Monday, August 06, 2012

Mars Trek

The Curiosity Rover safely arrived on the surface of Mars, and immediately sent back photos--this one of its shadow, with the Martian mountain in the distance where it will soon be heading.  Ten years in the making, eight months in transit from Earth, the largest rover ever to be deployed (it's the size of a car) will tune up for awhile before beginning its two year mission.  After a perfect landing in the spectacular Gale Crater, which scientists chose because it shows evidence of having been partly sculpted by water, Curiosity will explore the terrain looking for evidence that life may have existed on Mars--or (in microbial form) still does exist.

This NASA mission made highly creative use of cutting edge technology, especially to set the rover down on the surface, that had never been tried before as a system.  Recently the talk about NASA was its old technology--the now-retired Space Shuttles and the impressively engineered but still old school space station.  All the buzz was about private spacecraft pioneers like SpaceX.  But no private company could have pulled off what NASA did--not with so many people involved for so long.  This technological achievement and the science to come should remind us that a national effort organized by the federal government is still the gold standard of space exploration---at least until real multinational and public-private efforts, or even a united Earth, which would pretty much be required for large scale human missions.

This Mars Trek mission to seek out new life naturally relates to Star Trek, so it's little wonder that when NASA created a short video to explain the mission, it called upon Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) to provide narration.  Both versions can be viewed at here.  Meanwhile, congratulations to the NASA team.  And to the American people who supported this mission.


1 comment:

Maurice Mitchell said...

It was a nice touch having Kirk and Crusher narrate.