Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Curiouser and Curiouser

More than 500 years ago Western scientific thought supposed the Earth to be at the center of a created universe and the planets but wandering stars.  Today the picture of the universe is far bigger, far more beautiful, and far more amazing.  Today there are robots on the surface of another planet that is, on average, about 225 million kilometers away.  Robots that are taking photos, analyzing and sending back information from the surface of Mars.

News of the touchdown of the Mars Science Laboratory ‘Curiosity’ in the Gale Crater on the surface of Mars has made headlines and news stations the globe over.  Well it should, as amazing as this car sized rover is, and as bountiful as the findings of its many instruments are likely to be, the landing itself is one of the most spectacular and amazing feats of planning, and as of earlier today: astounding execution.

From:  http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/

I was lucky enough to be able to watch the live feed from NASA TV in the buildup and moment of Curiosity's landing, and the technically difficult and amazingly creative fashion in which this rover made it from Earth to the surface of another planet in our solar system was both exciting and stunning.

Kudos to NASA and the people at JPL who managed this feat, it is truly one of the great triumphs of technical expertise, science, mathematics and engineering.  It is also so creative and audacious that it seems too unreal to even fit comfortably in the pages of a science fiction novel.  Luckily, truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.

My mind boggles at the comparatively simple mathematics involved with launching a rocket from Earth that will, 8 months later, collide with Mars - all of these being moving objects.  But the multi-stage landing, combining aerobraking with parachute deployment, the ejection of the parachute and use of powered descent, and then the amazing crane to lower this giant rover to the surface is one of the great triumphs of scientific endeavor.

Well done to all those involved - to the people at JPL who created and managed this amazing feat, and to all those supporting around the world - from the ESA to the radio telescopes of Australia.  Here’s hoping for an amazing array of discoveries from Curiosity.  Thanks to Curiosity the story of our solar system is about to increase in definition and quality.  We live in amazing times.

From the surface of Mars earlier today (and the NASA website).

An amazing video that neatly encapsulates why this landing is so amazing:



  1. I also watched the live feed as Curiosity landed and it reminded me of what humans can accomplish when they are not arguing about religion or watching reality television. I was lucky enough to see Curiosity in the clean room at JPL before it was shipped out for launch. So exciting!

  2. Absolutely!

    That would have been exciting Jeff! That would give a whole different context to thinking about how amazing it was - especially the size of it!