Last week, I did a brief interview on KPCC radio about the landing of Curiosity on Mars, I’ve been remiss in linking to it, so here you go. Click the "Listen Now" button on the left, or you can download the MP3 and listen to it on your digital playing device thingy.
Greg Villar, systems engineer for Curiosity, was in the interview as well, and we talked Curiosity, as well as NASA, budget cuts, and what the rover will be doing on Mars. Give it a listen!
Film critic and film maker Brandon Fibbs used JPL animations and actual footage from the Curiosity rover to create an inspiring video called Dare Mighty Things:
Productions like this are great. And what I love about the sentiment is that it’s true. This isn’t propaganda, it isn’t pablum that sounds good but is empty of actual content, and it isn’t hyperbole. It is, simply, true. The proof is in the video itself: we have a one-ton nuclear-powered chemistry lab on the surface of Mars.
When we dare mighty things, we achieve mighty things.
Tip o’ the heat shield to Jodi Lieberman
This. Is. AWESOME! How the bat-guano crazy engineers at NASA and JPL are going to land the Curiosity rover onto the surface of Mars:
Holy crap. NASA, throw lots more money at the production company that made this video! You want to excite the public? They did it right.
Now think about this: the rover weighs — get this — 890 kilograms, nearly a ton. The Mars air is thick enough that engineers have to deal with it, but too thin to bring Curiosity all the way to the surface safely. So they need a heat shield to slow it initially, a parachute to brake even more, and then rocket motors to drop it the rest of the way.
Craziness. But no worse, I suppose, than using a bouncy ball made of airbags to protect it, like Spirit and Opportunity used (Curiosity is way too heavy to use that method of landing). It’s funny– landing on Mars is harder than getting stuff back to Earth from space, or landing on the Moon. Our air is thick enough to make it relatively simple to slow something down enough for a comfortable landing, and since the Moon has no air, you just use rockets the whole way.
But you know what? I think they’ll do it, and this’ll work. Why? Because they’ve landed probes on Mars before. Many times. We hear a lot of about failed attempts to get to Mars, but in fact JPL and NASA have done an amazing job of getting ever-increasingly sophisticated probes down to the surface of the Red Planet. Heck, Spirit and Opportunity were only supposed to work for a nominal period of 90 days, but Spirit kept going for over six years, and Opportunity is still going strong after more than eight years!
Curiosity is due to land on August 6, 2012, at 05:31 UTC. That’s before midnight in Boulder, so I plan on staying up and watching. I missed most of the fun stuff for the SpaceX mission to the space station because it all happened in the middle of the night, so it’ll be great to finally watch another space event live. This will be very exciting, and I’ll post more info here as I hear it.
The folks at JPL have installed a live webcam in a balcony overlooking the clean room where the next Mars rover, Curiosity, is being built. So you can watch smart NASA and Caltech people build a rover that’s going to Mars!
[Update: Sigh. Of course I post this on a Saturday morning when no one is working. But check back every now and again; I was watching on Friday afternoon and it was busy! And make sure you note the size of the rover; it's far, far larger than the previous ones.]
There’s no audio, so don’t bother with sound. But on the UStream page linked above there’s a chat room.
If memory serves, what you’re seeing is the same clean room where Spirit and Opportunity were built; I visited JPL a few years back and saw them both being put together there. It’s amazing to look down on hardware you know is going to another planet.
Yay smart people!