Video And Images From The NASA Curiosity Mars Rover Landing
In a media culture obsessed with making “good television,” the livestream of the Curiosity landing provided a rare combination of groundbreaking science and thrilling human drama.
It’s nearly impossible to overstate the sheer accomplishment of sending anything to Mars, much less landing it there safely, much less doing so with a craft the size of a car. Travelling about 34 million miles since November, Curiosity then had to slow from a speed of 13,000 miles per hour as it entered Mars’ atmosphere to a full stop as it touched down in just seven minutes. Oh yeah, and it had to be completely automated, because it takes 14 minutes to send a signal from Earth to Mars.
It’s moments like this that I like to remember that humans accomplished mechanized flight just over a century ago.
The video of NASA’s team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories watching the landing is incredible. With so many years of work on the line and nothing to do but wait, the tension is palpable. And when word comes that Curiosity has successfully touched down, the engineers go insane.
As if they’re just showboating, NASA also used a satellite already orbiting Mars to capture an actual image of Curiosity descending:
And almost immediately, Curiosity began beaming back images from the surface of the red planet:
Later, Curiosity began to send back hi-res images:
NASA shouldn’t need overly dramatic music and great drama to get recognition, but it doesn’t hurt. The space agency got a very well-deserved spot at the top of Google Trends yesterday with over 1,000,000 searches.
I imagine the usual day of a NASA engineer is a bit more boring than is displayed here. But hopefully, moments like this can help the sciences compete for attention in the minds of young students. The memory of this momentous accomplishment can push aspiring scientists during long days in the lab; and maybe even prod public sentiment the next time we forget just how important this agency is.