Touchdown on Mars!

Some happy news today, Curiosity landed safely on Mars.

Mission controllers burst into applause and cheers as they received signals confirming that the car-sized rover had survived a perilous seven-minute descent NASA called the most elaborate and difficult feat in the annals of robotic spaceflight.

Engineers said the tricky landing sequence, combining a giant parachute with a rocket-pack that lowered the rover to the Martian surface on a tether, allowed for zero margin for error.

“I can’t believe this. This is unbelievable,” enthused Allen Chen, the deputy head of the rover’s descent and landing team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Los Angeles.

Moments later, Curiosity beamed back its first three images from the Martian surface, one of them showing a wheel of the vehicle and the rover’s shadow cast on the rocky terrain.

NASA put the official landing time of Curiosity, touted as the first full-fledged mobile science laboratory sent to a distant world, at 10:32 p.m. Pacific time (1:32 a.m. EDT/0532 GMT).

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One response

  1. Donald Wolberg | Reply

    Although obviously a science advocate, I would suggest the feel good moment of the controllers is a bit expensive at $2.5 billion. I have not totaled up the NASA cost card for the Mars missions, the ones that worked and did not, but i suspect $15-20 billion is a fair estimate. What has that money bought us? Indeed, lots of Mars data, much of which were known or could have been gleaned from Earth bound or orbital telescopes, and lots of pictures of dust and rocks and Martian soil. In the end, we understand that water (or some other fluids) run downhill on Mars, the wind blows and there is lots of CO2, not much H2O and not much oxygen. And it is cold on Mars and there are many craters.

    But these missions were really about looking for evidence, past or present, of life or its precursors on Mars. In fact, the Mars program is mostly about Martian paleontology, and whether of not it exists. As such, the billions and billions spent have been wasted. Nothing alive now or alive in the distant past has been found on Mars. Most likely, after decades of wasting dollars, nothing will be found. So far as we know, there is only one sample of life in the universe that is known, and that remains Earth. Even if life of any kind exists anywhere in all of space, now or in the past, that life and its evolution has nothing to do with the history of life on Earth. There are no “humanoids” or Star-Trek like creatures prowling around space. Life, wherever it exists or existed must be unique and singular.

    Ignored by the Mars effort is the fact that we should be investigating how life came about on Earth. The answer to that vexing question will be found on Earth not on Mars, or Jupiter, or anywhere else in the universe. More money has been spent on any one launch of the Mars program in the failed effort to find “Martians” than has been spent on all the museums, paleontology programs, college research programs and any other paleontological program on Earth, the place where the answers actually will be found.

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