Sunday evening, I was sipping on my second glass of Sangria with my best girlfriend, when we were joined by our brilliant and equally quirky friend and neighbor! I told her she looked great, (she did), and then asked where she was headed so nicely dressed?
“To Times Square to watch the Curiosity rover landing!” she replied.
“To do what?!” I asked.
Upon prodding her for further information, she informed me that NASA was attempting one of the most advanced space landings in years, and that, there was a huge celebratory party being held downtown. “Oh,” I replied. Not giving it much of a second thought I swiveled my chair back around to the television where I continued watching the Olympics anxiously cheering on my track & field favorites.
Apparently, later that evening, NASA landed that rover-thingy-ma-jig on Mars. But on Monday morning our office was all abuzz about Usain Bolt defending his Gold medal and Sandra Richardson Ross and her NFL hubby. I, like many Americans, barely even stopped the next morning to click a link through to an article detailing this complex and historical scientific occasion. For surely, it couldn’t have been a bigger deal than Sunday night’s ridiculous episode of “The Newsroom”, and the second mass shooting in the past month. When it came to landing on Mars, ‘curiosity’ was not killing the cat.
It wasn’t until last night when I was out with a friend detailing the “seven minutes of terror” that I thought to myself, my, this sounds really interesting. Was there a “60 Minutes” special about this? Did I just miss this segment on the morning shows? How come I don’t know anything about this?
As I searched for more information about the launch of Curiosity I was stunned to find out just how complex and intricate this voyage was:
According to the Associated Press:
Curiosity, a roving laboratory the size of a compact car, landed right on target late Sunday night after an eight-month, 352-million-mile journey. It parked its six wheels about four miles from its ultimate science destination — Mount Sharp rising from the floor of Gale Crater near the equator.
Extraordinary efforts were needed for the landing because the rover weighs one ton, and the thin Martian atmosphere offers little friction to slow a spacecraft down. Curiosity had to go from 13,000 mph to zero in seven minutes, unfurling a parachute, then firing rockets to brake. In a Hollywood-style finish, cables delicately lowered it to the ground at 2 mph.
At the end of what NASA called “seven minutes of terror,” the vehicle settled into place almost perfectly flat in the crater it was aiming for.