Meanwhile, my space-groopieness is being rewarded handsomely with today's successful landing of the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity. I might have liked it to be called Serenity instead, but Curiosity is more apt, and I'm glad it was a kid who thought it up.
I couldn't manage to stay up last night to hear the breaking news, but the NASA channel provided some information this morning (awkwardly, though, with audio from one end of the conversation and not the other), and as soon as the rover starts broadcasting in earnest, there should be mounds of pictures.
Wikipedia's article (from whence I pinched the opening image) is helpful for the uninitiated, but the faithful will be using the NASA mission website and/or the Jet Propulsion Laboratory pages to keep up. For the young at heart, who might want to play along with Curiosity, I highly recommend installing the Explore Mars software. It explains the mission and will enable us to go along for the ride as Curiosity starts its exploration of Gale Crater.
To celebrate the impending landing last night, we watched the so-so film Red Planet with Val Kilmer and Carrie Anne Moss (not to be confused with the other movie from 2000, Mission to Mars with Tim Robbins, which was also mediocre and a notch up on the silliness scale). I hope Robert Heinlein's estate got a bunch of money for the title, since the plot had nothing at all to do with his 1949 novel. This, along with Wilmar Shiras's Children of the Atom (which may have inspired the X-men stories), was one of the first SF novels I ever read--and it hooked me on the genre for a lifetime, even though I probably got the expurgated version of the Heinlein book (the restored edition is available through Amazon).
I'm a real softie when it comes to space operas in general, and nearby-planet stories in particular, but to the less fervent, there's a whole website devoted to Mars Movies, complete with garish web design. Ever since my father first mentioned to me, in 1957, that there would come a time when the sky would be full of satellites and we'd at least get to the moon, I've been hooked. I follow space missions like a fan girl, and really do hope I'll hang around earth long enough to see folks actually walking around and doing science on Mars.
We're one small step further along the way, thanks to Curiosity, and the crew that got her safely to the Red Planet. Congratulations to the entire outfit, the support facilities, and especially to the person whose own curiosity got this mission started in the first place.
Image credit: This color image from NASA's Curiosity rover shows part of the wall of Gale Crater, the location on Mars where the rover landed on Aug. 5, 2012 PDT (Aug. 6, 2012 EDT). This is part of a larger, high-resolution color mosaic made from images obtained by Curiosity's Mast Camera. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS