Monday, August 06, 2012

6 More Wheels on Mars!

I decided to go to bed rather than wait for Curiosity's planned 1:30 a.m. landing, but without setting any alarm, my wife and I both woke up at about 1:20, and we used the iPad to watch a video feed from the Planetary Society's  Planetfest in Pasadena. We tuned in just after cruise stage separation, and both the Planetfest crowd and the JPL control room teams were already going wild. It was very exciting and emotional, and it all went perfectly, including the almost immediate display of a couple of low-res "hazcam" photos showing that Curiosity was indeed safe and sound. Awesome. I was glad I had watched the Eyes on the Solar System EDL simulation earlier in the evening so I could really picture each event as it was called out. We watched for about 20 minutes then went back to sleep.

This morning I checked the Planetary Society Blog where Emily Lakdawalla reported that there appeared to be a "puff" of something on the horizon in the very first hazcam image that was not there in a later shot after the transparent lens cover was opened. Her thought was that this might have been a dust cloud from the impact of the descent stage, which was programmed to fly off, run out its fuel, and crash far from the landing site. If so, that would be really cool. Imagery from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will probably confirm that and also show us exactly where Curiosity landed.

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