Thursday, August 2, 2012

I'd Cross My Fingers

If that would help...

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover is fast approaching the Red Planet for one of the most ambitious planetary exploration missions of the 21st century.  That would be an unalloyed pleasure if Mars wasn't also the graveyard of more than half of the flybys, orbiters, landers, and crawlers humankind has sent there.  

Unless something goes wrong before then, late Sunday evening (12:30 am Central 5 August 2012) Curiosity will treat its fans to Seven Minutes of Terror as the rover descends in a steerable entry vehicle - sheltered from friction behind a heat shield, then by parachute, then by rocket motors, then by sky crane.  Remember, the Martian atmosphere is "too dense to ignore but too thin to help."  What could go wrong?

If it survives its very complex  delivery to the planet's surface NASA has 23 month's worth of scientific exploration planned for it in Gale Crater.

If, like me, you want to follow the progress of Curiosity (and the fate of our $2.5 billion investment) there are many sites to choose from before resorting to the traditional media outlets.

I may cross my fingers anyway...

Update: An hour and five minutes to cruise stage separation.  Watching the Universe Today's YouTube channel coverage and NASA's live feed from JPL.   

Reupdate: Curiosity has landedIt's 12:31 am and the MLS has "wheels on Mars."  Images from the hazard cams are on the flat screens at JPL.  Great job, NASA!  Woo hoo!  Awesome, just awesome!