"Curiosity makes me very angry, very angry indeed!"
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory was a magical place to be last night, as engineers, flight specialists, NASA administrators, space celebrities, and scientists from many fields gathered to witness the landing of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover. Those seven minutes of terror ended in a picture-perfect landing: an amazing machine went through a crazy Rube Goldbergian descent sequence, and plopped down about two meters away from its planned destination on the Red Planet's surface.
We witnessed history. It seemed impossible. It was awesome.
I sat in on the post-landing press conference, and live-tweeted the evening at @boingboing. During the press conference, after the high-fives and screams of joy subsided, I asked MSL engineer Adam Steltzner a question about those first two all-important thumbnail images Curiosity sent back—critical because the data they contained would tell NASA if the rover had touched down in a safe spot.
Given the great distance and technical challenges involved in transmitting timely data back from Mars, what file type and image compression algorithm(s) did they use for those first "rush" thumbnails? There's a 14 minute delay involved for any signals from Mars to Earth.
A dorky question, perhaps, but I was curious, and figured nobody else would ask. Things like, "Hey how do you guys feel right now," and "What will Curiosity do next," I knew others would tackle. Read the rest
[Video Link] As the post-landing press conference begins, NASA and JPL MSL leaders high-five and cheer with the Mars rover engineering and flight control team. I shot this last night (on my iPhone, pardon the shakiness) inside the Jet Propulsion Lab, at 11:15pm PDT, about 45 minutes after the rover landed, against all odds, on the surface of Mars.
* Despite the image on the screen behind them, this was not a Microsoft press conference.
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.
(courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona) Read the rest
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.
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 ... Mission to Mars: Anticipating NASA rover 'Curiosity' touchdown ... Read the rest
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.
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 ... Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity headed for Mars landing ... Are we all Martians? The curious hunt for life on Mars NASA's Ashwin Vasavada talks Mars Science Laboratory and ... William Shatner and Wil Wheaton welcome NASA's Curiosity rover ... NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover as Art 1909 Lincoln Penny goes to Mars on Curiosity Curiosity rover on its way to Mars - Read the rest
[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.
Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity headed for Mars landing ... NASA's Ashwin Vasavada talks Mars Science Laboratory and ... William Shatner and Wil Wheaton welcome NASA's Curiosity rover ... Are we all Martians? The curious hunt for life on Mars NASA Mars Science Laboratory + Curiosity Rover: first look (photo ... Spacecraft 3D: Nifty robotic space travel augmented-reality app from ... Read the rest
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.
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. Read the rest