Aug 09 2012

Celebrating Curiosity’s Landing with the Mars Society

According to the Wall Street Journal (8/4/12), the social network crowd was genuinely jazzed about Sunday evening’s landing of NASA’s “Curiosity” rover on the Red Planet. Their analysis of traffic on Twitter and Facebook between July 30 and August 3 indicated that 59% of people expressed “excitement.”

For example, the comments included:

It’s absurd how excited I am about the Curiosity landing … Is it super nerdy that I’m CRAZY excited?

They should have been at the Pasadena Convention Center Sunday evening with the truly exuberant Mars Society folks at the 15th Annual International Mars Society Convention.

I was happy to be there to participate in a panel discussion on “Our Future in Space” along with former astronaut Dr. Story Musgrave, Princeton astrophysicist Dr. J. Richard Gott, and the Mars Society founder Dr. Robert Zubrin. We chatted until 10 pm in front of a packed house and then watched the JPL engineers do their thing.

Robert set the stage by reminding everyone of the singular importance of human exploration and settlement of Mars, and what a huge step Curiosity is in that process. Richard, who Saturday evening had addressed a plenary session on “The Mars Colonization Imperative,” commented on the prospects for encountering simple life on Mars. I mentioned that before Phobos-Grunt failed, I suspected that mission success would have resulted in Russia and China considering a joint Mars colonization initiative, but now they appear to be moving Moon-ward. Also, the newly recognized fractal nature of NASA space programs suggests Apollo-level programs — like a Mars colonization initiative — emerge during a “critical state” that self-organizes over decades, and both long- and short-term indicators point to the arrival of a 1960s-style critical state by mid-decade. Story indicated a strong preference for an international manned Mars exploration initiative. Due to China’s emergence as a global space power, he believes China would make a good Mars expedition partner for the U.S..

After a few audience questions we began watching operations at JPL just prior to Curiosity’s landing.

Here’s the ebullient scene at JPL as the first Curiosity images returned.

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