August 6th, 2012


Attack Mars!

Pardon the more personal note in this, but it's partly personal, partly an acheivement of humanity.

Tonight, humanity sent a mobile semiautonomous science lab the size of a minivan but more resembling a spider on wheels down to the surface of Mars. The descent was challenging, the probe being too heavy to use prior methods of landing, so it happened in a number of delicate stages, from the initial atmosphere-aided descent (not helped enough because Mars's atmosphere is thin) to parachutes to rockets to lowering the probe to the surface on a line followed by the rockets flying off. They wern't sure the logistics would work out, but the rover took a few photos of the surface before the sat it was relaying through passed the horizon. Curiosity should be travelling the surface of Mars for about 20 years before its power source fails, looking for signs of past life, among other things.

NASA seems to have finally (partly) figured out PR. Actually, they may have done so since I last looked (some time back); their website is now pretty slick, they have a netradio station, and there was plenty of human-friendly visualisation for this event. A fair number of people showed up; not as many as I would like (IMO, this stuff is more important than any sporting event ever), but enough to validate the existence of NYC ^_^

The screen that was used was a bit high up, and not everyone got that they should use their cellphone to listen to their netradio to get the audio for the event, but eventually word spread through the crowd. As my phone battery started to die, I popped out my laptop, managed to hop on ABCNews's network, and managed to stream the (2-3 minutes lagged behind the big screen) video (and audio, to delight of the less-phone-endowed folk) for everyone nearby to see. Everyone cheered with the engineers when they got a sure sign the landing went well. A few people broke into chants of "USA!" (weird mixed feelings about that), but overall things were grand.

More than a few newsfolk took my photo (some of them took my name in case the photo was used), so if you see my name or face in a photo anywhere, let me know.