Monday, August 6, 2012

Curiosity Rover Moves Us Forward. . . And No One Was Watching

PHOTO: Curiosity rover 
NASA made history with another successful Mars landing this morning when its Curiosity Rover landed on the red planet. This is an unprecedented achievement since this is by far the largest rover to ever land. After investing $2.1 billion dollars into the project, and seven agonizing minutes of terror in which the rover entered the Martian atmosphere, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory erupted with cheers and tears of joy when the rover sent a text message that basically said "I made it," sending its first photos on Mars soon afterwards. 

Image: Mars pictures
There is a bit of a time lag in regards to transmitting info between us and Mars due to the separation in distance, so while we were giving each other high fives and hugs, the Rover had actually been on ground for seven minutes.
Curiosity will be the first 21st Century astrobiology mission since the last ones took place in the 1970's with the Viking probes.
   "Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

"It will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars," he said, "or if the planet can sustain life in the future.—"

Sounds like a crowning achievement, eh? Sadly, there were only a little over 11 million people watching it. Sure, when you hear 11 million, that sounds like a lot of people, but when you consider that the U.S. has over 400 million people on its own, the number doesn't seem that grand.

My roomie wondered why the landing wasn't on local channels or got as much buzz as he hoped, and there's a simple reason: People aren't interested in space the way we used to be. That drive that we had back in the 60's Space Race is gone, mainly in part due to the notion that there's a "been there, done that" mentality to space exploration. And I say this with the embarrassment of knowing that I would've missed the live landing had my roomie not told me the rover was about to land!

Sure, as I said before, this is what, the 3rd successful Mars landing we've made? This is extraordinary! With government funds being cut, a global economy still shaking. . .  and still being able to land what is basically a lab on a planet 154 million miles away with a 60% chance of failure is something worth celebrating.
Now, I know, the Olympics are going on as well, but aren't the Olympics about a celebration of humanity? Is this achievement, not only an American success, but a global one?

Mankind has always looked to the stars, has always strived in taking crazy risks and leaps. Let's be ambitious again, the way we were back in the 60's. . . or the way we were when we were in kindergarten! Come on, you know what I'm talking about. We wanted to be anything and everything, and I'm sure being an astronaut was on the list for a whole bunch of us. :P While this world seems to spiral downhill, there are still some instances where we can look up to the heavens. . . and smile. I mean hey, we might as well since that's our money (yes, yours too) being put into good use. ^_^
Check out more specs on the landing here at msn