The Curiosity Landing

On August 6th 2012, a Monday, I woke up at half past four in the morning so that I could watch the livestream of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover landing. The Curiosity landing was special because it was the first time they were using their skycrane delivery mechanism. This video describes the whole process of landing Curiosity on Mars:

The nail-biter though was that all the information they were receiving was seven minutes old because of the distances involved, and the descent would take less than that time. So there was a cut-off point where they couldn’t help the lander any more; every step of the landing process had to be handled by the automatic systems on the landing module because they wouldn’t get the information back in time to be able to help. When they started receiving the data back about the landing, the rover had already either successfully landed, or exploded in a shower of failure and crushed dreams. The tension grew and grew as they got more data back, and when they found that everything had gone according to plan, the NASA team jumped up cheering and I nearly did the same at home. Then they received the first images back from the lander, a pair of 256×256 black and white pictures of the ground, and it was just amazing. Seeing the fruit of their years of labour must have been absolutely amazing, and watching from my computer with a mug of coffee before work, I felt incredibly proud of what humans can achieve through cooperation and science.