Today I diverge slightly from the normal things I talk about here to something more related on the periphery of my geek-dom.
Curiosity the #MSL (Mars Science Lab) landed sucessfully on Mars last night, after launching from Kennedy Space Center in Florida back in November. I got the priveledge/opportunity to watch the launch from on KSC at the Apollo Rocket facility. It didn't have the earth shaking, unbelievable power of a shuttle launch, but it had more in some ways. Hundreds or thousands of people who built it, put together everything and sent it on it's journey. J herself works on the SAM module of MSL and is also part of the general science team for MSL and will be at JPL on and off for at least the next 3 months to help run the rover and SAM. The level of stress leading up to this was almost unbearable. The number of jobs riding on it landing was amazing. This shows NASA still has the right stuff to push boundaries and be the leaders of America's Dream. The EDL system alone was a feat of amazing engineering. The rover is built by a ton of different groups putting together a nearly 1 ton monster. Most people get nervous shipping their car across the country. Now imagine shipping it to another planet.
Not many people may know but when NASA and JPL were figuring out how to build the rover, they made a decision to go with Titanium for the arms that the wheels run on. But back when the rover was under design in the early 2000's they didn't have the knowledge on how to work with Ti. Well NASA instead went to experts at pushing the boundary of working with Ti. Lynskey Bikes. Yep, they went to mountain (and other bike) builders Lynskey to learn how to optimally weld and bend Ti tubes/etc used in the frame and power train of the rover. Pretty cool. I know a handful of people who ride Lynskey bikes. Their bikes and the rover share some distant DNA almost.
If you haven't yet go check out the photo's do it. Here is my favorite showing a shadow of the rover.
I've been an space geek since my earliest memories with the shuttle back when it's tank was still white. I remember the day Challenger explosion very clearly. Sitting in the school library with all the other kids in shock. Our 6th grade science teacher had been in the final 5 to be selected. I remember seeing shuttles up close on the back of transports, fly overs in Florida. Moving to Orlando and hearing the twin booms of it landing. The first launch I saw, then the first night launch. Amazing stuff. Then Columbia happened while in Tallahassee. No booms as it passed over. Bad. Space exploration is not safe, nothing is guaranteed except you are always taking a risk. We must take risks in moving forward and advancing our selves, and our knowledge. NASA has problems but it does a LOT of stuff right also. So for now all I will say is
Go #Curiosity, #MSL, #SAM go!