I almost pulled an Apollo-Nixon speech-writing routine on this event. I always plan and begin writing blog posts days or even weeks ahead. While preparing for MSL events, I thought, "Perhaps I should prepare two blog posts... one for if it lands safely and roves, and one for if it crashes and we are all devastated and mourning."
We don't have a great record against Mars. But then I thought... no. This is a moment to trust the brains behind the hardware, and hold to the credible hope that a positive outcome would be momentous if it was the only one expected.
The celebration of Mars Curiosity's triumphant EDL was then even more amazing than any of us had dared to imagine. Everything that could have gone right, went right. Every sign and signal expected, came. Everyone who worked on this magnificent mission of space exploration can be proud, choked up, relieved and sleepless-for-days jubilant! And millions of us who have been following this mission for years can finally say we are on the fourth rock from the sun:
I enjoyed seeing the sci-fives and hugs at the lead center, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, though I was happy and grateful to watch from NASA Ames Research Center -- which hosted one of the largest landing parties on Earth! By the time the EDL was in progress, more than 7,000+ people had congregated near Moffett Field in California. The cheer that rose from that crowd when we knew Curiosity had landed safely was absolutely EPIC!
Say what you want about us crazy Yanks, but we work longer hours and take fewer vacations than any culture in the world. Our failures are sometimes acute, but unlike many other space agencies, we've never tried to hide them or keep them secret. We do it all in public, for better or for worse. Our successes have been grand, and at times that makes our exhibitionism a point of national pride.
This is one of those times. Love us or hate us, we attempt huge endeavours, and our finales are blaring loud. Now, I know there are always going to be naysayers who do not understand that their entire lifestyles are dependent upon space programs. There will always be people who think space is a waste of money, and here is why they will always, always be wrong:
Because this is what INSPIRATION looks like...
Because this is how PIONEERS do it...
Because this is how HARD WORK and SUCCESS feel...
Because this is how LEADERS OF WORLDS behave.
Some people were more dignified than others ;)
As a nation, nobody else knocks it out of the park quite like we do, and yes, I used a baseball analogy right there on purpose. When you lead the way through inspiring intellectual feats, you stimulate everything from hearts to minds to education to science to commerce to GNP to peace.
All told, there were 127 landing parties all over the globe for this event, in the United States and 15 other countries.
NASA Television had a record number of viewers. NASA.gov went DOWN. Ustream froze. Live data feeds tanked due to the onslaught of online demand. The world watched. Together. And believe it or not, the fun has just barely begun...!