The Martians are back! If you recall, their first appearance was in a flash-forward comic—a fever dream of what manned explorations of Mars could become. So today there are more of them, but their grasp of English is a bit flawed (Or is it, held-up-mirror-to-popular-culture?). I know there are many questions, plot holes, inconsistencies, and downright, head scratching nonsensicalities. Some will be answered in time. Others never will. Feel free to posit how we’d miss giant crystal cities on Mars or the fact that they have tapped into our internet, but can’t send an email.
I don’t know about you, but I am PUMPED for the Curiosity landing this weekend. I haven’t been this excited about a robot that looks like a truck since Michael Bay ruined Transformers. For those of you who don’t know, last November, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab launched the Mars Science Laboratory, which features an adorable, yet gargantuan new rover named Curiosity. Looking like a combination between Johnny Five and a bomb squad robot, Curiosity is fully equipped with all the equipment of a modern chemistry lab. It’s due to land in Gale crater* at 1:30AM on Monday morning. Previous rovers utilized giant airbags that let them bounce safely across the surface of Mars upon entry. But because of Curiosity’s size, JPL had to come with an entirely new method of landing the car-sized robot. To get a sense of the scales, check out this gigantic photo of the three rovers.
The new landing process is kind of crazy, and those of you who remember the Curiosity comic from way back will recognize the final step. Warning, this next video is liable to PUMP YOU UP.
Holy crap, right? I’ve been less excited at feature films. If all goes well, Curiosity’s mission can begin.
So why Gale crater? When I first heard the landing site, I thought it was silly to put a rover in a hole in the ground. Let it roam free! Turns out, Gale crater was chosen because of its unique geologic properties, the most important of which is Mount Sharp, which sits in the middle of the crater. The 6km tall mountain is made of built-up layers of sediment spanning around 2 billion years. Just like on Earth, scientists can analyze the strata for clues to Mars’ geologic past.
Coverage of the event starts at 11:30pm EDT on Sunday, August 5th. NASA TV will be providing two feeds, and as it happens, I made some snazzy webcast pages for the World Science Festival site where you can view them:
See you there!
In other news: Yesterday my comic about asshats in gaming was cited in the New York Times (Online version only). The front page article, written by Amy O’Leary, looked at the recent instances of harassment in gaming culture—particularly the horrible treatment of Miranda Pakozdi by. her. own. team. But it also showed just how much the rest of the community could come out in force to fight back. Of course, the usual bunch of apologists and trolls made their opinions known in the comments, but the ball is rolling. Instances of harassment (sexual, emotional, and even physical) will no longer pass by silently. If you act like an asshat on the internet, be prepared to be called out on it.
*Not Galle Crater, the famous “smiley face on Mars“
**Well, I suppose you can’t really watch it. But there bound to be some crazy tense moments and shots of nervous mission controllers.