Monday, August 06, 2012

Curiosity lands on Mars

So, we landed on Mars again!

I use a sort of anti-royal "we", meaning several persons who are not me. Last night NASA landed an explorer the size of a car on Mars, using a Rube Goldberg contraption that deployed all of: a heat shield, a parachute, and a rocket propelled winch on a hover-platform. Said platform them lowered the robot to the ground and flew away to crash into the outcrops. The robot, called Curiosity, then tweeted a picture of its own shadow on the Martian surface. (Yes, I have subscribed to Curiosity's Twitter feed.)

The only thing that could have made that better is if it had broadcast the theme tune from Thunderbirds as it did so. Luckily, a Youtuber was on hand to provide a good simulation thereof.

The previous two Mars robots, Spirit and Opportunity, were incredibly cute, tiny platforms that were designed to last for days, and lasted for years. Spirit, in particular, was actually plucky.

Spirit by XKCD, natch.

(Since that makes most everybody tear up, I better post the antidote happy ending version:

Not sure who made that originally. Not me.)

Now plucky Mars robots are their own chick magnets, but Curiosity is more of an SUV, and what's fetching about an SUV?

Luckily, NASA, in the form of the JPL control room, came to the eye-candy rescue with a most unlikely source - one of its own boffins who rejoices in the name Bobak Ferdowsi, and has a most un-NASA mohawk. With little stars in it.  Flight Director Ferdowsi's mohawk could be seen bobbing over  the flight monitors during the live feed from JPL during the landing sequence.  He, or it, instantly became the face (or hairstyle) of Curiosity. He has his own Twitter feed, Bobak F @tweetsoutloud but as befitting an internet sensation, his fans have at least two Tumblrs (  and ). The Tumblrs, as they do, aggregate news about him, pictures, cartoons, drawings and protestations of love.


The Atlantic has a short piece on Ferdowsi, the man who put the human hairstyle on Mars exploration.

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