Specifically, this. A four hundred pound mobile science laboratory about the size of a small car, delivered by a pretty much autonomous landing system that will hover sixty five feet above the surface of Mars while its payload practically bungee jumps from it, because Mars is seven minutes away by radio signal, meaning that it would be impossible for NASA scientists to have direct control over the module’s descent.
And, unlike the regular Olympics on NBC, this incredible feat of human brain power will be broadcast live. Live in Times Square.
The Mars Science Laboratory mission launched the Curiosity rover late last year, but it’s had something of a long commute before it can get down to its first day of work (a day on Mars lasts about twenty-four hours and thirty-nine minutes). It’ll arrive on Mars at 1:31 Eastern Time on Monday morning, or at about 10:30 Sunday night on the west coast of America, and just about when everybody’s starting to get out of bed in Europe. The rover’s first goal is exciting to any sci-fi fan: with it, scientists would like to get much closer to answering the question “Could Mars have ever supported life?” The methods for answering that would probably be considered less sexy, however: basically the rover is going to do a lot of geology and climate study, and in the meantime, analyze Mars’ surface radiation, gathering vital information for any manned Mars exploration.
But I could stop going on about how exciting this is, and just let Wil Wheaton tell you:
or William Shatner.
Probably most of you won’t be able to get to Times Square to see it on the giant screen that hangs below the New Years’ Ball, so you should know that the landing will be broadcast on NASA Television and livestreamed online. The audio track for the broadcast will be carried on Third Rock Radio. And yes… there are viewing parties, and to find one you must go no further than NASA.gov.
(videos via NBC News.)