Monday, July 30, 2012

Cool Mars Mission Lands Next Week!

Opportunity and Spirit, the two rovers that began exploring Mars in 2004, vastly exceeded expectations. They were on a 90 day mission, but Opportunity is, incredibly, still going strong!

But the next Mars rover, Curiosity, will be way better. It's a bigger, much more capable rover (sporting rock-zapping lasers!), and it'll be landing in a crater, where it can explore the goings-on beneath the dry, deserty surface.

Curiosity will be landing just a week from today, next Monday morning, at 1:30 am Eastern time (that's also Earth time; the spacecraft actually lands 15 minutes earlier, but radio signals are, of course, delayed).

The sexy/crazy thing about Curiosity is its insanely complex landing system, involving humongous supersonic parachutes, slow-motion sky cranes, and no fewer than 76 precisely timed explosions. Don't miss this cool explanatory video (which will help explain why I'm so geared up about all this):

It's hard to imagine how this scheme got NASA approval, but the engineers seem confident (the problem they're working around is that Mars' atmosphere is just thick enough to present challenges, yet just thin enough not to offer any help).

I plan to follow coverage in real time. CNN, et al, will likely cover it, but I'd prefer to avoid the anchorman happy talk by tuning in early to the raw feed. The previous information is available all over the web, but I haven't found the following info explained anywhere: NASA has two television channels (one in standard-def, the other in HD) which cover this sort of thing (and which fill in with general nerdy good stuff at other times). Neither are available via my provider, FIOS, though they may be available from yours. But owners of ROKU boxes can easily add the standard-def NASA channel via the Roku Channel Store (look under the "science" heading), or add the HD channel via this obscure link (once you've added it, click into then out of the channel store to view the new channel). Both are free.

You can also view the NASA TV live broadcast via online streaming along with chat starting at 11:30pm on August 5th. The video quality won't be the greatest, but there won't be live video of the landing, anyway (obviously, no second camera will be there to record the event)...just talking heads and (hopefully) exultant scientists!


Great BBC web page about the mission.

The spacecraft is Tweeting!

Mext Monday's landing has, naturally, its own Facebook page.

And here's Curiosity's main NASA page.

1 comment:

0x1337 said...

Nice article Jim L.
It will be Cool :)
I watch the coverage on CNN if its broadcasted there, or a low-quality stream on the web. Might also listen if I can find a low-quality radio-stream. (Tons of options, im sure we're not gonna miss it :)

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