All hail skycrane
The Jet Propulsion Lab and NASA pulled it off last night. They successfully landed the MSL Curiosity rover in Gale Crater on Mars. This may seem like no big deal, just another landing. After all, NASA has already put two rovers on Mars previously. If you watched the “Seven Minutes of Terror” video (see embed below if you haven’t watched it yet) that went viral on the net in July, however, you have a sense of what an impressive technical feat this touchdown was. MSL Curiosity is far heavier than any other lander to Mars or anywhere. The skycrane unit that lowered the lander to the surface is something out of Rube Goldberg. Yet it worked flawlessly. In fact, the skycrane worked so well it is being offered a part in the next Michael Bay Transformers movie (okay, not really, but the plucky little hovering robot is a star and wouldn’t be out of place hobnobbing with Holly wood A-listers).
For me one interesting aspect to watching the landing events was that I never turned on the TV. I watched the JPL video feed and watched the UniverseToday event chat and followed the #MSL tweets. It was an all-Internet affair. Wonder how many other folks skipped TV, broadcast and cable, and just went with the net and social media.