Where were you when Curiosity landed? It's a hot topic of discussion in the hallways of JPL and on social media this week, as people remember the dramatic, tension-filled landing of NASA's Curiosity rover and its Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft on Aug. 5, 2012 PDT (Aug. 6, 2012 EDT).
Millions of people around the world were glued to TV sets and mobile devices during the white-knuckle landing. The man who led the team that designed and tested the unprecedented sky-crane landing system, Adam Steltzner of JPL, sums up public interest in Curiosity and its exploration this way: "I think through it, we dream a little bigger, maybe aspire a little higher and in some sense, we're a little better-a teeny, eensy bit better."
The landing anniversary was marked by a special NASA TV broadcast featuring a panel discussion about Curiosity's engineering and science accomplishments. The panel also discussed how Curiosity and its dedicated, diverse team have earned a special place in the hearts and minds of the public through Twitter, Facebook and other traditional and social media venues. The broadcast is archived on Ustream at: http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl .
During its first year of exploration on Mars, the car-sized Curiosity has driven more than one mile over Martian terrain. The mission has accomplished its primary goal by determining that Mars has evidence of ancient environments suitable for life. It is currently en route to investigate the base of three-mile-high Mount Sharp, whose exposed layers might hold intriguing information about Mars' history.
The rover has beamed back more than 190 gigabits of data, including 70,000 images (36,700 full images and 35,000 thumbnails), and its laser has fired more than 75,000 times at 2,000 targets.