Mars or Bust! Curiosity Lifts Off This Pale Blue Dot Bound for the Red Planet


The Mars Science Laboratory, aka Curiosity, successfully launched this morning at 10:02am EST. The MSL is a nuclear powered exploratory robot outfitted with loads of experiments and investigative tools. I am looking forward to Curiosity’s arrival on the red planet and its findings.

It’s too bad that I am not teaching Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy right now, because there is so much going on right now that would be interesting to include in class discussions. Besides the Mars Science Laboratory, you can find out about all of NASA’s Mars missions here.

If you missed the launch live, you can watch it in the video above provided by NASA TV on Youtube.


Mars Science Laboratory, T Minus 19 Hours and Counting Until Launch

The launch clock on NASA’s and JPL’s Mars Science Laboratory (aka: Curiosity) website is progressing toward a launch tomorrow. Hopefully, the weather holds out and the launch is successfully on-time as planned at 10:02AM EST. You can watch the launch tomorrow here (there are other videos and information about Curiosity on this website, too).

Detecting Radiation on the Surface of Another Planet for the First Time, Curiosity on Mars 2012

Over the Thanksgiving holiday 2011, NASA will launch the new Mars exploration robot Curiosity for an expected arrival on the the red planet in 2012.

One of the missions for Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity is to measure the radiation on the surface of Mars for the duration of its operational life.

Donald M. Hassler, Ph. D., Science Program Director of Southwest Research Institute and his team, have developed the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) for Curiosity to accomplish this part of the mission. Dr. Hassler explains what the RAD is and what he hopes it will accomplish in the video linked above.

You might recognize Dr. Hassler’s name, because he is the son of Mack Hassler, my dissertation director. Mack tells me that he will have the opportunity to watch Curiosity’s launch firsthand!

This is an exciting time for humanity’s exploration of Mars. I remember being at Georgia Tech and listening to two NASA representatives explain Pathfinder to the astronomy club. After Pathfinder’s groundbreaking robotic work on our neighboring planet, we have seen much success with its’ older and more advanced siblings, Spirit and Opportunity. Now, Curiosity will, we all hope, exceed the amazing work that our planetary explorers have already accomplished.

Godspeed, Curiosity.

Summer Head Cold, Thinking About Missed Shuttle Launches

Y’s head cold, which she is still suffering from, has dispatched a rearguard to attack my ill-equipped bodily defenses. Thus, I now have a cold, too.

There isn’t much to do for a cold other than keeping one’s self comfortable and well fed with chicken soup. However, I do particularly enjoy reading uplifting things I am ill, because there is unequivocally something good about enriching the soul when the body is weak and perhaps through a sleight of hand the soul can trick the body into wellness again.

Something that I read today that I think you should read, too, is this short reflection on BoingBoing by Sawyer Rosenstein about his life and his recent visit to see the Space Shuttle Atlantis embark on its final flight into outer space.

I never made a point to see a space shuttle launch, and I suppose I never will have the chance to do so now since the whole program has been mothballed. I have taught my students about space travel, and I a voracious follower of updates to NASA’s websites. Yet, I didn’t make the time to hop into a car and trek down to Cape Canaveral for a launch. So it goes.

I am afraid that missing a shuttle launch will be a lingering regret of mine, but reading about others’ experiences and living vicariously through them is a rewarding endeavor, especially when you’re sick.