It’s 3.39pm Australian Eastern Std Time, and the Mars Science Laboratory (aka Curiosity) has just landed.
I’ve been on a Google+ Hangout with a bunch of people from the AstronomyCast podcast – with 700-odd other space nerds like me. One of the participants in the hangout was actually in the control room, so we were able to ride down with Curiosity – not visually, but as the telemetry came in we could hear and see the yelling and chatter in the control room, not to mention the regular cheering as each critical stage was passed.
They were able to monitor (albeit with a 14 minute delay) the various stages of the complex descent, with speeds, orientation and so forth.
In the blink of an eye, it landed and deployed one of it’s basic hazard detection cameras, which immediately sent back a series of basic still images, with enough resolution to make out the immediate foreground, the shadow of the MSL, and the horizon (see two of them below).
Think about it – the thing is the size of a car, has travelled for 8.5 months to get there, and has landed sweetly within a small ellipse a matter of a few kilometers across.
Now for the HD cameras to be unfolded from their protected position and the pics to roll in. Can’t wait.
A complete and utter success. Watch this space.