car and weighs nearly a tonne, and we’ve just airlifted it from 500,000 miles away.  It’s going to tell us more about the geological and habitable history than we’ve ever known before, and I get to work with that data to look for traces of past life. It’s going to be an unbelievably exciting couple of years.

But first, I’m just going to bask in scientific glory and pride.  Today we touched Mars with curiosity, and Curiosity survives to tell the tale.  What a fucking awesome time to be here.

Beers to fit the Mars landing theme...

Beers to fit the Mars landing theme…

24 thoughts on “F*ck yes! Curiosity lands on Mars!

  1. Absolutely: NASA, FUCK YEAH!

    I attended the MarsFest at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, where >1000 people showed up instead of the 350 the organizers anticipated. People overfilled the main theater and its annex, then overfilled the OTHER theater, then spilled out to the hallway outside the theater. Old geezers, nursing babes, and all ages between. Loud “Whoop!”s and fist pumps at the announcements of successive telemetry signals, then screaming and dancing at the 1st snapshots. I was glad to see, through my tears, the tears on others’ cheeks, too.

    KICK ASS. Congratulations, humans.

  2. Hell yes, congratulations Leila!

    We are just waiting on an announcement (this week) on whether ‘our’ mission – the InSIGHT mission, pegged to launch in 2016, will get funding approval. Curiosity has the astrobiology and astro/palaeo-environmental stuff covered. Now lets get the geophysical instruments down.

    Good luck with your research over the next couple of years. I’m sure you are going to be busy!

  3. This is the last program that because it was a legacy was by a thread continued. All other programs were cancelled. With eyes open there is much to see. Let uncensored data speak. Now is the time for revelation and enthusiasm. This new machine can measure methane that was produced by life forms and distinguish it from methane that was produced by non-living chemical processees according to the isotope mix. Let the data rule. No secrets. This is the final oppportunity to be honest.
    Timid Whistling On Mars

    Oh my murdered friend,
    have whistles yet
    been blown for you?
    Are none of
    your secrets heard?

    Oh by your grave
    no one knows where
    the weather balloons are.

    How many years must
    methane blow
    before life is revealed?

    The answer’s on Mars
    and not in the stars, and
    there’s a timid whistle in the wind.

    Oh how many years ago
    was it heard that you
    were murdered
    for secrets more precious than you?

    Oh I don’t believe that
    you were blowing in the wind,
    oh I believe you were whistling
    truth’s precious tune.

    How many years must
    methane blow
    before life is revealed.

    You don’t have to be a rocket scientist
    to know which way the whistle blows
    ’cause everybody knows
    there’s life on Mars.

    Oh my murdered friend,
    have whistles yet
    been blown for you?
    Are none of
    your secrets heard?

    If you think there were
    weather balloons over Roswell,
    wait ’til you see them on Mars,
    ’cause artifacts will not be denied,
    and whistle blowers are
    waiting in the wings.

  4. Pingback: I interrupt my holiday to bring you… Mars! « Turn the Page

  5. Total agreement! I was watching the live stream on the web last night, and it was wonderful! I still can’t quite believe that that skycrane thing worked. Looked like you could cut the tension in the control room with a knife when they announced that the skycrane was working.

    And because I think it’s a matter of time before the Emo Doomsayers show up, I just want to say a few things:

    The $2.5billion that was spent on this was not packed into the rover and sent to Mars. It was spent here on Earth for a device that was designed and manufactured in the US. Thousands and thousands of people were involved in this — that’s what I call an economic stimulus, and for about a quadzillionth the money that this place spends on bombs in a MONTH.

    And let’s think about what that money works out to. $7 per American. Seven stinking bucks. I bet your average naysayer spent more than that on a large pizza and a 2 liter bottle of sugared battery acid last night while bemoaning the expense of the mission.

    Hell, I bet they spent more than that on video games. They’ll complain about spending $7 to send a REAL rocket to another planet, but will take far more than that out of their pocket to shoot FAKE rockets at fake people … and then moan over the “waste” of money of the former!

    In 40 years time, I hope that insane skycrane doohickey is reeling down another spacecraft with people in it this time, and I hope those people are looking up from the inside and thinking, “Wow, those Curiosity folks really knew their stuff back in the day, didn’t they?”

  6. I have been reading up on the sheer amount of effort put into Curiosity, and it is so impressive. The precision needed to land it as well, after falling through the atmosphere at such a high speed, is unbelievable. It’s great to see people with an interest in this too

  7. Man, it is so nice to be this excited! I’m a bit envious of you for seeing it — I just wasn’t able to — but how wonderful that so many people could share in this moment. It reminds me of how it felt when John Glenn orbited the Earth, then Ed White walked in space, then the moon landing. What truly awe-inspiring thrills they all were, and how nice to feel this way again. Now . . . when do we get the space program back?

  8. Pingback: New Horizons (On Mars) « brslifestyle

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