Mental Floss


Chris Higgins

After a tense and slightly inebriated evening of watching NASA TV, I am pleased to report: NASA's Curiosity rover has landed.

In Portland, Oregon, my fiancée and I followed along on NASA TV, streaming the coverage on a phone beaming video to our TV, watching as it dropped out periodically and displayed lovely green macroblocking, and getting tense while waiting through Curiosity's seven minutes of terror. We ate peanuts at the appropriate time to wish Curiosity good luck. And it worked.

This post will be updated as our celebration continues.

Update, 10:37pm PDT:

Mission Control at JPL is a circus. On-air commentator is choking up a bit. The first 256px thumbnail has arrived, showing a wheel of the rover casting a shadow on Mars. "I can't believe this! This is unbelievable!"

Update, 10:42pm PDT: JPL control are now all standing, no longer attending their stations. One team member cries "Holy s**t!" and another, "We've done it again!" Also: "If anybody in the MSA is listening, you should check out our current position on our flythrough. ... You should watch this flight." I doubt anyone at JPL is paying attention to their headsets anymore.

Update, 10:46pm PDT: JPL control quotes as heard through the boisterous chatter: "Eight years of attention!" and "We're on Mars again!" Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator: "To hear the calls come, saying everything was all right -- it was incredible. ... Everyone in the morning should be sticking their chests out, saying 'That's my rover!'"

Update, 10:50pm PDT: A historically significant tweet:

A few thumbnails from Curiosity:

Curiosity thumbnail
Curiosity thumbnail /
First Curiosity thumbnail
First Curiosity thumbnail /

Update, 10:57pm PDT: NASA TV host mentions that thumbnails are available from, despite crushing traffic. They are not. Twitter's image service is holding up better. Meanwhile: "We're looking for going again to Mars...and to Europa." -Dr. Charles Elachi. Apparently no respect for 2010's warning "ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS--EXCEPT EUROPA. ATTEMPT NO LANDINGS THERE." Eh, Roy Scheider will (did?) sort that out.

Update, 11:16pm PDT: Still waiting for the JPL press conference, and the first awesome Twitter gag has arisen: The Yip Yips are real.)

Update, 11:25pm PDT: The JPL press conference has begun. Lots of hootin' and hollerin' in the room. First comment from a scientist: "About an hour ago I looked outside, and I looked to the west [at Mars], and I said 'You're going to have a visitor.'" Charlie Bolden then proceeds to thank our Australian friends in the Deep Space Network for receiving signals and relaying them to the States. He proceeds to note that we now have four successful US landings on Mars, but refuses to name the other "four countries" that are on Mars along with the US. "Our leadership is gonna make the world better," Bolden says. He says: "Today's landing marks a significant step towards achieving that goal [of landing humans] on Mars." If you're not watching this live, tune in now.

Update, 11:30pm PDT: The press conference continues with various references to American commitment to astronauts on Mars. Your humble blogger wonders whether he'll be able to provide live coverage of humans on Mars within the next few administrations. Outlook: sadly doubtful.

Update, 11:33pm PDT: The press conference has become a straight-up party. No one is speaking from the stage, everyone is high-fiving. Elachi periodically attempts to regain control.

Update, 11:37pm PDT: After about five minutes trying to get the room to shut up, Elachi says: "I just was talking to my daughter, and she was crying about how exciting this was -- how inspirational." Also: "What a bargain! This cost you -- this movie cost you less than seven bucks per American, and look at what excitement we've provided you." (Thunderous applause. Blogger note: I've seen other estimates stating that the cost is more like four bucks per person.)

Update, 11:57pm PDT: Can't resist updating for this last bit: Xeni Jardin of BoingBoing asks about the image format and compression coming back from the rover, and Steltzner has no idea on the details.

Thus ends your one-man team coverage for tonight. I'm sure by Monday morning when (most of you) read this, we'll have better images and more analysis of the landing. Good night, people of Earth and rovers of Mars!

Update, the next day, 8:10am PDT: The Atlantic puts Flight Director Ferdowsi's mohawk in context. It's a terrific read, and the man is on Twitter.