Like the rest of the geek world, we’ve been excited by Curiosity’s successful trip to Mars. Here’s a cool video which combines an animation of Curiosity’s landing mixed with the real reactions of the astronauts that got it there. (Found on thekidshouldseethis.com)
I’ve been disappointed that real space travel is unlikely to become a reality during my life. I honestly thought it would when I was a kid. But watching Curiosity gives me hope that we will be able to continue exploring our universe. This trip to Mars was much more of an achievement than the last one. Here’s an animation of the last trip (2003 Mars Exploration). Note that the final landing was achieved by an air bag dropped roughly from high up in the air. Not much precision required there.
The Curiosity rover is too large for the airbag approach (See image at right comparing it to previous rovers), so an alternate system was devised using a sky crane which gently lowered the rover onto the Martian surface. Dropping an airbag seems much easier than gently landing a rover without damage. The real advance in our lifetime is that our machines are getting more intelligent. And the exciting thing is that I can actually participate in that type of exploration. I think I just convinced myself to learn how to program a robotic car!