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If you haven’t guessed yet, I am kind of a nerd. I am a big fan of NASA and was even an intern for a little bit. I watched a live-stream of the Mars Rover Landing hosted by none other than Bill Nye the Science Guy, where Curiosity touched down around 12:30am Central Time on August 5th, 2012. At least that’s when we heard confirmation from Curiosity, who tweets by the way. But this isn’t the first Rover we’ve sent to Mars, this is the third. So why is this one such a big deal? SCIENCE!!! Hit the jump to geek out with me!
First of all, we probably should ask why Mars is such a big deal. Why have we sent three Rovers to this guy? Mars is in the life-zone of our sun and looks inhabitable. Of course it won’t be simple because it’s not Earth and has violent sand storms, but it is also Snooki free. Instead of me busting out into song to keep describing Mars, I will let Symphony of Science step in to provide the details. Watch the video below.
Next we can probably ask why the Curiosity is so special. It’s just another Rover right? Big deal wanna fight about it? The other two Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, were made to take pictures of the surface of Mars and the first attempt in navigating the rocky terrain. I actually went on a VIP tour of the NASA AMES Research Center in San Jose, CA, in early 2009. At that time, scientists were thrilled that these two Rovers stayed operation for two years I think, compared to the six months they had anticipated. These are powered using solar panels. As long as sand didn’t build up on the panels, we could keep on navigating and take more pictures. These Rovers landed on Mars by using a glorified airbag and were just dropped on the surface of the Red Planet. As we have all hopefully have seen from the show Big Bang Theory, Howard Wolowitz gets a Mars Rover stuck in a ditch. Well Spirit really did get stuck in a ditch and found traces of what could be water on Mars. I love learning from tv shows. Since these two Rovers could really only take pictures, we needed something that could actually drill and survey the ground. This is where Curiosity comes in.
8.5 months ago, the rocket Atlas left Earth carrying Curiosity. This Rover is a mobile science lab and is capable of drilling into the surface of Mars, taking samples, and processing the key elements in the chemical make-up. If we find proof of water, then we know we could sustain life on Mars, provided we don’t run into any Decepticons, Martians, or Biker Mice (can anyone guess this reference?). Curiosity is not powered using solar panels. Instead, it uses a combinations of I think Plutonium radiation and Thermal Conductors that convert the heat given off from the decay of the Plutonium into electricity. That’s how I prefer to charge my phone too… Since this Rover is much bigger and more complex than the other Rovers, we couldn’t just use a giant airbag for the landing
or we just wanted to show off. Instead we used a new concept called the Skycrane. Here is a video of how complex the landing was.
It is crazy to think of how impossible this seems to accomplish. Because of the distance, it takes 7 minutes for commands to reach Curiosity and 7 more minutes to hear back. Sort of like leading when you throw a football, if you could throw a football 35 million miles, which I think only Peyton Manning could do. It was such an honor to see and hear these events live and to feel like I’m with NASA when the celebration occurred. I could go on about the lucky peanuts used for NASA missions, the awesome Mohawk Guy that won the hearts of millions of girls, and how quickly we saw memes after the landing. It was so cool. I posted some links below and you can click on the picture at the top to open up the picture gallery. Godspeed
Curiosity on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MarsCuriosity
Epic work of Curiosity: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZixfG0mrRR0&feature=relmfu
To see Hi-Res photos taken by the Curiosity Rover, along with the first song broadcast from Mars to Earth and a quick salute to Ray Bradbury, click here.