Curiosity Lands

From From The Outside Looking In, written by a member of the JPL MSL team.

7 minutes, 0 seconds.

Atmospheric entry. The donut-shaped Cruise stage caused a couple brief blackouts in the radio signal as it passed in between the descent stage’s low-gain antenna and Earth. She’ll burn up in the atmosphere. She was good to us.

I’m shaking.

0 minutes, 5 seconds.

Tango-delta nominal. Bridle cut. GNC done. Pyro fire. Closed-loop flyaway controller active.

It’s dead in here.

0 seconds.

We’re on the surface of Mars. “Flight, spacecraft mode is SURFACE-NOMINAL”

MAYHEM.

I believe. That just happened. It really just actually happened.

While people are debating whether or not you’re a bigot based on your desire to consume a chicken sandwich, we got busy landing a robot on Mars.

I believe. That just happened. It really just actually happened.

While people are going through places of entertainment or worship and opening fire with semi-automatic weapons, we got busy celebrating a multi-country achievement dedicated to all of humanity.

I believe. That just happened. It really just actually happened.

While people were complaining about $2.5 billion dollars wasted on thinking metal, we got busy looking at pictures of actual wheels of an actual car on an actual other planet.

Yup. There are those pictures, but on the big screen in the CMSA. It hit me like a concrete wall: I believe. I see it, and I believe it. It’s there.

And now I can also believe with an intense satisfaction that what I — we — did and still do with MER is real, too. It may have taken an overpowering experience of seeing a real achievement happen in real time to get me to believe this, but at least something did it. They say that you’ll always remember the day you got married, the day your kid was born, and your first Mars landing. I’m not married, I don’t have kids, but I now have a Mars landing under my belt. One day later, the nerves still aren’t gone. I will sure as hell remember this day.

Those pictures we look at every day — and boy, do I still peruse the MER pictures every day — are real. The dust-covered, low-resolution images from MSL’s landing make this all the more apparent. Those images are really not even on this planet. That’s really a car with wheels and solar panels and a crippled arm. It’s real.

Now, I must keep calm, and I must carry on exploring.

We have a new robot that’s also doing real things, for real, on another real planet. A real robot with a real older cousin with 3000 real sols under its belt, with no desire or need or, might I say, ability to quit on its own.

Here’s to us. Here’s to the people that believe in us.

Beautifully put. I wanted to write something about the landing, but this was far more eloquent. I recommend reading the whole article.


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