Mars Curiosity: The Builders Win

(Updated: I wrote this post at 2:30 AM, which is not my best hour for writing. However, I didn’t want make substantial changes even to the blog post, but I’ve added a few links and images without changing the essential text.)

The first four images from MSL (Mars Science Laboratory), AKA Curiosity. The top two images are from the front hazard camera (hazcam) and show the shadow of the rover on Mars’ surface. The bottom two images are with the rear hazcam, and you can see one of the rover’s wheels clearly. The hazcams have fisheye lenses which distort the images strongly, but allow for a very wide field of view – perfect for spotting obstacles. (Via Emily Lakdawalla/Planetary Society)

Tonight I, along with many other people across the globe, watched and waited with NASA Mission Control as a car-sized robotic rover named Curiosity landed on Mars. The engineering team designed and built a flying rocket crane to lower the rover onto the surface. Words are inadequate to express my feelings at the moment. I felt just a tiny bit of the terror, anxiety, and ultimate joy that the Mars Science Laboratory team felt, but as a member of the human species, I am involved. This triumph belongs to you, to me, to all of us.

The news of the world is so often bad; death, destruction, and decay are the legacy of our many inequalities. The destroyers are strong, but the success of landing Curiosity on Mars shows that the builders win. We will learn more about our planetary neighbor thanks to the engineers and scientists who made Curiosity possible. Please join me in this celebration, and in watchful waiting for whatever comes next.

  • Emily Lakdawalla has a lot more detail about the landing and what comes next—namely, when the rover starts moving and when the scientific part of the mission will begin.
  • At Ars Technica, I have a long article about the history of Mars landings, from the Viking landers up to…well, yesterday afternoon. If you want to know what Viking looks like from Mars orbit, and want a bit of perspective on the sizes of the rovers, this article is for you.
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