Here is the AP’s headline, which I wish I had written:
NASA to athletic Mars rover: ‘Stick the landing’
In less than four days, NASA’s mini-Cooper-sized Mars rover will land on Mars (finger’s crossed). This is no small feat: about half of all missions to the Red Planet have failed. Plus, NASA is using a new “sky crane” landing technology rather than letting the rover bounce or parachute to a landing. So, yes, I’m holding my breath and sitting on pins and needles. It’s the same feeling I’ve had all week watching the U.S. Olympic team.
For those on the West Coast, Curiosity (also known as Mars Science Laboratory) will touch down at Gale Crater at 10:31 p.m. PDT Aug. 5 (1:31 a.m. EDT Aug. 6). NASA TV will cover the event live with coverage beginning at 8:30 p.m. PDT, so you can tune in on your TV or computer.
Curiosity has several advantages over rovers past. It will run on nuclear instead of solar power, meaning it can keep on trucking during Martian winter. It’s wheels are much beefier than those of Sojourner and Spirit and Opportunity, allowing the rover to drive over rocks 29 inches high and travel 656 feet per day. Curiosity is a chemist and geologist in one, with the most sophisticated instruments to date. It can gobble up samples and analyze them in its internal laboratory. Over the course of the mission, Curiosity will study the role of water on Mars, atmospheric evolution and climate.
Here are some resources for sharing this historic moment with your curious kids.
- Fact, figures, educational activities and GAMES! Your children can drive Curiosity on Mars using Freedrive. Learn about the rover in a virtual martian environment. If you have an XBOX 360, you can download Mars Rover Landing for free.
- Watch the landing.
- Curiosity’s name came from an essay contest. Clara Ma from Lenexa, KS won the contest. Read her essay here.
- For southern California folks, the Planetary Society in Pasadena is hosting Planetfest 2012. Find events in your area here.
Will you watch the landing? Will you tune in with your kids?