In case you hadn’t already heard, NASA’s Curiosity rover — which is the largest rover NASA has ever launched — should touch down on the Martian surface in just over four days.
That fateful night comes after nearly eight months of interplanetary travel, and thankfully for New York-based space nuts, the sizable Toshiba Vision screens perched above Times Square will be broadcasting all the action as it happens. All the rest of you will have to make do with the two live video feeds that NASA will be streaming come August 6.
That said, I’m using the term “action” rather loosely here. It’s not exactly going to be prime time programming — assuming all goes well during its seven minute atmospheric entry (cross your fingers and toes), the Mini Cooper-sized rover is expected to make landfall at about 1:30 AM Eastern Time. Those of you expecting live video from the surface of the red planet may come away disappointed though, as most of the coverage will be of the happenings inside Mission Control, “including receipt of the first signal from Mars following a successful landing,” according to a statement issued by NASA.
Still, it’s a huge boon for we nerds who never quite made it into the space program. While mankind’s exploration of the solar system has been stymied by budget cuts and technical failures, this is a terribly exciting time for us. Gutsy endeavors like SpaceX’s Dragon capsule docking offers up some hope for the future of commercial space activity, and the Curiosity’s extended stay on Mars could potentially pave the way for a manned mission down the road. But that’s a rant best saved for another time.
In the meantime, what better way to familiarize yourself with the Curiosity rover and its one year mission on the red planet than with some Star Trek alumni? NASA recently commissioned William Shatner and Wil Wheaton to narrate a pair of near-identical informational videos, so it’s simple enough to pledge your allegiance to some fictional spacefarers