What a world we live in!
I just finished watching a live online feed from Jet Propulsion Laboratory as the lander entered the Martian atmosphere and made its miraculous way down from an eight-month journey. It touched down at 10:39 pm PDT.
We now have a multi-ton, mobile scientific laboratory on the surface of Mars.
The obvious excitement at JPL as the spacecraft neared Mars was thrilling to watch. After almost eight years of planning and execution, a room full of brilliant scientists and engineers sat at their consoles watching and listening…and then cheering and hugging when the lander touched down. Final determination has not yet been made, but it appears the craft landed within 500 meters of its target after 352 million miles in space.
Curiosity’s mission is planned for two years, but there are no consumables (no fuel, etc., to run out), so it could be sending data back for many times longer than that.
In 1960, I was fortunate to attend SSP (the Summer Science Program), one of the most challenging enrichment programs for high school students in the world…and the only such program focusing on astronomy in general and orbital determination in particular. I long ago gave up being a scientist, but I appreciate and honor those who are and who advance knowledge with projects like Curiosity.