Early this morning, the rover Curiosity successfully navigated through its “Seven Minutes of Terror” to touch down on the surface of Mars.
Stop for a moment and think about that. Humans designed, engineered, and built a giant robot, sent it 560 million km through space over a period of 8 months, and landed it precisely where they wanted to on Mars, with an ambitious and frankly mental landing procedure. The picture shown left is the wheel of Curiosity resting on the Red Planet. That is just a phenomenal achievement. Truly spectacular.
There are many reports already of this event, including videos and pictures. Here’s a compilation of them, which I’ll add to if I find other good sources.
First up, we have the always excellent Bad Astronomer providing pretty much everything you need to know, with his article “Humans send their Curiosity to Mars“. The two soon-to-become iconic pictures taken upon landing are shown (one of which is above), and they are uplifting.
Next up, Nature’s article “Curiosity sets down safely on Mars” provides background and detail of the landing and event, as well as what Curiosity will be searching for. They also had a live blog going on.
The BBC’s article “Nasa’s Curiosity rover successfully lands on Mars” provides more information, including maps and diagrammatic representations of what the Mars rover is capable of. They also have a photo gallery of the Mars landing.
The Guardian’s “Curiosity rover Mars landing – as it happened” is a live blog of the whole 5 hour event. There is also a photo gallery of the Curiosity rover’s journey to Mars.
The always excellent xkcd made the picture shown to the right, which is simple yet brilliant. It really is a perfect excuse for anything!
Cara Santa Maria, over at Huffington Post, spoke to NASA’s lead engineer Adam Steltzner about the mission, and the time and investment he put into it.
Over at space.com, they have an infographic detailing all the missions to Mars since 1971. The number of successful landings is amazing.
A video was released of the NASA control room during the touchdown of Curiosity, which can be seen below. The sheer amount of relief and excitement is almost palpable.
Finally, we come onto perhaps the greatest image of the year so far. Shown below, the image, taken by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, is Curiosity descending to Mars under its parachutes.
I shall leave you with some final words by Phil Plait, as they resemble my sentiments about this mission, and about science, exactly:
“The news these days is filled with polarization, with hate, with fear, with ignorance. But while these feelings are a part of us, and always will be, they neither dominate nor define us. Not if we don’t let them. When we reach, when we explore, when we’re curious – that’s when we’re at our best. We can learn about the world around us, the Universe around us. It doesn’t divide us, or separate us, or create artificial and wholly made-up barriers between us. As we saw on Twitter, at New York Times Square where hundreds of people watched the landing live, and all over the world: science and exploration bind us together. Science makes the world a better place, and it makes us better people.“
Is your Curiosity satisfied? Onwards!
EDIT1: The Best Of The Internet’s Reaction To The Mars Rover Landing (BuzzFeed).
EDIT2: Curiosity’s Descent, a stop-motion video showing “297 frames from the Mars Descent Imager aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover as it descended to the surface of Mars“. This is so impressive. Also, the BBC have another article with updated images. Plus, the first colour image has arrived! That just blows my mind. Incredible stuff.
EDIT3: The Robot of the Future That’s About to Explore the Deep Past of Mars (The Atlantic). An interview with Michael Mischna, a planetary scientist who works on the Curiosity team. Sticking with The Atlantic, they have another article showing the size comparison of the family of Mars rovers. Curiosity really is a beast of a robot!
EDIT4: A image released by NASA shows where all the separate parts of the Curiosity landing ended up. There’s also a video, “CSI Mars“, which zooms in on the landing zone. Lest we forget, there are still other rovers on Mars, including Opportunity, which took this amazing 360 degree panoramic view of the Martian landscape.
EDIT5: There is an excellent gallery over at Bad Astronomy of some of the most spectacular and iconic images from Curiosity. A day on Mars lasts 24 Earth hours and 39 Earth minutes, and The Atlantic has an interesting article on the weird science of telling time on Mars. Finally, we have an article over at dpreview talking about the camera aboard Curiosity, which is less powerful than an iPhone 4S camera.