NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity Lands on the Red Planet; Sends First Images
NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory — the Curiosity rover — makes its grand entrance. Here are the four ways you can follow Curiosity’s journey
By Marisa LaScala
Curiosity snaps a photo of its shadow shortly after landing in Gale Crater on Mars
Photograph courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech
This weekend, while Colin Farrell was busy driving hover cars, dodging futuristic killers, and not going to Mars like his predecessor did in Total Recall, something from this Earth did make the 154 million-mile trip and landed safely on the planet’s surface. NASA’s Curiosity rover successful touched down on Mars — hooray! While we don’t know how this will affect pop culture in years to come — will we have to change the way we portray the Red Planet? Any John Carters up there? — there are ways to enjoy Curiosity’s journey right now.
1. Hear just how tricky that landing was to pull off
Scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory explain what has to happen during the “seven minutes of terror,” or the period between the rover hitting Mars’ atmosphere and touching down on the surface, in order to have a successful landing. Watch the video below to learn how they dealt with 1,600-degree heat, little atmosphere, supersonic parachutes, and sky cranes.
2. Celebrate with the scientists
We now know that the rover landed safely. “We landed in a nice flat spot. Beautiful, really beautiful,” engineer Adam Steltzner told Alicia Chang of the Associated Press. If you really want to feel like you were a part of the action, watch this video of NASA’s Pasadena crew erupt into cheers when they get the official word that everything was hunky dory. (Perfect for an early-work-week pick-me-up.)
3. See some of the first photos Curiosity sent back
NASA has already published some of Curiosity’s first images. The rover snapped a few photos of the view around it, including one that captures its own shadow, which I find incredibly cute in a WALL-E sort of way. Higher resolution images and color photos are still to come, so keep an eye out on this page.
4. Follow the rover on Twitter
Of course, Curiosity has a Twitter account. It seemed pretty calm during that whole seven-minutes-of-terror thing, starting off with a breezy, “Guided entry is begun. Here I go!” But we can’t blame it for being a little boastful after the landing: “I’m safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!!”
Associate Editor Marisa LaScala joined Westchester magazine in 2003, and ever since she's blown every paycheck at the Greenburgh Multiplex. She also staunchly defends Richard Kelly, doesn't mind spoiling the endings of trashy movies you're curious about but don't want to pay to see, wishes the Hold Steady would come back and rock out Westchester, misses Arrested Development more than anyone can imagine, and still watches cartoons and Saturday Night Live. You can find more of her cultural criticism at www.popmatters.com, where she is a staff writer.