Monday, August 5, 2013

Mars Landing at JSC, 1 Year Later

One year ago tonight, I asked my Dad to take me to Space Center Houston to watch the Mars landing. I know, it sounds like a 10 year old kid asking. But the excitement was enough to make you feel like a kid again.

It was a last minute idea. I had not planned on going. The landing was scheduled to happen after midnight. I could have stayed home and watched the coverage on NASA TV. But I wanted to be there, to experience the excitement of the mission with other people.

The landing was labeled "Curiosity's 7 minutes of Terror!". From the top of the Martian atmosphere to its landing zone in Gale Crater, would take 7 minutes. For Curiosity to sent a signal to Earth takes 14 minutes. So by the time we would hear that Curiosity had entered the atmosphere, it would have already landed or crashed. I will let these guys explain it: Scary right?

My Dad and I arrived shortly after 10pm. There was already a good crowd. Admission was free. There were Astronauts signing autographs, games for the kids to play, things to build, plus free access to all the cool space artifacts there. After looking around we decided to take a seat in the cafe area where the main activities were going on. They had two big screens and in between them a podium where Astronauts and scientists were talking about mars science.

 Finally the moment came. Curiosity entered the Martian atmosphere. The 7 minute countdown had begun. On one of the screens the Live Feed from NASA TV was on. The other screen had a simulation graphically showing the landing. As you will see in the video below, we were sitting in front of the screen showing the simulation. The entry proceeded normally. The folks at JPL were reading off the data as it came in. The crowd was mostly silent during the entry, occasionally cheering as some of the major events went by. Then the moment of truth came. The Skycrane was deployed! Some applause broke out when the simulation showed touchdown. But it was running a few seconds ahead of the live data. Finally the words everyone was waiting for "Touchdown Confirmed!". Cheering and clapping broke out in the crowd. On the screen we could see the Curiosity team jumping for joy. Minutes later the first picture was beamed back to Earth.

The next day the Houston Chronicle posted a photo from the event. After carefully scanning all the faces in the crowd, I was able to spot me and my Dad!
Photo Courtesy of the Houston Chronicle

The excitement from that night is still with me. When i watch the video again I feel like I am there all over again. I can't believe its already been 1 year.

Congratulations to the Curiosity team for 1 Year on Mars!

No comments:

Post a Comment