The one-tonne vehicle, known as Curiosity, touched down in a deep crater near the planet’s equator after a plunging through the atmosphere. It is going to look for evidence that Mars could once have supported life.
A signal confirming the rover was on the ground safely was relayed to Earth via Nasa’s Odyssey satellite, which is in orbit around the Red Planet. The success was greeted with a roar of approval here at mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
This is the fourth rover Nasa has put on Mars, but its scale and sophistication dwarf all previous projects. Its biggest instrument alone is nearly four times the mass of the very first robot rover deployed on the planet back in 1997. [not to mention its plutonium battery, giving it a tremendously longer lifespan. -ed.]
I find it truly heartbreaking that there are still parts of the world even today where people are punished with death for striving to seek knowledge outside of the confines of their religion. There are women who have acid thrown in their faces for committing the sin of seeking a secular education. To the clerics and mullahs on the other side of the world – and even some evangelical fanatics in our own country – rational inquiry and skepticism is tantamount to the sin of blasphemy and must be stopped at all costs; in fact, it wasn’t very long ago in our own western culture where this mindset was just as pervasive, and it stifled our advancement for centuries.
Tonight? I just saw a LIVE STREAM of an interplanetary vehicle – designed by humans – navigating its way to a safe landing on another world with the assistance of one we already sent there years before. This latest accomplishment is testament to the centuries-long refusal on the part of countless inquisitive minds to settle for the explanation of the natural world given to us by ancient holy books and instead ask questions and explore the world around us, regardless of what we may find out and to hell with the “eternal” consequences. This is what we’re capable of, and it’s barely the beginning.
Some screenshots I took from NASA’s livestream:
Well done to everyone involved in this herculean effort. May curiosity never die.