Mars Hub

Curiosity's Seven Minutes of Terror: VIDEO

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The Mars rover Curiosity will touch down tomorrow morning. It is the size of a big sedan, and it has been traveling through the near-vacuum of intrastellar space for eight months. If it lands safely, it will probe the rocks and dirt in and around Gale Crater in the hope of finally establishing whether Mars was ever a suitable environment for life. It will be a magnificent achievement; one all of humanity will be able to boast about for millenia.

But -- have you ever tried landing a sedan-sized rover on a planet that resides at an average of 225 million kilometers from Earth? On a planet with an atmosphere so thin that parachutes won't be sufficient to slow its descent? It's not easy. Ian Sample, of The Guardian, has written an excellent explanation of the process by which NASA scientists intend to get Curiosity aground -- an improbable, crazy-sounding sequence of mechanical feats which the involved scientists have begun calling "Seven Minutes of Terror." And NASA has produced a sharp, graphics-heavy video to explain the same thing. Harrowing stuff! Watch AFTER THE JUMP ...

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Curiosity, the Largest Rover Ever Sent to Space, Set to Make 'Grand Entrance' on Mars: VIDEO


Last November, I posted video of the NASA 'Curiosity' probe as it blasted off to Mars.

This Sunday night, the Mini-Cooper-sized probe will reach the red planet and hopefully begin sending back data that will help determine if there was ever life there.

And who better to tell you all you need to know but William Shatner, AFTER THE JUMP...

The NYT:

“I think this is the Hubble Space Telescope of Mars exploration,” said John M. Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator in charge of the science mission directorate. (He is best known as the Hubble repairman, flying on three space shuttle missions to refurbish and upgrade the telescope.) “This is the first time that we have a real analytical laboratory heading to the surface.”

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NASA Captures Tornado on Mars: PHOTO


The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured a tornado on the surface of Mars:

The length of the shadow indicates that the dust plume reaches more than 800 meters, or half a mile, in height. The tail of the plume does not trace the path of the dust devil, which had been following a steady course towards the southeast and left a bright track behind it.

The delicate arc in the plume was produced by a westerly breeze at about a 250-meter height that blew the top of the plume towards the east. The westerly winds and the draw of warmth to the south combine to guide dust devils along southeast trending paths, as indicated by the tracks of many previous dust-devils. The dust plume itself is about 30 meters in diameter.

(via mwvastronomy)

News: Weekend, Sean Hayes, The Senator, German Football

RoadFailed Russian Mars probe plunges into Pacific Ocean.

RoadUganda's Ambassador to the U.S. Perezi K. Kamunanwire says 'kill the gays' bill dead.

WeekendRoadDorian Awards announced: "Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, a British film about the relationship that develops between two men during the course of a brief hook-up, has been named both best film of the year and best LGBT film of the year by the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association."

RoadVIDEO: "Donkey punch" on Jeopardy.

RoadToronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke receives PFLAG Ally Award: “I’m honoured, greatly honoured” Burke said in a short, dramatic address. He said he had a longer speech prepared, but abandoned it.

RoadMichael Fassbender sexes up Interview and GQ UK.

RoadDutch insurers pay for "ex-gay" therapy: "Health insurance companies are obligated to pay for the therapy because the organisation providing it, Different, is an officially recognised institution for mental health care."

RoadWhy gay parents may be the best parents.

RoadDaniel Radcliffe: You can do anything!

ObamaRoadAndrew Sullivan on how Obama's long game will outsmart his critics. Sarah Palin isn't impressed.

RoadNew Jersey Assemblyman apologizes for gay slur in Facebook update: "While bragging about the Giants, Assemblyman Charles Mainor, who is also an officer with the Jersey City Police Department, wrote 'Who the hell do you think we are the DALLAS COWGIRLS OR THOSE GAYBIRDS FROM PHILLY....NO WE ARE THE NEW YORK GIANTS.'"

RoadEffie Trinket in another crazy outfit in new Hunger Games image.

RoadThe Senator: Fire destroys 3,500-year-old tree in Florida. "It was one of Central Florida's leading attractions before the arrival of the region's theme parks, and though the park is in neither city, advertising associated it with Sanford and Longwood. A billboard on U.S. Highway 17-92 boasted of the tree's age and pointed motorists toward Big Tree Road — now General Hutchinson Parkway."

RoadGerman football chief says gay players should come out of the closet: "Theo Zwanziger called on gay players 'to have the courage to declare themselves,' although he conceded it was surely difficult to acknowledge one’s homosexuality within a team."

NessmanRoadCasting Calvin Klein's Milan Men's show.

RoadDolphins and whales play together.

RoadSean Hayes heading to Parks and Recreation. "ayes will play a revered  TV journalist who the locals refer to affectionately as 'the Matt Lauer of Indianapolis.' His character lands a big interview with Leslie, potentially boosting her election prospects."

RoadJustin Timberlake takes the wheel in new Givenchy Play ads.

RoadElmhurst College, the first in the nation to ask applicants about sexual orientation, says there have been no issues surrounding the question: "Few applicants have skipped the optional question asking whether they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, Rold said, and it doesn’t appear straight students are cheating the system to receive the diversity 'enrichment scholarship' that’s worth one-third of Elmhurst’s $29,994 tuition. When Elmhurst announced its policy, skeptics predicted many students would be uncomfortable, or that straight applicants would declare themselves gay to get the scholarship money."

Massive NASA 'Curiosity' Probe Blasts Off to Mars: VIDEO


The Mars 'Curiosity' probe, which is the size of a car, and is NASA's largest-ever such explorer, is on its way to the red planet after a picture-perfect lift-off on Saturday:

A signal from NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, including the new Curiosity rover, was received by officials on the ground shortly after spacecraft separation. The spacecraft is flying free and headed for Mars after separation from the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that started it on its journey to the Red Planet. Liftoff was on time at 10:02 a.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

"Our spacecraft is in excellent health and it's on its way to Mars," said Pete Theisinger, Mars Science Laboratory Project Manager from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. He thanked the launch team, United Launch Alliance, NASA's Launch Services Program and NASA's Kennedy Space Center for their help getting MSL into space.

Watch the stunning lift-off and an intensely cool video of what the Curiosity probe will look like landing on the Martian surface, AFTER THE JUMP...


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Six Astronauts 'Return' from 520-Day Isolation on Simulated Mission to Mars: VIDEO


On June 3, 2010, six volunteer astronauts (an all-male crew of three Russians, one man from China and France and an Italian-Colombian) were isolated in a capsule to simulate a mission to Mars. They "returned" at 6 am this morning when they were allowed to leave their capsule. They are in four days of debriefing currently before speaking with the press on November 8.

The "mission" cost $15 million and the crew was required to perform a number of experiments, and live in conditions that would simulate a journey to the red planet.

The WaPo reports:

August was the low point, he said. E-mail messages from the crew’s friends and family were delayed depending on how far they were from Earth, and in that month, those messages moved at their slowest rate. Spirits picked up substantially starting Sept. 15, as the capsule came, virtually, closer to Earth and messages started to flow in real time.

The crew also recorded 15 video diaries.

Watch a fascinating compilation, AFTER THE JUMP...

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