Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Phil Plait on Phoenix

I'm a little sleepy today, but for good reason. I was up last night huddled over my laptop a little before 2am watching history being made, again, by scientists reaching out to the next crest of the next hill, in order to see what's on the other side.

Curiosity is what drives us and it's why we're here, not only living in, but understanding this amazing universe around us. Last night we landed another probe on the surface of Mars, in the Northern polar region, in an attempt to see whether there could ever have been life there, and also to study the possibilities for future habitability.

Watching the NASA video from the control room, live last night may not have been objectively fascinating viewing, but as the data streamed in as stage after perilous stage of the descent to the surface worked perfectly, from the 21,000 km/h passage through the atmosphere, heating the craft to temperatures around those on the surface of the sun, to the final gentle, yet hugely complicated manouevres, automated to get it safely onto the surface of the planet, came in, I was firmly on the edge of my seat. We were getting news from 170 million miles away, at the speed of light, about a robot that had been perfectly engineered by humans to do a job on another planet. We're one step further.

Today, Phil Plait, from BABlog made this movie about one of the first photos which has been released, not from Phoenix, but from an orbiting satellite of Mars. As a spokesman for science, Phil Plait really knows how to tell it.

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