Rooting for Curiosity

Yup, double entendre intended! I’ve always been a curious fellow, but right at the moment, I’m referring to the Mars Science Laboratory. Very soon, we’ll find out how Curiosity did during our seven minutes of white-knuckled nerves.

Gale Crater, Curiosity’s target area, has been on Mars landing site catalogs for many years. It’s in an interesting area on Mars, and not just for the much-ballyhooed “find signs of life” stuff. The geology (never mind giving me a hard time about that word) is complex. Being near the equator, there’s plenty of sunlight and temperature differences to make

Gale Crater, Mars

Simulated image of Mars with Gale Crater near the terminator. (Image courtesy NASA-JPL/CalTech)

all kinds of surface phenomena possible. Incidentally, this location is quite close to Gusev Crater, where the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit gave us so many years of remarkable service.

Getting a spacecraft to Mars is a difficult task. Getting a lander safely to the surface of Mars is even more difficult.  Curiosity’s landing challenge is going to the toughest challenge ever faced by a spacecraft. There’s no guarantee in the space flight business. On second thought, there is one. I can guarantee that the people who’ve worked on this project have poured a good bit of their lives into it. Their mechanical progeny has already returned a great deal of data, so they can take great pride in what they’ve already achieved.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve worked in aerospace, and I never worked on a project as intricate and momentous as the Mars Science Laboratory. (Not even close!) But — I had enough time in the business to have an idea how edgy a lot of people are right now.

Why not join me (in concept, that is!)  on Monday, 2012 August 06, 0530 UTC (1:30 am EDT? Raise a cheer for the people who’ve invested so much into this mission, regardless what happens. Raise a louder cheer if all goes well!



About Tim Cole

Astronomy enthusiast and educator, all-around fancier of dark skies and starry nights
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