Saturday, August 11, 2012

Let's See Where Our Curiosity Takes Us

1:31am EST  the Curiosity rover touched down on the surface of Mars successfully. It was definitely something to behold, even if we didn't watch the probe touch the planet. At 1:29, I realized I had accidentally closed the browser window I had left open with the live steam playing. While I scrambled through the front page of Reddit to get back to it, I sat watching the feed buffer and load, hoping I hadn't missed it.
With in moments of the stream finally loading, the first words I hear are "Touchdown confirmed, we are safe on Mars." Then the video feed of Mission Control erupted into celebration. It was actually quite heartwarming to see. I hadn't missed it, I was just in time to see all the hard work these people had put into this program pay off.
Then came the line. The line that, while obviously scripted for the moment, was the one that honestly got me misty-eyed. "Let's see where our Curiosity takes us." It was that line that proved to me how big of an event this really is, and made me wonder why it was I hadn't even heard of this probe-launch until halfway through today...or technically yesterday.
True, we had rovers land on Mars before, and what with not hearing anything about this launch until about 12 hours ago, I also wondered why this one was such a big deal. After reading up about this being the biggest rover, with the most gear, the most research goals and the most precise landing of any of the Mars missions, I saw exactly what this was: a major step toward sending people to Mars.
So, yeah, it is just another robot on Mars, which I guess means that Curiosity rover can be compared to something like Project Gemini ('65-'66) in which it is more experimental so we know how to send people to Mars (or The Moon in the case of Gemini.) While this doesn't mark something as momentous as, say, when we land people on Mars, what it does is bring us one step closer and help us be a lot more prepared for it.
It was pretty amazing to sit here on my fat ass, as a nothing college graduate who has yet to do shit with his life, and watch people crying and cheering and hugging as they watch months and even years of work finally pay off in this moment. It's inspiring, and fills me with pride to know that while we may not have the future we thought we would when we landed on The Moon, we're still moving toward it.
I just can't wait for the day I can make Hauser proud and finally 'get my ass to Mars.'

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