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August 4, 2012 9:11 PM   Subscribe

Coming soon to a red planet near you, it's the Mars Science Laboratory! On Monday, August 6 at 05:31 UTC (other times around the world), NASA's Curiosity rover is expected to land on Mars in search of conditions suited to past or present Martian life. Live coverage begins on NASA TV at 03:30 UTC. But this mission has been years in the making, so if you have a little catching up to do...

Mission History

Despite delays and cost overruns, Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) launched atop an Atlas V rocket on November 26, 2011 from Kennedy Space Center (previously). The 191-foot tall rocket, which provided over two million pounds of thrust during launch, started the 8,463-pound cruise stage on its 350 million mile trip to Mars.

Along the way, the cruise stage completed four pre-planned Trajectory Correction Manuevers to aim the spacecraft at the landing site. As a part of MSL's planetary protection measures (PDF), the spacecraft was launched with an initial trajectory designed to miss Mars by 35,000 miles. The initial trajectory allowed the now-separated upper stage Centaur rocket to avoid crashing into Mars and depositing terrestrial microbes on the planet. For more about planetary protection, you might enjoy reading the free NASA ebook, When Biospheres Collide.

Along the way, the Radiation Assessment Detector was used to collect data on the spacecraft's exposure to high-energy particles in interplanetary space. The data may prove useful for planning missions to Mars with humans onboard.

Getting to Wheels Down

As MSL approaches Mars, the planet's gravity will begin to pull on the spacecraft, increasing its speed to over 13,000 miles per hour. Despite the spacecraft's high speed, it's aiming for an ellipse just 4 miles by 12 miles. The ellipse lies within the 96-mile wide Gale crater. The crater was selected from several possible landing sites based on criteria including landing safety, evidence of past water, and exposed layers of rock.

But getting Curisoity to the Martian surface won't be easy. Dubbed "Seven Minutes of Terror" (previously), the Entry, Descent, and Landing (PDF) (EDL) phase of the mission is a complicated and risky endeavor. In about seven minutes, Curiosity must autonomously: That last step, called the "sky crane maneuver", is perhaps the most daring component of the landing. Because it's so much larger than past rovers, the 1,980-pound rover cannot rely on airbags to cushion the landing the way Pathfinder and the Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) did.

If Curiosity makes it to the surface, the rover will have beat the odds: just 15 of 39 missions to Mars have succeeded. But there might be a long wait to learn whether Curiosity survived, since the landing site will not be in line of sight with Earth. NASA is relying on three spacecraft already orbiting Mars to help Curiosity phone home. NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey, the longest-serving Martian spacecraft, is expected to be in position to act as a "bent pipe" relay between Curiosity and listening stations on Earth. The European Space Agency's Mars Express and NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will also record Curiosity's landing, but the two satellites are unable to relay in real-time as Odyssey can. But even with Odyssey's help, radio transmissions from Mars still take 14 minutes to arrive on Earth, although that's still better than some terrestrial broadcasts.

Exploring Mars

Once the rover is on the Martian surface, it will undergo a series of pre-drive checks to make sure the rover is operating normally, that its communications systems are working, and that it's in a safe position to move. Curiosity is expected to take its first drive about five days after landing. But it won't be going anywhere fast; the rover has a top speed of 1.5 inches per second.

The rover sports an impressive array of scientific instruments, including spectrometers, atmospheric sensors, and yes, a laser gun. The rover is also carrying more than a dozen cameras to take close-ups of Martian rocks and photos of the surface. If you can't wait, there's always archival Mars imagery. The cameras will also be used to track how far Curiosity has traveled, by measuring the distinctive tread pattern on the rover's wheels in a process called visual odometry.

To run all of those instruments requires a lot of power, so Curiosity is equipped with a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG), which generates power from the natural decay of plutonium-238. Curiosity's RTG won't reduce its power output with the accumulation of dust in contrast to previous rovers' solar panels, which is one of the reasons Curiosity is expected to operate for at least one Martian year, or about 23 Earth months.

Additional Coverage

In addition to streaming NASA TV on the Web, many cable and satellite providers carry NASA TV. XBOX 360 owners will be able to watch live on their consoles. Smartphone owners can keep up with the NASA TV app for iOS and NASA App for Android. You can also follow @MarsCuriosity on Twitter and like the rover on Facebook as the robotic space traveler provides a first-person perspective.
posted by ddbeck (139 comments total) 118 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, here we are.
posted by General Tonic at 9:17 PM on August 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is going to be so cool!!!!

I've got the champagne chilling (okay, Martinelli's) and NASA TV bookmarked (along with this thread). Thanks for all the great links, ddbeck, and good luck little robot.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:18 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Superb post.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 9:20 PM on August 4, 2012 [10 favorites]


I am still amazed there isn't an Intrade market for the landing.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:27 PM on August 4, 2012


PING curiosity.nasa.gov 56(84) bytes of data.

64 bytes from curiosity.nasa.gov: icmp_seq=1 ttl=250 time=1680000.4 ms
posted by stbalbach at 9:27 PM on August 4, 2012 [11 favorites]


this video was in the FPP, but there were so many in there I think a lot of people might miss it. It shows the complexity of the landing operation, with some narration by the engineers, plus it actually has some really good editing and music (well, it sounds like they ripped off some of the music from Inception, which I normally complain about but I'll make an exception here)

The opening line great:
"When people look at it, it seems crazy. That's a very natural thing. Sometimes when we look at it, it looks crazy"
Anyway, I have no idea why people don't think unmanned space exploration is boring. I think it's pretty awesome. Sending people into space, IMO, a huge waste of energy. You're not just sending a person - you're sending a substitute environment to keep them alive. Given the fact that there's a huge fuel multiplier just to get things off the earths surface, it seems silly.

The main argument I've heard from people like Neil DeGrass Tyson is that you'll inspire people more by sending people into space, you'll get people excited about being engineers and stuff.

But personally I find this robotics stuff really interesting and inspiring on it's own. I mean there's plenty of drama, these people worked on this for years and now it's got to land itself on Mars all it's own... how is that not a great human achievement? It might not be actual humans, but it's something we made.

Also, there have been great advances made in making robots cute. If the problem is that not enough people have an emotional attachment to the robots we send to other planets, why not just try to make them more anthropomorphic? Could work.
posted by delmoi at 9:32 PM on August 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


I have a bad feeling about the landing. Reading about this, I can't help but think about all the points for failure with the landing. I worry that NASA may have gotten cocky after Opportunity and Spirit. I hope I'm wrong; we'll never hear the end of space being wasteful spending if it fails.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:35 PM on August 4, 2012


If the problem is that not enough people have an emotional attachment to the robots we send to other planets, why not just try to make them more anthropomorphic? Could work.
posted by delmoi at 12:32 AM on August 5


That could easily backfire, too: obligatory xkcd.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 9:41 PM on August 4, 2012


Stunning Images of the Curiosity Rover’s Martian Playground
posted by homunculus at 9:46 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a a great birthday present (assuming it goes as planned) for both Neil Armstrong and myself :)
posted by zeoslap at 9:46 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


stbalbach: "64 bytes from curiosity.nasa.gov: icmp_seq=1 ttl=250 time=1680000.4 ms"

(Okay geeks. Would this actually work? Is there anything that would prevent this from working in practice? I know that TCP/IP isn't ideal for absurdly-high-latency applications, but would the internet backbone actually tolerate a 30-minute ping without killing the connection somewhere along the line? Assume I'm a few hops away from NASA's router.)
posted by schmod at 9:47 PM on August 4, 2012


"Once the rover is on the Martian surface, it will .."

"Once"? "Once"?

IF! IF! *If* the rover reaches the Martian surface, it will undergo etc. etc.

Jeez don't jinx the crazy rocket crane! I'm nervous enough about that thing already.
posted by striatic at 9:48 PM on August 4, 2012


Man, this is so exciting. And thanks for getting this stuck in my head!
posted by audacity at 9:52 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


would the internet backbone actually tolerate a 30-minute ping

It's called Delay-Tolerant Networking (video)
posted by stbalbach at 9:54 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's no need to go to Disney World since you can just look at pictures of the place, and it's much cheaper too.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 9:57 PM on August 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is a a great birthday present (assuming it goes as planned) for both Neil Armstrong and myself :)

I've been in love with all things roving on Mars since July 4, 1997, when Pathfinder landed. It also happened to be my birthday and I don't remember anything about that day except Pathfinder, so I can assure you, it really is a great gift.

It might be an understatement to say I'm very excited about this. Only a little bit nervous. For now.
posted by ddbeck at 10:00 PM on August 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


we should be spending that money on making people cute here on earth
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:03 PM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


After suffering through the Time-Delayed Olympics here on the U.S. Left Coast, it will be so cool to be in the most-populated timezone where the landing will be in Prime Time. I'm going to make up so much popcorn...
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:03 PM on August 4, 2012


how is that not a great human achievement? It might not be actual humans, but it's something we made.

I don't think anyone thinks it's not a great achievement. It's just that it would be much greater if we could get some people out there.

Every single human alive -- with the possible exception of some really boring people in the Rift Valley -- is a descendent of people who got up and went. For millions of years picking up your stuff and moving onto the frontier has been a very successful strategy for getting your genes spread around.

The desire to get out there and found colonies is quite literally bred into our species.

So yeah, robots are cool, but only if they're an advanced landing force so we can get out there and start having babies. The robots are just prelude. We're all still waiting for the main event.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:07 PM on August 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


*If* the rover reaches the Martian surface,

Oh, I'm sure it will reach the surface. The question is how fast will it be going when it gets there.
posted by ceribus peribus at 10:08 PM on August 4, 2012 [16 favorites]


Then let's just go with "If the rover reaches the Martian surface intact" and leave it at that.

Although it could still skip off the atmosphere before entry. Not beyond the realm of possibility.

Mars is hard : [
posted by striatic at 10:12 PM on August 4, 2012


Okay geeks. Would this actually work? Is there anything that would prevent this from working in practice? I know that TCP/IP isn't ideal for absurdly-high-latency applications, but would the internet backbone actually tolerate a 30-minute ping without killing the connection somewhere along the line? Assume I'm a few hops away from NASA's router.

See, the brilliant thing about the internet is that any notion of "connection" is maintained completely the endpoints: Any intervening hops simply look at the destination IP address and route it appropriately.

TCP has some default timeouts on the order of a couple minutes, which would have to be tweaked significantly for a TCP connection to work. On the other hand, a ping would probably work out of the box, so long as the ping utility didn't run into some self-imposed timeout.
posted by jcreigh at 10:29 PM on August 4, 2012


Okay geeks. Would this actually work?

Well, it might work, but why use TCP/IP when you can use DTN?
posted by benito.strauss at 10:36 PM on August 4, 2012


Let us all hope nobody forgot to convert units to metric this time. Oops.
posted by Justinian at 10:51 PM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's 3:30 UCT? 9:30 AM Central Standard if I guessed correctly?
posted by sourwookie at 11:01 PM on August 4, 2012


I think you're 5 hours before UCT, according to this, including daylight savings.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:05 PM on August 4, 2012


(And now I see it's in the very second link.)
posted by benito.strauss at 11:06 PM on August 4, 2012


Got it. Nasa puts it at half past midnight tomorrow here.
posted by sourwookie at 11:08 PM on August 4, 2012


I was in an auditorium in the Space Sciences building at the University of Arizona when Opportunity landed. They were having an open house for the event. There were people in the room that had their life's work hurtling towards Mars at over 10,000 mph, and they weren't going to know for several minutes if the rover was OK. When they got that confirmation signal, the room just exploded in whooping and cheering.

Seeing the worried looks on their faces that night has me nervous for Curiosity's landing. A lot of scientists and engineers aren't going to get much sleep tonight. Let's hope these guys are high-fiving in about 22 hours from now.
posted by azpenguin at 12:04 AM on August 5, 2012


There's no need to go to Disney World since you can just look at pictures of the place, and it's much cheaper too.
I see your point and agree, but I wonder how far we can get by transmitting enough sensory information to reconstruct the experience locally in close-to-full fidelity. Imagine if you could "be" on Mars, albeit with a 3 to 30 minute time delay. That would have the additional advantage of giving the entire population of the earth the potential to "experience" Mars.

This internet watch is a very primitive version of that. And it's obviously going to take many[1] more years of technology improvements, but that would be quite an amusement park ride[1] :-)

[1] understatement
posted by smidgen at 12:10 AM on August 5, 2012


good god this is so much better than politics.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 12:30 AM on August 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'm so anxious about this.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:05 AM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Psssst... guess who gets to go to the official JPL landing event at Caltech...omgomgomg!
posted by sexyrobot at 1:07 AM on August 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


SCIENCE
FUCK YEAH
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:17 AM on August 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Although the Olympics is taking all the limelight, I am still very excited about this. The landing time here in the UK is 6:30 tomorrow morning, which is when my alarm normally goes off. Maybe, just maybe, I'll have to set the alarm earlier and turn NASA TV on. I'm not sure I'll be able to cope with the pressure, though.
posted by milkb0at at 1:46 AM on August 5, 2012


When will Curiosity land in Mars time?
posted by fairmettle at 3:14 AM on August 5, 2012


Hope someone updates the Mars scorecard! Time for humanity to tie things up again, after that Fobos-Grunt own-goal.
posted by vasi at 4:50 AM on August 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you're in NYC and looking for a place to watch the landing, how about Times Square on the giant TV that is below the New Year's Eve ball?
posted by autopilot at 5:33 AM on August 5, 2012


But personally I find this robotics stuff really interesting and inspiring on it's own. I mean there's plenty of drama, these people worked on this for years and now it's got to land itself on Mars all it's own... how is that not a great human achievement? It might not be actual humans, but it's something we made.

Most people aren't engineers or geeks, so they simply aren't impressed by sending things to Mars, no matter how complex the process. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited by this event, myself, but I can easily understand why most of the population isn't...If they're even aware it's happening.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:37 AM on August 5, 2012


Once the rover is in the crater, can it get out?
posted by JohnR at 5:39 AM on August 5, 2012


Great post! Thanks. I was checking spacecraft status as of last night, now that we're in the home stretch. God damn I hope this thing lands safely. And although I am a fervid manned-spaceflight proponent, it's a no-brainer to back missions like this. Anything that increases our understanding of the universe is a net win for us as a species, especially because it looks as though we will be restricted to our solar system for the foreseeable future. FTL doesn't look like panning out, and you can forget generation ships. That leaves us the problems of visiting (and possibly colonizing) Mars and (perhaps) Venus and maybe even terraforming Venus, down the pike. So it isn't as if we haven't got plenty of challenges here in Sol system.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:13 AM on August 5, 2012


I realize that the music and the movie contribute heavily to this feeling, but wow, if this actually works, we're officially in the science fiction future. Automated drones deploying from orbit? That's the kind of stuff we've had in stories for umpty-ump years, yet this is the first time it might actually work.

The thought also occurs that this is really pretty nuts -- a $2.5 billion mission, at which there's only one attempt, and which hasn't been tested. I can't even imagine spending that kind of money without being able to test what I'm building.

If they succeed at doing this, they should be feted as some of the best engineers humanity has ever produced. I know most people will barely notice, but pulling off this kind of complexity on the first attempt would be one of the greatest accomplishments by any team of humans, in all of recorded history.

Even if it doesn't work, by god, what a glorious attempt.
posted by Malor at 6:14 AM on August 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


I mean, this is right up there with the Apollo program. Apollo had more visible impact, but this team is working on a tiny budget in comparison, are doing a landing that's far more complex than a simple airless Moon touchdown, and they don't have a human in the loop to fix things if they go amiss. All they have is a whole bunch of hardware that's never been actually proven to do what they think it will do, and as much intelligence as they can figure out how to pack into program code to deal with problems.

If that's not the most technically difficult thing we've ever done, as humans, surely it must be in the top ten. Compared with imaginary things like landing people on Mars, it's kind of pedestrian, but compared with real things that have actually been accomplished, I think very few could compare.
posted by Malor at 6:43 AM on August 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of the JPL links says: The rover has a top speed on flat hard ground of 4 centimeters per second (a little over 1.5 inches per second).

One inch is exactly 2.54 cm, so 4 cm is 4/2.54 inches, which comes out to 1.57 when rounded to three significant digits, or 1.6 with two. What is the point of using this misleading phrase "a little over 1.5" instead of just saying the correctly rounded amount? I know it's pedantic, but we're talking about science here.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:58 AM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


"this actually works, we're officially in the science fiction future"

On a small handheld device I'm typing words which can be instantly read around the world and on an international space station while I'm also watching on a large screen a tennis match taking place across an ocean and half a continent from me.

As far as I'm concerned I'm already in a sci fi story.

Very excited for tonight. I have to wait years more for the Juno craft I saw launch a year ago today to reach its destination. Space is very big and difficult.
posted by NorthernLite at 7:01 AM on August 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


What is the point of using this misleading phrase "a little over 1.5" instead of just saying the correctly rounded amount?

Because everyone in the US has some kind of mental picture of what an inch-and-a-half looks like. Saying that it can move "a little over" that amount per second makes complete sense to people who aren't interested in hard science numbers but who want to have a passing understanding of what is being talked about.

The hard science number types will do what you did and find the real number based on other information. There's nothing misleading about saying what they said, because it's entirely true. It is a little over that amount, by 7/100th of an inch.
posted by hippybear at 7:03 AM on August 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


They could also have said the rover moves not quite 8 feet a minute, or about 1/11 MPH.
posted by hippybear at 7:07 AM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


For those who are worried and think this crazy, here are several things to consider:

This is a photo of three generations of Mars rovers, to scale. See how they're progressively getting bigger and more ambitious? We've daring to do might things for years and calculated steps to get better at it.

Or rather, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has. The JPL is the place to be if you have any interest in working with probes that will be exploring our world, solar system or universe. They're currently operating over 30 probes in various places in and at the edge of our solar system.

The JPL is staffed by some of the most brilliant people on the planet. They've been designing, constructing and operating unmanned spacecraft for decades. The JPL operated Mariner 4, the first spacecraft to provide close up views of another planet and Mariner 9, the first successful Mars orbiter and the Vikings, the first Mars landers. They've already been through Six Minutes of Terror with Spirit and Opportunity. Every successful Mars lander has had the JPL's project management hands on it, most of them have been run by the JPL.

Curiosity is going to be an amazing success.

Still worried? Then come meet some of the people involved in building and running Curiosity: This is the staff that will be running the show at JPL's Mission Support Area, where all the action will be taking place later tonight.

The Building Curiosity video series went over various aspects of building the rover. Each short episode (about 2 minutes each), introduced a JPL engineer:

Dave Gruel, Manager, Assembly, Testing & Launch Ops, talks about attaching the Hot New Rover Wheels.

Ben Thoma, Mechanical Lead for Assembly, Test and Launch Operations, discusses attaching the robotic arm.

Peter Illsley, Rover Integration Lead: Assembly, Test & Launch Ops, reviews how the team teach Curiosity’s arm Hand-Eye Coordination.

Randy Stark, Mechanical Engineering Activities Lead, does the Rover Shakedown, which ensure the rover will survive the shaking of launch and reentry.

Savannah McCoy, DTM Rover Verification and Validation Lead, does the Landing System Drop Test.

Anthony Ganino, Vehicle Integration Lead, reviews the Mars Rover’s Shake and Bake test, which puts the vehicle in Mars like conditions.

Nathaniel Thompson and Dan Coatta, Curiosity Mass Properties Engineers, talk about ensuring the rover will have a proper spin while flying through space.

Ben Thoma talks about moving Curiousity from California to Florida, where it was launched.

Ashwin Vasavad, Deputy Project Scientist, goes over the rover’s power system.

Last, but definitely fucking coolest, meet Scott Maxwell. He'll be driving the Rover on Mars!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:13 AM on August 5, 2012 [20 favorites]


Randy Stark

(stifles immature snort)
posted by The Whelk at 7:37 AM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hope it works - good luck nasa people!
posted by H. Roark at 7:57 AM on August 5, 2012


Remember to break out the peanuts an hour before landing.

Science!
posted by mazola at 8:22 AM on August 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's ok if it crashes, as long as it hits a tree.

... Or a Martian's house...
posted by BeeDo at 8:25 AM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


As long as it doesn't land on and kill a cat. That would be cliché.
posted by hippybear at 8:51 AM on August 5, 2012


I'm excited for this too, and in San Francisco a 10:30pm landing is a perfect alternative to watching the Olympics. Unfortunately Comcast in SF does not carry NASA TV, so I guess it'll be video streaming for me.

Remember back when the major broadcast networks would show space events live?
posted by Nelson at 8:52 AM on August 5, 2012


I'm so excited about this, I might just turn on NASA TV right now and see what they're doing to build up to the landing.
posted by hippybear at 8:53 AM on August 5, 2012


Also, don't forget about my buddy (and sometimes MeFi lurker), Steve Collins, who's in charge of attitude control...he's been controlling the ship since soon after launch and riiiighht up to the instant where they switch over to EDL. After 9 months and 350 million miles, he's gotten it there within 30 seconds of its intended approach...that's crazy accurate! He probably won't see this for a few days, as he's pretty much been glued to a computer for a few weeks now, but let's give him a round of applause anyway...THANKS, STEVE!
posted by sexyrobot at 8:53 AM on August 5, 2012 [21 favorites]


GO STEVE
posted by The Whelk at 8:55 AM on August 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Apparently, if you have questions about the mission, you can tweet to @marscuriousity hashtag #asknasa, and they will try to answer as many of them as they can.
posted by hippybear at 9:00 AM on August 5, 2012


I might just turn on NASA TV right now and see what they're doing to build up to the landing.

They're running random video of all sorts, the cumulative effect of which might be a fully holographic understanding of what NASA has done in prep for this and issues associated with the project. So far, just a few minutes in, it's all a bit scattershot... but I might just leave this on all day.

(What else better is there to watch? I ASK YOU!?!?)
posted by hippybear at 9:13 AM on August 5, 2012


Imagine if, say, two hundred years ago, an alien species landed something like Curiosity in the middle of downtown Chicago. Sky crane, laser gun and all.
posted by Freen at 9:24 AM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I reckon we woulda just shot the damn thing, before the injuns or the brits got a holds of it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:31 AM on August 5, 2012


Imagine if, say, two hundred years ago, an alien species landed something like Curiosity in the middle of downtown Chicago.

You might be shocked to see what Chicago looked like in 1812.
posted by hippybear at 9:38 AM on August 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Is there an alternative site to NASA TV should it have feed problems?
posted by stbalbach at 9:50 AM on August 5, 2012


Psssst... guess who gets to go to the official JPL landing event at Caltech ... omgomgomg!
posted by sexyrobot


Okay, I can happily accept that we can't yet send people to Mars, and so we have to send a robot. But you're telling me we can't even send a human to Pasadena yet??
posted by benito.strauss at 9:51 AM on August 5, 2012


Is there an alternative site to NASA TV should it have feed problems?

DISH Network carries NASA TV as a channel. Perhaps your television service (provided you have one) does also.
posted by hippybear at 9:53 AM on August 5, 2012


What is the point of using this misleading phrase "a little over 1.5" instead of just saying the correctly rounded amount?

It's for the physicists. (Don't forget the votey. Zack Weiner is the artist of the shrug.)
posted by benito.strauss at 9:59 AM on August 5, 2012


Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.
posted by vibrotronica at 10:13 AM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The robots are just prelude. We're all still waiting for the main event.

You're missing it; it's happening now. (Though this is a pretty silly argument for us to have, especially right now. I'm just sorry if your excitement is tinged with regret, unlike mine. I might have an excessive case of mechanophilia; I used to apologize to my car's engine when I down-shifted too early.)

Most people aren't engineers or geeks, so they simply aren't impressed by sending things to Mars, no matter how complex the process.

But even non-nerds can identify with machines. Zooey Deschanel seems to have a strong relationship with Siri. I'd be curious to see if NASA took delmoi's suggestions further down the road. Include in the next project a component that would let the non-nerdish identify more with the project.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:14 AM on August 5, 2012


If science acts too commercial, 'selling' the product in that way, then it will be hard to argue against conservatives who are claiming that it's all bullshit to get money from the rubes.

When it actually BECOMES bullshit to get money from the rubes, well, then it's tough to claim that it isn't. And I have trouble believing that the science wouldn't be compromised.
posted by Malor at 10:23 AM on August 5, 2012


I might have an excessive case of mechanophilia; I used to apologize to my car's engine when I down-shifted too early.

I nearly always reflexively thank my car for emitting a loud beeping noise to remind me to turn off the lights if I get out of the car with them on.
posted by hippybear at 10:51 AM on August 5, 2012


Here's an article listing a bunch of viewing options. I'm sure many have already been covered in this thread, but I'm excited about the two NASAJPL USTREAMs they mention:
On UStream, the NASAJPL stream will include landing-day commentary from those involved in the Curiosity project. Before the official landing program begins, NASA will provide a status update from 9:30 - 10:30 a.m. Pacific, followed by a preview of the Mars landing from 3-4 p.m. and landing coverage that starts at 8:30 p.m. The HD NASAJPL2 stream will be restricted to Mission Control transmissions.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:03 AM on August 5, 2012


What is the point of using this misleading phrase "a little over 1.5" instead of just saying the correctly rounded amount?

I obviously can't speak to what's going on in this example, but if "4 centimeters per second" means "4 m/s" instead of "4.000 m/s", saying "about 1.6 inches" communicates a false level of precision.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:10 AM on August 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


But even non-nerds can identify with machines. Zooey Deschanel seems to have a strong relationship with Siri. I'd be curious to see if NASA took delmoi's suggestions further down the road. Include in the next project a component that would let the non-nerdish identify more with the project.

Well, the name Curiosity was chosen from a contest, so there's that.

But ultimately, you're proposing solutions to an unsolvable problem, getting people interested in the mundane issues of progress. The public doesn't care about these things and nor should it have and pandering to that demographic is harmful to progress itself. Hell, Apollo had real live breathing humans for people to fawn over and the general populace shrugged its collective shoulders and said " Ok, that's cool, but you're spending an awful lot of money just to go collect some rocks. Stop that!"

I'd love for Curiosity to have a HDR video camera transmitting a live stream 25/7 that is broadcast 24/7 on a NASA website. But that would take up space and power better used for science and how exciting would such a camera be for the general public? Seriously, Mars tends to look like Earth, but redder, aka boring to the general public.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:16 AM on August 5, 2012


What is the point of using this misleading phrase "a little over 1.5"

What's misleading about that? 4 centimetres is a little over 1.5 inches. Anyway, you quoted 4, not 4.0 or 4.00 or "exactly 4", 4. Given that vagueness, a little over 1.5 inches is as much precision as anyone, pedantic or otherwise, needs.
posted by epo at 11:36 AM on August 5, 2012


Darn, not sure that I can make it to 1:30AM EDT. Not sure I could deal with the suspense anyway; the whole heat shield -> parachute -> retro-rockets -> space crane sequence seems so complicated.

Awesome post by the way.
posted by octothorpe at 11:44 AM on August 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


And I seem to have watched the entire cycle of what NASA TV is offering at the moment. I'll tune in again later today.
posted by hippybear at 12:13 PM on August 5, 2012


Was most impressed to find out from one of the programmers involved that the comm system is indeed pretty active - apparently they don't commit the final lander code until shortly before the the flight's end!
posted by syscom at 12:55 PM on August 5, 2012


For those interested: Planetfest 2012 (currently going on at the Pasadena Convention Center) is streaming live right now on the internet. Here is today's schedule. Great stuff coming up.
posted by Davenhill at 3:28 PM on August 5, 2012


Oh, I don't know how I missed this. Eyes on the Solar System will let you watch a 3D model of the landing in your browser. You can click the landing preview button to see the full landing sequence in advance. Unlike some of the videos available, you can swing the camera around freely and get a sense of the real time pacing of the landing.

Just seven hours to go.
posted by ddbeck at 3:31 PM on August 5, 2012


There's no need to go to Disney World since you can just look at pictures of the place, and it's much cheaper too.
I'm not particularly interested in going to Disney world either.

But the difference here is that you won't be the one going. Someone else will. They'll take pictures and video, but so what?

The proper analogy would be sending someone else to Disney world so you can tell them what to look at and what rides to go on so you can watch a live stream of it? Would that really be better than watching all the videos already on youtube?

Of course it's not a perfect analogy, since there are lots of people at Disney World already. With mars, you also want to do, you know, science, and I would rather send scientific equipment then people, since ( unlike Disney world) there is a huge cost per kilogram and (again, unlike Disney world) it's not just the weight of the person, but also all the equipment you need to keep them alive.
Most people aren't engineers or geeks, so they simply aren't impressed by sending things to Mars, no matter how complex the process.
But the thing is - why assume that non-geeks have any interest in sending people to other planets in the first place? That might have been true in the 1960s, because humans had never left the planet before. But these days people already know what's there -- thanks to all the rovers.
If science acts too commercial, 'selling' the product in that way, then it will be hard to argue against conservatives who are claiming that it's all bullshit to get money from the rubes.
Oh yes lets temper our ambitions on the basis of what a bunch of backward rubes who think global warming is fake and Obama is a Kenyan Socialist Homo-Muslim think.
But that would take up space and power better used for science and how exciting would such a camera be for the general public?
They have a couple of 3D Cameras on the thing. So we should be able to get some good footage.
posted by delmoi at 3:31 PM on August 5, 2012


Damnit I know considering going to times fucking square at ine in the fucking morning to watch this on the big tobisha screen cause I want pretend I'm in Blade Runner.
posted by The Whelk at 3:43 PM on August 5, 2012


Whelk: you should probably sober up a bit if you're going to go down there.
posted by hippybear at 3:47 PM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


But what if I'm high on SPACE STUFF?
posted by The Whelk at 3:49 PM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whatever you're high on, it's fucking with your grammar and such big time.

Seems like fun. Send me some?
posted by hippybear at 3:50 PM on August 5, 2012


It's called virtual keyboards are crap at keeping up with people who can type like the wind.
posted by The Whelk at 3:52 PM on August 5, 2012


I know so many people at Caltech who've worked incredibly hard to get ready for this. The GPS viewing party is going to turn into a wake if things don't go as planned. The worst of it is that if the expected success signal doesn't arrive then the process of figuring out what went wrong and the severity of the failure could take much, much longer.
posted by jlh at 3:55 PM on August 5, 2012


It's called virtual keyboards are crap at keeping up with people who can type like the wind.

When I took typing classes years ago (actually longer ago than you've been alive)... we were taught that proofreading is an essential skill for any typist. :)

/derail
posted by hippybear at 3:58 PM on August 5, 2012


10 Miles to Mars
posted by stbalbach at 4:30 PM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Woooo! It's Nerd Super Bowl! I went out and bought junk food and coffee, and I got all my feeds tabbed and bookmarked. Pre-game show! Hell, yeah!
posted by steef at 4:55 PM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]



Damnit I know considering going to times fucking square at ine in the fucking morning to watch this on the big tobisha screen cause I want pretend I'm in Blade Runner.


This would be a total nobrainer if I lived in New York.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:00 PM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm with you there, Brandon. A bunch of science geeks attending a mass watching of which may be one of the coolest science things in the past decade? I'd totally be there.
posted by hippybear at 5:13 PM on August 5, 2012


it looks like it might rain but I have a LIGHT UP BLADE RUNNER UMBRELLA SO WE'RE DOING THIS
posted by The Whelk at 5:26 PM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


He's...seen things...a wino barfing on the corner of 44th and Broadway. Drag queens glittering in the dark, near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time...like the head on a beer...Time to pass out.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:32 PM on August 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Whelk: if you're going, we all demand a ustream live video feed from the event.
posted by hippybear at 5:33 PM on August 5, 2012


My phone doesn't stream! But photos, I will try for photos.
posted by The Whelk at 5:36 PM on August 5, 2012


You'll want to be there when curosity is eaten by a sand worm.
posted by The Whelk at 5:36 PM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


No need Whelk, just enjoy yourself offline!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:37 PM on August 5, 2012


What's that?
posted by The Whelk at 5:39 PM on August 5, 2012


Where the rum is stored.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:57 PM on August 5, 2012


Can people get the Planetfest livestream to work?

https://new.livestream.com/planetarysociety/planetfest

It stalls at "Initializing" for me, and that's in Chrome, my browser that I let everything run in.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:35 PM on August 5, 2012


It's loaded for me right now.
posted by hippybear at 6:39 PM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Using Safari 5.1.7 on Snow Leopard on an iMac)
posted by hippybear at 6:40 PM on August 5, 2012


Radiolab will be hosting a Google hangout, starting at around 11:30pm EST.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:42 PM on August 5, 2012


Waiting in line at the Caltech theater...so many people here...its very exciting! :D. Got an update...they got into that approach window with only four(!) Correction maneuvers during the whole flight...that's like hitting a golf ball in new York and having it land in a particular seat at dodger stadium...wow.
posted by sexyrobot at 6:58 PM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dear god I want it to happen right now, I have actual knots in my gut.
posted by The Whelk at 7:03 PM on August 5, 2012


The Planetfest spice is flowing for me now. Must have been a temporary glitch.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:04 PM on August 5, 2012


Baah, T-3 hours and I'm falling asleep. Why didn't NASA plan the time of this landing to be more convenient to me?
posted by octothorpe at 7:20 PM on August 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Welcome!
posted by sexyrobot at 7:28 PM on August 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


shitty_watercolour, for those of you familiar with Reddit, is doing a series of paintings for the landing, revealing one per each hour remaining. Even if you're not familiar with this popular Reddit user, the paintings aren't bad at all. Would make a lovely children's book.
posted by honestcoyote at 7:56 PM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Have you people read about the various scenarios for us hearing back from curiosity? It could be doing find on the Martian surface, and, if the relay satellites misbehave, it might be three days before we find out. Gaaaaaghgghghghg.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:18 PM on August 5, 2012


BOOT AND RALLY - Crown Plaza Hotel Bar 12:30, Meet me, meet MARS, lets DO THIS
posted by The Whelk at 8:22 PM on August 5, 2012


< a href=" http://imgur.com/DBkOz"> family portrait
posted by sexyrobot at 8:33 PM on August 5, 2012


On my way down pic.twitter.com/mVQ5wdq2
posted by The Whelk at 8:56 PM on August 5, 2012


The livestream from the Planetary Society is one big happy party, and I'm joyous to be watching it.
posted by hippybear at 9:01 PM on August 5, 2012


I bet it lands on a cat.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:01 PM on August 5, 2012


That would be cliché.
posted by hippybear at 9:07 PM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another hangout from Universe Today, with such interesting personalities as Phil Plait, Mike Brown, Miles O'Brien, and Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society, among many others.
posted by teraflop at 9:59 PM on August 5, 2012


Every time they talk about the traditional peanuts, I hear something else. Bad audio on the nasaTV stream, I guess.

And what about those JPLers with peanut allergies!!? What an arbitrary barrier to employment.
posted by pjenks at 10:04 PM on August 5, 2012


Hey folks, eveeryone seems to be over in this thread.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:07 PM on August 5, 2012


ooh thanks benito!
posted by pjenks at 10:09 PM on August 5, 2012


Is there an app or website that shows live telemetry info (speed, altitude etc)?
posted by stbalbach at 10:13 PM on August 5, 2012


The crowd grows all systems nominal pic.twitter.com/mPSiFWLj
posted by The Whelk at 10:17 PM on August 5, 2012


Touchdown confirmed pic.twitter.com/O41Q6BCM
posted by The Whelk at 10:39 PM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Times square 2012 mars landing pic.twitter.com/yfzHKnli
posted by The Whelk at 10:53 PM on August 5, 2012


NASA SWAG pic.twitter.com/yRAGVGK7
posted by The Whelk at 10:59 PM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hello, world
posted by anigbrowl at 11:07 PM on August 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why aren't there more people here being excited?

WE PUT ANOTHER ROBOT ON MARS.
posted by andoatnp at 11:32 PM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The excited peopel are here.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:34 PM on August 5, 2012


HOLY SHIT THAT WAS AWESOME
posted by w00bliette at 11:49 PM on August 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


What compression and filetype was the first image sent as?

?!?
posted by mazola at 11:56 PM on August 5, 2012


What compression and filetype was the first image sent as?

That was just asked at the press conference and the managers didn't know. Obviously, someone does, but that info hadn't been funneled to the spokes peeps.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:07 AM on August 6, 2012


Everything is Space and nothing hurts.
posted by The Whelk at 12:26 AM on August 6, 2012


My guess it's either raw (more scientific!) or perhaps some exotic compression algorithm, like JPEG2000. But raw makes the most sense, since there wouldn't be any ambiguity.
posted by delmoi at 12:36 AM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why aren't there more people here being excited?

Alas, I was asleep. But I am here now and very excited! Chalk up another win for science!
posted by jedicus at 8:07 AM on August 6, 2012


They may compress it, depending on the bandwidth vs. processing power situations they face at each relay point. But a lossy compression? No way. It looks like JPEG2000 provides both lossless and lossy modes.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:08 AM on August 6, 2012


Everyone was over here being excited. But I see nothing wrong with being excited ALL OVER THE PLACE.
posted by audacity at 8:30 AM on August 6, 2012


Just for completeness' sake, I was wrong about the compression of the images. At one of the press conferences they were talking about JPG artifacts showing up around dust particles on the lens shields, and indicated that they were doing the JPG compression on the lander itself.

So "artifacts" = "lossy", and they've got plenty enough CPU cycles on the lander to do the compression there. Heck, I think of JPGs as a device for sending cat pictures over the Internet, but it might have been invented by someone at a place like JPL for just these situations.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:36 PM on August 8, 2012


Still, I doubt they would use 'normal' JPG, as you can get much better quality with newer codecs, I think.
posted by delmoi at 10:08 PM on August 12, 2012


BoingBoing posted a follow-up on the image format question. It seems to imply that Curiosity uses the same ICER almost-but-not-quite-JPEG format as the previous rovers.
posted by vasi at 4:48 AM on August 13, 2012


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