Avid space geeks everywhere cheered and breathed a collective sigh of relief when news arrived that the NASA Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover, a roughly $2.5 billion investment in space exploration, had landed safely on the surface of the Red Planet.
Enthusiasts the world over had waited with bated breath for 14 minutes to receive confirmation of the one-ton robot’s successful landing. Fourteen minutes felt like an eternity—until, of course, the more seasoned (read: older) geeks stopped to reflect on missions of the past. Not long ago, the public learned about a space mission upon watching an interview with the astronauts following their return to Earth. With today’s technology, we’re no longer kept guessing. With this MSL Curiosity mission, this geek could worry, cheer, and celebrate along with NASA JPL scientists; in fact, NASA invited and hosted 25 social media followers to a three-day event centered around the Mars landing in the beginning of August.
This geek applauds NASA professionals on embracing and taking full advantage of social media, video, simulation and visualization, and Internet technologies.
In case you missed it, here’s what unfolded during Curiosity’s white knuckled entry, descent, and landing (EDL):
#MSL: @MarsCuriosity is now flying autonomously and is on it’s own closing in on Mars. There are no more commands from Earth.
#MSL lands at 05:31 UTC on Aug 6. It’s 10:31p PDT Aug 5 at mission control @NASAJPL Find your time: http://go.nasa.gov/curiositytimes
#MSL: @MarsCuriosity has transitioned to EDL main — which means that that we move to the next series of commands progressing toward landing
#MSL: The first signals from @MarsCuriosity will be obtained here on Earth from @CanberraDSN.
#MSL: Pass the Peanuts! They’re an @NASAJPL good-luck tradition for missions since Ranger 7 in 1964. Everyone’s eating peanuts, right? #MSL
#MSL: Mars Odyssey orbiter is now in position to listen & transmit back to Earth from @MarsCuriosity during entry and descent
#MSL: Cruise stage separation complete for @MarsCuriosity. It carried the rover on a cruise away from Earth all the way to the red planet
#MSL: @MarsCuriosity is now sending heartbeat tones (tonal signals) indicating when certain critical mission events occur
#MSL: The @MarsCuriosity rover is now speeding up relative to Mars as the gravity of the red planet is pulling it in
#MSL: Fewer than 10 mins until @MarsCuriosity landing on the red planet. Are you watching? http://www.nasa.gov/mars
#MSL: We’re in the seven minutes of terror for @MarsCuriosity
#MSL: We are in guided entry for @MarsCuriosity — the first time we’ve ever attempted to guide a rover to a specific spot on Mars
#MSL: We have parachute deploy on @MarsCuriosity Education & Outreach @CanberraDSN We have linked with Odyssey! We’re listening! #MSL
#MSL: Heat shield has separated and we are in powered flight for@MarsCuriosity. And the sky crane has started.
#MSL: Touchdown confirmed for @MarsCuriosity Curiosity Rover @MarsCuriosity I’m safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!!#MSL
#MSL: We’ve got thumbnails from @MarsCuriosity: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/images/first_images_mars.html
#MSL: Here’s one of the first images from @MarsCuriosity http://pic.twitter.com/Zbm5obi8
#MSL: Here’s a better picture where you can see the @MarsCuriosityshadow in Gale Crater on Mars http://pic.twitter.com/hzo1lLA3
The post landing @MarsCuriosity news conference is no earlier than 11:15p PT/2:15a ET. http://www.nasa.gov/mars
#MSL NASA HQ PHOTO @nasahqphoto
#MSL teams reacts after learning that @MarsCuriosity rover has landed safely on Mars! #JPL #NASA http://flic.kr/p/cLuaYu
“There’s a one-ton piece of American ingenuity and it’s sitting on the surface of Mars right now,” @whitehouseostp’s John Holdren #MSL
“Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars,” @NASA Administrator Charles Bolden #MSL
@whitehouseostp President Obama on Curiosity: “Tonight, on the planet Mars, the United States of America made history.” #MSL @NASA@MarsCuriosity
@NASA [Image of the Day] Celebrating Curiosity http://go.nasa.gov/OTGwYL #iotd
@NASA Eye in the Sky: MRO’s @HiRISE camera shot this image of@MarsCuriosity & its parachute during Mars landing. http://go.nasa.gov/PzSDX6
@NASAGoddard Our @HiRISE camera captured @MarsCuriosity and its supersonic parachute: http://1.usa.gov/OYQeuu
@NASA The 10 @MarsCuriosity science instruments are in perfect health. Testing & calibration underway. #MSL http://www.nasa.gov/mars
@NASA What does Mount Sharp look like on Mars? Check it out — Here are the latest images from #MSL @MarsCuriosity: http://go.nasa.gov/PzSDX6
@NASA Check out @MarsCuriosity’s new home in Gale Crater — now with a higher-res view from #MSL: http://go.nasa.gov/OVan2V
@NASA What was #MSL @MarsCuriosity’s POV while descending to the Mars surface? Low-res video from MARDI gives a sense http://go.nasa.gov/OVcgfP
@NASA Here is @MarsCuriosity’s First Color Image of the Martian Landscape looking north http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/PIA15691.html #MSL http://pic.twitter.com/C1h0oQkL