Some of us watched the launch, then were completely blown away while watching the computer simulations of the landing — I even played the game.
But none of that came close to the nail biting experience which was the actual landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars. The $2.5 billion vehicle had been en route to the red planet for eight months, and after this spent a nerve racking seven minutes blindly making its way to the Martian surface — only to make NASA scientists wait another full seven before reporting on its success or failure. The rover is flying solo.
Through all of this, NASA TV did broadcast the event on Ustream, offering commentary from the minds behind the rover, as well as audio from mission control. The coverage, dubbed Curiosity Cam, ran 11:30 p.m. Sunday till 2 a.m. Monday, with addition commentary between 3:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. by the scientists and engineers behind Curiosity.
After the “seven minutes of terror” which involved a guided entry, parachute and powered descent, and even a sky crane, Curiosity successfully touched down on the surface of Mars. The 2,000-pound science lab has also established communications with Earth and is sending back telemetry along with the first pictures of Gale crater. This was the chosen landing zone for Curiosity due its depth, the initial grayscale images are only 256 x 256 pixels in size but show Curiosity’s shadow on the Martian soil.
But back here on the green planet NXT builders Doug Moran and Will Gorman put together an amazing working version of Curiosity from Legos. The rover can happily roll around plastic terrains, searching for the answers to whatever Lego-related questions have been posed. Four of the six wheels are powered, enabling the gear to make 360 degree turns, while a fully working arm and mast are controlled separately.
The Mars Mission is set to last two years, and is all about answering the question: “Could mars support or has ever supported life?”. Curiosity will be looking for the key ingredients needed for life and also any evidence of life ever having existed on mars, but the question remains: If some form of life is found will the public be told about it or will it become just another Roswell New Mexico case?”
Who knows what they will find and what portion of that will be made public? One thing is for sure; we will be a bit wiser about the Martian red planet I can’t wait to hear and see more from Curiosity.