Countless words have been written – appropriately – over the last couple of weeks, in the blogosphere and the international press, about Curiosity. I have little to add, except for a personal note of awe and gratitude.
The landing was scheduled for about an hour before my flight landed in Singapore, and the first thing I did after disembarking was to hook up to Google News – and there it was, incredibly, awe-inspiringly, it had worked, and Curiosity was flexing its muscles on the surface of Mars. I will readily admit that I haven’t the faintest clue how this whole, mind-bogglingly complex, mission was planned and executed; I watched and relished the infectious celebrations in the control room with only a partial sense of the true emotions of every individual there.
And then – a picture is truly worth a thousand words – the images started coming in.
When I looked at that image, and understood that the hills in the distance were not on Curiosity’s fieldwork itinerary, my immediate reaction was “Well, why don’t I wander over there and have a look at that winding valley system, while you go off and do your stuff. We’ll meet back here this afternoon.” Curiosity feels, intimately, like a fellow field-geologist – because, of course, that’s exactly what the rover is. I now check out the mission site routinely to see what my friend has been up to, and to continue to celebrate this incredible achievement.
And, for me, the other cause for celebration is simply that, faced daily with the stories of the depravity, greed, and ignorance of our bizarre species, this provides a strong antidote, grounds for cautious, if perhaps fleeting, optimism. Thank you, NASA, JPL, Caltech, and everyone involved.
[All images courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS]