Monday, August 6, 2012

JPL: NASA Lands Car-Sized Rover Beside Martian Mountain

Our little portion of the overall creation made a huge contribution to the world yesterday. Just in case you are wondering what this end of the San Gabriel Valley does with its days, there is now additional proof that there are some rather important things happening here. Something that you really shouldn't lose sight of, despite all of the many distractions that consume us.

A couple of month backs my very pro-education missus (she of the two PhDs where normally one suffices), packed me and the kids into the larger of our two gracefully aging Saturns and we drove over to Caltech, the academic home of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to attend their Open House Weekend. An event that this year drew an estimated 20,000 people to the campus.

It was an astonishing afternoon. The kind that makes you wonder what in the world you were thinking when you were a kid. Why didn't I set off on a path that would have brought me to a place like this, rather than the one that brought me to, well, where I am now? Interests do change, I suppose. Plus I have to admit that I was never really all that good at math. That likely played a role.

And one of the things that I got to see when we were there was a close relative of the Curiosity Rover. Or at least the chassis of that now famous version of the rover. It didn't have all of the scientific stuff attached to it like its cousin currently sitting somewhere on the surface of the planet Mars does, but I didn't know much about that at the time. It was all very interesting nonetheless. The fact that something very much like it was hurtling towards another world was enough for me.

The engineer that was running this particular exhibition put the Curiosity chassis through its paces for us, which were exceedingly slow and cautious. Its most amazing feat being that it could roll over fairly large rocks without tipping at all. Assuring that its imaginary payload of many highly advanced scientific instruments would maintain a steady gaze on the mission at hand. All of which impressed me greatly.

So late last night JPL issued the following press release, and I couldn't read it fast enough (click here for the entire thing).

NASA's most advanced Mars rover Curiosity has landed on the Red Planet. The one-ton rover, hanging by ropes from a rocket backpack, touched down onto Mars Sunday to end a 36-week flight and begin a two-year investigation.

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft that carried Curiosity succeeded in every step of the most complex landing ever attempted on Mars, including the final severing of the bridle cords and flyaway maneuver of the rocket backpack.

"Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars -- or if the planet can sustain life in the future," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

Pretty heady stuff. So what is Curiosity going to do with itself out there for the next few years? The exact details of the mission are described in an article published in today's Pasadena Star News (click here):

JPL designed Curiosity to better handle the rocky, dusty terrain on Mars than Spirit and Opportunity, the two previous rovers that confirmed water on the planet in the past decade. Curiosity carries the analytical Mars Science Laboratory, built to search for signs of life during a two-year mission at Mars' Gale Crater. The crater is at one of the lowest elevations on Mars, and scientists believe water once pooled there, offering a likely home for ancient microbial life. The rocky layers of Mount Sharp, in the middle of the crater, could hold clues about organic compounds that may have existed billions of years ago.

Outside of paying my Federal Income Taxes and taking an afternoon tour at Caltech I really didn't have much to do with any of this, but somehow I have an immense amount of pride in it all. It is good to be a part of a country that can do something as visionary and technologically daunting as this. That the people who actually did the work to make Curiosity possible are just down the road from here only adds to that sense of being a part of something far bigger than just the daily grind.

We are fortunate to live in a place and time where things as immense as this are being done. This is a good day.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

50 comments:

  1. On the other hand, the fact that "we" can land a rover on Mars, but feel the need to ship tv's from China through residential South Pasadena instead of using freight trains, makes me wonder if our collective brain power is being equally distributed and utilized.

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    1. One is an accomplish of a nation in its ascendancy, the other a nation in decline. NASA budgets have been cut. There seems to be endless amounts of money for things like the 710 tunnel. It isn't a good sign.

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    2. Ronney the Red saysAugust 6, 2012 at 9:35 AM

      Don't worry, we are paying for this transit corridor so the Chinese have a more efficient means of distributing their junk for which we will also pay for.

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    3. You make it sound like a Romulan invasion. It only a Romneyan outsourcing of jobs overseas.

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  2. Last night we watched with great pride and tears in our eyes as Curiosity landed on Mars. It was indeed a great day! We eagerly await more photos from Mars.

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  3. Now you Tattlers who whine and complain about where our tax dollars go, and water hikes and all the other whining of misappropriated monies, spending my tax dollars on sending some stupid robot to Mars to find out if life ever existed up there. Now thats a complaint! What a waste of resources.

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    1. Here is my question. Does life exist between your ears?

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    2. Can we sell city hall and give the money to Caltech?

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    3. It might be a good use for the million dollars we'll save by contracting with the L.A. Sheriff's Department.

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    4. It is better than the round-about because it is only one way.

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  4. You earthlings are so stupid. That souped up volkswagon is actually on a soundstage in Sunland.

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    1. Sunland is a good place for microbiological research.

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    2. Sierra Madre is a good place for microcranial research.

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    3. There is a micro-rover heading into Councilmember Walsh's ear right now.

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    4. Earthlings: our microcranial research is done in a room you call council chambers. We are fascinated by two subjects in particular. One has some kind of furry creature around his chin, the other one has happy feat and hardly speaks....

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  5. What an amazing amount of brilliant collaborative international work (7 countries) only costing $7.00 per American to research outter space with the best of the brightest right here in Pasadena. Listening to them was very refreshing with their high level intellectual thinking and vocabulary. Even more was their enthusiasm which obviously motivated so many children to continue STEM education. Thank you, NASA. Thanks TATTLER for covering positive powerful news we need!

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    1. I agree. This was such a pleasure to read this morning. Something to believe it.

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  6. $7 per American. And where did you get that figure? provide your sources. Thats $7 out of my pocket that I dont want to spend it on. I think the American people should have a vote on what their tax money is being spent on. We'll call it Measure V. Certainly I would not vote for space exploration. I want my money back.

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    1. What would you like to spend it on?

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    2. Perhaps we should give the money to the Chinese. we already do that now, since we are so accommodating to provide them with the distribution infrastructure for their goods we import for them.

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    3. The director of NASA (or JPL - I forget which - gave the figure of $7.00 per American. Tell me where you live and I'll bring you your $7.00 with interest. It was worth every penny and then some.

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    4. I suspect 9:27 is our resident pest Steve. I'll stop by Beantown this morning and give him the $7 he needs for a breakfast bowl and a latte. That usually holds him until noon.

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    5. Just paid $3.81 a gallon today. $7 for the Mars Lander is such a deal!

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    6. I don't know how you can compare spending a few bucks on exploring planets with imposing bad development projects on Sierra Madre. It makes no sense.

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    7. There you go, using logic and reason again.

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    8. Using logic and reason? That's inappropriate in Moranistan.

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    9. It is a form of Moranophobia.

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    10. The war in Iraq cost $805 billion. That is $2,563 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. Worth it?

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    11. This time our money's going to oil contractors and oil market speculators. I like property on Mars better. Makes more sense, somehow.

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    12. I hear they're opening a Fresh and Easy there.

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  7. On a beer at Lucky Baldwins

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  8. "Visionary" is the right word Tattler. Humanity will eventually have to move, given that it survives. Those who are whining about whining, or about the Space Program, ought to sign up to be left behind for the death of the sun. Good winnowing of the species.

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  9. Thanks for bringing us this very positive story, Tattler. Looks like one or two of your readers can find the negative in everything, or maybe their mothers forgot to tell them "if you can't find anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all." Discourse is good, negative thoughts are bad.

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  10. I watched the landing on NASA TV, and found it powerfully moving.
    The whole world is represented in American citizens - there are people on the team of scientists who come from everywhere, and then live their highest aspirations as Americans.
    Good day for all.

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  11. Of course Im negative in everything at 1031 suggests. Im a Tattler blogger and a Sierra Madrean. Would you expect any less? I want my $7 back because I didnt get a vote on that project.

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    1. Of course, Steve. How was your breakfast bowl?

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    2. LOL! ya got my number

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    3. OK Troll @11:03, you need to take a little time off to think a bit more & come up with something better than faux petulance. Maybe a nap?

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  12. I would support spending $70 per american if NASA would strap carol canterbury to the mars rocket.

    One small step for carol, one giant leap for sierra madrekind!

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    1. The rocket's contrail would be rainbow colored, don't you know.

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    2. We havent seen or heard from Carol the town clown since she got blasted here on Tattler for her comments made on RadioFish. I think she's so embarrassed to be seen in public that she's gone incognito.

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    3. Good idea. Its 3 o'clock time for my daily nap! Ill check back later.

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  13. Nill Bye the Science GuyAugust 6, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    Slightly off topic, but not too much. Is it hot today because it is August in Southern California, or is it hot because the world is coming to an end?

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  14. Smogust is the worst month of the year. I am looking forward to fall.

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    1. Wait until they get the 710 tunnel done and all that truck traffic gets dumped here. You'll be able to cut the August air like a Ralph's birthday cake.

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  15. Thank you for highlighting this story of success. It was wonderful to watch and learn from. I am proud to know people from JPL and Cal-Tecb. They need to be our Citizens of the Year.

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  16. OT: Looks like the City of Fullerton is looking into disbanding the PD, and contracting with the O.C. Sheriffs Dept. It's time for new solutions...

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    1. Great article. Very thought provoking.

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  17. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0807-fullerton-police-20120807,0,4478252.story

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