Boing Boing 

Curiosity rover "caught in the act of landing"—NASA photo

This just in from Mars:

NASA's Curiosity rover and its parachute were spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as Curiosity descended to the surface on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured this image of Curiosity while the orbiter was listening to transmissions from the rover. Curiosity and its parachute are in the center of the white box; the inset image is a cutout of the rover stretched to avoid saturation. The rover is descending toward the etched plains just north of the sand dunes that fringe "Mt. Sharp." From the perspective of the orbiter, the parachute and Curiosity are flying at an angle relative to the surface, so the landing site does not appear directly below the rover.

The parachute appears fully inflated and performing perfectly. Details in the parachute, such as the band gap at the edges and the central hole, are clearly seen. The cords connecting the parachute to the back shell cannot be seen, although they were seen in the image of NASA's Phoenix lander descending, perhaps due to the difference in lighting angles. The bright spot on the back shell containing Curiosity might be a specular reflection off of a shiny area. Curiosity was released from the back shell sometime after this image was acquired.

More about the photo here. (courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

Life on Mars: A round-up of Curiosity-related awesomeness

They were chanting "Science! Science! Science!" and "NASA! NASA! NASA!" in Times Square last night, as the Curiosity rover touched down on Mars at about 1:30 am Eastern time.

The best parts are yet to come. As chemistry professor and blogger Matthew Hartings pointed out this morning, Curiosity is, fundamentally, a chemistry project. Curiosity will search for the chemical building blocks of life, it will study the make-up of the soil and atmosphere, it will look at planetary water cycles and the effects of cosmic radiation. The long-range goal, as you've probably picked up by now, is to put human beings on Mars—maybe by as soon as the 2030s. Curiosity is the chemistry that will help make that very ambitious sort of awesome possible.

We'll be staying tuned for cool stuff coming in from Curiosity. In the meantime, I wanted to point you toward some swell videos, photos, jokes, and essays that have turned up in the last nine hours.

First off, if you slept through the event or just want to relive the excitement, the video above captures the five minutes before and five minutes after Curiosity made landing. The actual touchdown happens about at about mark 5:30, and the first images come through at 7:30.

And, speaking of images ...

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Meanwhile, in space...

Maaaaaars?

MARS!

Marsmarsmarsmarsmarsmarsmarsmars ...

Thanks, Kate Davis!

Today, science willing, Curiosity rover lands on Mars. Here's how to watch.

Watch live streaming video from spaceflightnow at livestream.com

This is it, guys. Tonight's the night. NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity will attempt to land on the surface of Mars today. Here is Boing Boing's guide for how to follow her descent. Spaceflight Now's coverage should be excellent.

Here's an excellent history of human exploration of the red planet, by Miles O'Brien, and here's his report for PBS NewsHour chronicling Curiosity's long, strange trip.

Here's a photo gallery of Curiosity, during construction a year ago inside JPL. Here's my interview with JPL's Ashwin Vasavada, describing the science behind this amazing venture.

Science willing, I'll be at JPL tonight, and I'll send transmissions to the home blog. This is a wonderful and historic day for our exploration of the universe. I'm so happy to be alive to witness it.

Image above: An artist's still showing how NASA's Curiosity rover will communicate with Earth during landing. As the rover descends to the surface of Mars, it will send out two different types of data: basic radio-frequency tones that go directly to Earth (pink dashes) and more complex UHF radio data (blue circles) that require relaying by orbiters. NASA's Odyssey orbiter will pick up the UHF signal and relay it immediately back to Earth, while NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will record the UHF data and play it back to Earth at a later time. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

When Curiosity was born: a peek at Mars rover during construction at JPL, one year ago

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In April, 2011, the engineers at JPL gave Boing Boing permission to visit the clean room where the next Mars rover, Curiosity, had just been completed, for an exclusive first look.

Photographer Joseph Linaschke made the trek (and donned the bunny suit) on our behalf, and brought back breathtaking photos of the magnificent martian machine.

The full Boing Boing photo gallery is here, with caption assist from JPL.

Above, the Mars Science Laboratory's descent stage, which files the rover down to Mars' surface using eight rockets, and lowers it on a tether for landing. The orange spheres are propellant tanks.

Here's a roundup of ways to watch, as Curiosity attempts landing the night of Aug 5 (that's tomorrow).

* There are even more images on Joseph's site (pssst: news orgs, they're available for licensing, ask him.)

Mission to Mars: Anticipating NASA rover 'Curiosity' touchdown

[Video Link] This Sunday night (and through the wee hours of Monday morning), engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA will attempt to land the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars. If the daring and complex landing plan goes right, Curiosity will enter the red planet's atmosphere, slow its descent by releasing a parachute, then lower itself to the surface on a tether with the help of a 'sky crane.' In this report for the PBS NewsHour, space journalist Miles O'Brien previews the highly anticipated space event. Read the full transcript here, and view video or download MP3 audio here.

Here's our roundup of ways to tune in and watch Curiosity make history. Things get hot and heavy starting around Sunday 830pm PT.

NASA's Ashwin Vasavada talks Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity with Boing Boing

1240679371_55QeG-XL-1.jpg

people-645.jpg In April, 2011, Boing Boing (well, our photographer pal Joseph Linaschke) visited NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a peek inside the clean room where the Mars rover, Curiosity, and other components of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft (MSL) were in the process of being built for launch in late 2011 from Florida. Our big photo gallery with gorgeous images shot by Joseph is here.

Around that same time, I spoke with Ashwin Vasavada, Deputy Project Scientist at JPL for the MSL mission, to understand more about how MSL works and what its creators hope to accomplish, how one scores a job designing interplanetary explorer robots, and how this updated Mars rover is (or is not) like an iPad.

Read Boing Boing's conversation with Vasavada here.

Are we all Martians? The curious hunt for life on Mars

NASA's newest rover Curiosity, is zipping through space, slated to enter the Martian atmosphere early morning eastern time on Monday, August 6. (Image: NASA)


At the PBS NewsHour site, space journalist Miles O'Brien recounts the history of human exploration of the red planet, leading up to this Sunday's planned landing by the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity. It's gonna be a nail-biter. Snip:

Ralph Harvey is a professor of planetary minerals at Case University. He spends a lot of time looking for Mars meteors in Antarctica. He has not yet seen anything that says "life" to him:

"When we argue about signs of possible life on Mars it's always the most subtle thing you can imagine," he told me a few years ago. "Something at the very edge of measurability, and life did not proceed that way on earth. Life is in your face. Life is something we have to scrape off the rocks to get to the story of the rocks. And I don't see that on Mars. I don't have that sense about Mars. So life on Mars is going to have to get in my face for me to believe it."

But what if life on Mars is hiding deep beneath the surface -- say in an underground aquifer? Could there be an underground habitable zone on Mars today?

Are We All Martians? The Curious Hunt for Life on Mars (pbs.org)

Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity headed for Mars landing. Are you ready?

NASA JPL's nuclear-powered Curiosity rover will try to land at the foot of a 3-mile-high mountain on Mars this Sunday night (technically, early Monday morning) to learn more about the possible building blocks of life there.

The rover is about the size of a car. The whole project costs about $2.5 billion. As you can see from JPL's now-viral "Seven Minutes of Terror" video, the landing process is something of a Rube Goldberg scheme. It'll be amazing if this works. It'll really suck for JPL, and the immediate future of space exploration funding, if it doesn't.

Here's how to follow the Mars rover's journey.

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William Shatner and Wil Wheaton welcome NASA's Curiosity rover to Mars (video)

Check out these cool videos William Shatner and Wil Wheaton hosted for NASA, explaining how the Curiosity rover will, science willing, land on the surface of Mars on 1:31 a.m. EDT, Aug. 6.

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What has a marshmallow-shaped lump of plutonium, rock-vaporizing lasers for eyes, and is headed for Mars?

At the Atlantic, Ross Andersen speaks with Michael Mischna at JPL about Curiosity, "The Robot of the Future That's About to Explore the Deep Past of Mars."

Landing on Mars: seven minutes of TERROR!

JPL's video demonstrating the engineering challenges in the precise timing of the descent of a human-crewed Mars lander is nail-biting territory. There's a reason they call the landing "seven minutes of terror."

Challenges of Getting to Mars: Curiosity's Seven Minutes of Terror (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Ray Bradbury at NASA JPL, 1971, reading his poem "If Only We Had Taller Been" (video)

[Video Link] A beautiful video from NASA JPL honoring Ray Bradbury, who died Tuesday, June 5 2012 at 91.

Through the years, Ray Bradbury attended several major space mission events at JPL/Caltech. On Nov. 12, 1971, on the eve of Mariner 9 going into orbit at Mars, Bradbury took part in a symposium at Caltech with Arthur C. Clarke, journalist Walter Sullivan, and scientists Carl Sagan and Bruce Murray. In this excerpt, Bradbury reads his poem, "If Only We Had Taller Been."

(Thanks, Stephanie L. Smith)

Curiosity in the desert

Last week, scientists used ice caves in Austria as a stand-in for Martian caves, testing spacesuits and rovers in the freezing chambers. This week: We go to the desert near Baker, California, where NASA is testing out its Curiosity rover. Curiosity is 86 days away from landing on the real Martian surface.

Gene Blevins / Reuters

Testing spacesuits beneath the Earth's surface

The Eisriesenwelt—the "World of the Ice Giants"—is an Austrian cave that stays cold enough year-round to freeze any water that gets into it. As a result, the cave is full of massive ice formations. On April 28th, it was also full of people like physicist Daniel Schildhammer (seen above) who came to the cave to test out a wide array of space technologies, from protective suits to roving robots. It's all part of an international effort to prepare for a mission to Mars. Caves on Mars are likely place where bacteria and other forms of microbial life might be hiding out—the temperatures stay steady underground and the cave would protect those microbes from cosmic rays. Below: Another scientist tests out a rover meant to scale cliffs.

Images: REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

Quick! Apply to taste Mars mission food during 120-day study in Hawaii

Yes, the deadline is tomorrow. But I know this is the perfect opportunity for at least one of you, so hop to it! Cornell and the University of Hawaii are putting together a series of studies aimed at finding out what it's going to take to keep people well-fed (both in the physical and psychological sense) during a trip to Mars. The research culminates in a 120-day analogue mission, during which subjects will live in a "Mars-like habitat", where they will eat nothing but rehydratable and instant space foods and will record data on factors like bodily odors and emotional well-being. If you've got a bachelor's degree in the sciences or engineering, a desire to contribute to the future of space travel, and a strong stomach, this might be the study for you! Here's the information on how to apply. (Via Paleofuture)

Martian Chronicles, part two

The StarShipSofa podcast has the second installment of Jeff Lane's reading of my YA novella The Martian Chronicles (here's part one). Lane does a great job with the reading. MP3 link.

Space crap to hit Earth: failed Russian Mars probe expected to crash-land this weekend

The Phobos-Grunt spacecraft may impact Earth in North America, South America, Europe, Asia or even Australia. “It’s not possible to say where the thing is going to fall down,” Heiner Klinkrad, head of the orbital debris office at the European Space Agency in Darmstadt, Germany, told The Washington Post in an interview today. (Via @dallasmars)

Explore Mars on your computer

Want to check out the surface of Mars the way you'd use Google Earth? HiRise makes it possible. (Via artimusclyde on Submitterator)