|The big one is Curiosity. Duh.|
I may have used a really liberal definition of the term 'interpret' towards the end there, but I think that's what he was trying to say. He sort of stumbled a bit making the transition from talking about Curiosity to the people who built and run the rover. Happily, Colbert jumped in with a quick summary point that allowed Grunsfeld to make his point simply by agreeing. Regardless, I'm pretty psyched about this. Curiosity will create a huge leap forward in our understanding of the red planet. It will have a Mastcam for large, panoramic shots. It will have a microscope camera for analyzing samples. It will come equipped with multiple spectroscopes, including laser and x-ray induced spectroscopy. Curiosity also comes with a radiation detector, which will help determine viability for human missions. The rover will have an environmental testing station, measuring such things as temperature, wind speed, and air pressure, and a way to test for water ice at or near the surface, plus some other stuff that I didn't dive into. I guess instead of of life support, they loaded this thing down with pure science.
Furthermore, I think that there is a wider, more connected community of space enthusiasts this time around. Back in 1997 the internet wasn't much of a thing, and it certainly didn't offer quite the same social networking capabilities as it does now. Neither did we have the technology to do live webcasts or Youtube or much of anything with video. Now is different. Any one with a camera and some time can create an awesome video. By 2003 we had a lot more capability to connect and create content about our favorite topics, but it was still a far cry from what we have now. To be sure, each rover impacted our society in their own way. For sojourner it was tiny and cute, for Spirit and Opportunity it was a sense of loneliness and epic travel. For both missions it was thousands of amazing pictures. But none of them have had the opportunity to engage the public in the ways that this new mission will.
First off, NASA will be streaming coverage of the event through their website, and their UStream channel. Second, the always capable people over on Google+, including Pamela Gay, Phil Plait, and Fraser Cain will be holding a massive four hour long event. They will no doubt have their own commentary and content prepared, as well as being on hand to answer any questions any one may have. They might have a NASA feed, just because that seems like the sort of awesomeness they are capable of, but if they don't have the feed from NASA, well then I guess I'll just have to open two tabs for the full immersive experience of this Martian landing. And apparently, Maki of Sci-ence.org fame has created a stream of the NASA feed for the World Science Festival. There's also (I only learned through researching this post) a huge space sciences center in Victoria, Australia. They are called, appropriately enough, the Victorian Space Science Education Centre. They also have a Ustream channel, but what exactly they'll have on it I don't know for sure. But they will be the first to receive communications from Curiosity once it's on the surface, using NASA's Deep Space Tracking Network center in Tinbidbilla. So ok, maybe more than just two tads. Also, Tinbidbilla?If you can't wait until Sunday, you could always check out the video above. Or these two, done by Star Trek stars William Shatner and Wil Wheaton! But what if you want to watch this historic moment, live, outdoors, with thousands of random strangers in the middle of the night? Canada seems to be throwing a lot of parties during the landing, and the good folks over at Yuri's Night have a massive list of the various parties taking place across the globe. If you're in the New York, New York area you should head to Times Square, where they'll be broadcasting the event on their Big Screen TV!
|For one brief moment, science will replace advertising|
|Did I mention the laser capable of frying rock from 7 meters? It's a good thing that the machine most likely to achieve sentience and go on a murderous rampage is on another planet.|
While researching this post I came across a number of resources which I did not use directly, but which were of great help in gathering together all the various links I needed.
*How often do you hear the term Shuttle Transport System? Other than technical writing or stuffy bloggers (ahem) it's always, the shuttle.
**Into oblivion, apparently. All that's planned for, and all that is in any of the presentations, is the thing rocketing off to the side a few hundred meters. It's as though a thing disappears from NASA's universe once it is no longer a part of the mission.
***See the first footnote. Also, note to self: Figure out better system re:footnotes