Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Curiosity Doesn't Disappoint

Having a landing nicknamed the 7 minutes of terror meant that the NASA Mars Rover known as Curiosity was going to be spectacular. Either a spectacular success, or failure, that is.

Monday, they made it official: it was a success, and a spectacular one at that. Seriously, I dare you to watch this video and not be proud:

BuzzFeed has a number of articles on the topic, especially if you're looking for lots of smiling geeks.

About 2 years ago, Obama announced a new space strategy. It involved continuing the plan by Bush to scrap the shuttle and scrapping the moon project scheduled to come next. It focused instead, on some big fetes like going to Mars and landing on an asteroid. Of course, these massive goals would be quite far off in the future, and our immediate focus would be on unmanned missions.

The whole thing seemed ideal to me: we could keep focusing on science and research, yet save a few dollars by not pursuing projects which we'd either proved out or completed. I think I may have been the only one pleased. When the policy was announced, confusion ensued, and claims ranging from the US giving up space dominance to the administration just plain shutting NASA down were swirling around. Or as candidate Rick Perry put it::

this administration has set a significantly different milestone by shutting down our nation’s legacy of leadership in human spaceflight and exploration, leaving American astronauts with no alternative but to hitchhike into space.

2 years later, this claim is still going strong.

It's because of this confusion, that I think Curiosity is an especially powerful story. It proves out the notion that unmanned space travel can be just as challenging and riveting as the human variety. Who needs another shuttle launch people won't watch, or a trip to the moon that we've done before, when we can be tackling Mars and beyond?

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