Monday, August 6, 2012

Curious About Mars? Let's Explore Together in This Week's Motion Monday

NASA's latest Mars rover [ Curiosity ] landed without a hitch last night, ready to explore the Red Planet and ping back photographic updates of its journey along the way. It's mission: Find signs of life, not life itself but the biosignature traces it may have left behind.

There's a lot of info out there about the roving laboratory — a one-ton Hummer-sized vehicle that's the centerpiece of a $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory mission. Curiosity will roam martian terrain for one Mars year — two earth years — while researchers back home study the data it sends back.

It's awesome to celebrate an accomplishment like this together, especially since we're in the business of motion without limits. That doesn't just mean moving things from one point to another like our linear slides, rotary guides and our other guided motion components, we're also talking about the movement and the progress that scientific feats like Curiosity represent. 

With that in mind, we've been keeping up with all the buzz on Twitter, in the media and elsewhere around the web to learn more about this historical intergalactic mission. Here, we'll share links to some of our favorite news, views and other Curiosity-related miscellanea.

[ THE MISSION ] As mentioned, Curiosity's goal is to find organic molecules and anomalous textures left by life ages ago. The latest rover launched on Nov. 26 last year and landed in the evening on Aug. 5 with the whole world watching. This isn't the first rover NASA's rocketed into the skies. Previous units have found signs of water that swirled around the martian landscape. Maybe there's water deep beneath the desert surface!

"It is important to distinguish that as an intermediate mission between [Mars rovers], which was the search for water, and future missions, which may undertake life detection, our mission is about looking for ancient habitable environments," said John Grotzinger, a Mars Science Lab scientists from the California Institute of Technology.

Credit: NASA
[ THE VEHICLE ] In a way, the rover's structure has all the parts of a creature it would need to navigate, NASA explains here. It has a body to protect its vital mechanical organs, a computer brain that controls it, camera "eyes" and other tools to help it sense the world around it, arms and hands to reach and grab samples, wheels to transport it and communication ability to stay in touch with its creators back home.

[ THE PICTURES ] Some of our favorites popped up on Curiosity's personal Twitter feed. Yeah, she's up there zapping back updates in 140 characters or less, and some of them with pictures! Wonder what her landing site, the Gale Crater, looks like? The snapshot's already tweeted, so wonder no longer.

[ THE FUTURE ] Though this current mission will last two years, NASA plans them out sometimes more than a decade in advance. Find out what the agency has in store for the future of Mars exploration here. Maybe they need some linear slides and rotary guides for their next mission, no?
Credit: @tweetsoutloud

[ THE HAIR — HUH?! ] 
Whenever there's an event as big as this, an unexpected narrative bubbles up. In this case, it centers around a NASA engineer with an eye-catching 'do. When cameras panned over the rover lab, viewers noticed a young man with a colorfully emblazoned mohawk. Enough people pressed for more details about the guy until it was common knowledge that his name is Bobak Ferdowsi and he's one of the flight directors in the launch lab. The dude got internet famous literally overnight. His Twitter feed blew up from 100 to 25,000 followers in the span of a day. We wonder if he's going to help NASA recruiting by putting an edgy face to the people behind the massive space agency.

[ THE FUNNY ] Your most trusted "funniest news source," The Onion, reports that NASA's almost certain that the martian surface is rocky. But they're still trying to confirm that. Ha!

[ THE TWEETS ] Of course you can follow our own Curiosity-related tweets at @BWCnews using the NASA-suggested hashtags of #MSL, #NASA, #Curiosity, #Mars, #MarsRover. But we also found this Storify compilation pretty helpful.

[ THE CALL TO ACTION ] With all the information out there about Curiosity, NASA kindly has a site that explores virtually every angle of this mission. Participation is strongly encouraged, too, since this is such a public event. Here, the agency has compiled ways for you to stay on top of the latest news from Mars. You can download an app, watch mini documentaries, review the rover's logistics, stats, location and story. It's amazing, actually. Maybe we'll follow up with another blog about it. We'll be checking often for updates anyway!

Credit: NASA