Curiosity rover takes a stroll on Mars

Guy Burstein

(September 19, 2012) — “Touchdown confirmed. We are safe on the surface of Mars.” With just ten simple words the large room in Pasadena burst into cheers and congratulations. Dispersed among the crowd of engineers, JPL scientists, corporate sponsors and famous names such as Bill Nye watching the historic landing were members of Clark’s robotics team who had gathered to enjoy watching a historic first. After months of anticipation and years of planning, the students joined millions of people around the world in watching as mankind once again returned to the fourth planet. On Aug. 6, Curiosity, the fifth rover to successfully visit Mars, successfully landed and began retrieving data from the red planet. After an almost nine-month trip, JPL scientists were able to see their work come to fruition. “It was amazing to see so many people have their work accomplished,” said junior Saikiran Ramanan, who watched the event happen live. Over 50 million miles away from the gigantic rover, a large crowd watched in a prepared viewing by the Planetary Society, called Planetfest 2012. The event revolved around the viewing, but also included speakers on a variety of space related topics, and for the team, it provided a chance to interact with a wide variety of people from the engineering field. The landing was also a chance to show off the team’s robot, Queen Hannah’s Revenge. Throughout the two-day event, the team presented their work to people, including one of the drivers of the robot and Nye. However, despite a lot of interest in the team by professionals in the field, the team knew what was the main event. The Curiosity rover landing was one of the most complicated rover landings ever, including everything from a giant parachute to having the entire rover slowly lowered down by a set of cables from a hovering vehicle. Despite this challenge however, scientists from JPL managed to successfully land and almost immediately begin transmitting information. The successful landing was followed surprising quickly, faster than even many scientists had hoped, by grainy pictures from the surface of Mars. The rover is planned to do a series of tasks ranging from analyzing composition of rocks to atmosphere analysis in order to determine whether or not Mars has ever contained life. Furthermore, the mobile laboratory hopes to study whether or not Mars will ever be capable of supporting human life as well. “It’s really exciting,” Ramanan said. “I can’t wait to see how it works out.