My eldest son had an unusual request for Halloween this year: he wants to be the Curiosity Mars Rover, which is currently scheduled to blast off for the red planet on Nov. 25th. He’s been obsessed with Mars and Curiosity since this summer, so I felt compelled to oblige him.
Curiosity’s goal is to figure out whether life can survive on Mars. Unlike rovers past, Curiosity is nuclear, rather than solar powered, meaning it won’t have to hibernate during the Martian winter. It has a sophisticated internal laboratory where it can analyze rock samples it’s “gobbled up.” Overall, the mission uses a lot of cool, new technologies thanks to all those rocket scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Building Cooper’s costume out of an assortment of boxes, wrapping paper tubes, aluminum foil, brads and wire has been quite the endeavor. After a couple of test runs at various Halloween parties, I can sympathize with the folks at JPL. My costume need only survive a walk around the block (a test it failed miserably); JPL is trying to build something that can withstand the vibrations of launch, the challenges of landing and life on a distant planet.
Oh well, it’s back to the drawing board before we hit the candy trail tonight! My only regret is that I didn’t contact JPL for Curiosity press materials that we could hand out while trick or treating. I’m sure we’ll get a lot of questions about the costume.
If you want to learn more about Curiosity, JPL has a great series of YouTube videos dubbed, “Building Curiosity.” Each clip covers new technologies (landing system, robotic arm, and wheels for example) and tests as Curiosity prepares for launch.
Happy Halloween everybody!