Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity team member Miguel San Martin, Chief Engineer, Guidance, Navigation, and Control at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, left, celebrates with Adam Steltzner of the Mars Science Laboratory, right, after the successful landing of Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars. (AP Photo)
The parachute opened, the heat shield popped off, the sky crane fired its rockets, and finally...they spotted dust particles.
Yes -- dust particles! But not just any dust particles -- MARTIAN dust particles. The first pictures from the new Mars Rover, Curiosity, after a 352-million mile journey.
"There is the wheel of the rover safely on the surface of Mars, I can't believe it," said one excited observer.
And when rocket scientists get giddy, watch out!
"Expected fuel remaining at flyaway 140.6 kilograms," said one man, met by cheers from the audience.
Sounds like someone had a little money on the fuel reading.
But it's a big deal, because even though we've landed stuff on Mars before, this one was aimed at a tiny 4 by 12 mile patch of Gale Crater, which looks like it used to have running water.
If I may put this in Olympic terms. In the archery competition, you stand about 230 feet away from a 4 foot diameter target.
Shooting a spacecraft 352 million miles and getting it to land in a 4 by 12 mile ellipse is like standing 230 feet away from a target the size of a WATER MOLECULE.
And getting one chance to hit it, and losing $2.5 billion if you miss.
And the other thing I like about this stuff is that it's one of the few times WE get to be the UFO. Today, WE are that the advanced civilization from another planet. And after that landing, if there IS life on Mars, especially some kind of tiny bacterial life, boy are they terrified of us.
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