This thumbnail is the first tiny image from the surface of another planet by earth's youngest child abroad. We have just landed the largest man-made vehicle ever on the surface of another planet. The Curiosity rover, properly known as the Mars Science Laboratory, has completed a journey of 249 days from the surface of the Earth at Cape Canaveral to the Gale Crater on Mars. She has arrived safe and sound, already beaming back her first pictures to earth. Other bloggers more prepared than I have likely already posted about this, and if I thought this would honestly compel me to stay awake well into the wee hours of the morning yesterday, I would have done more to prepare.
Curiosity is a mission of firsts, and we have pinned all our hopes on an artificial intelligence scarcely brighter than a toddler. She is the largest single rover we have ever put on the surface of our nearest planetary neighbour, and has a wide array of tools to help us make the first exploration of the Gale Crater and the Aeolis Palus in human history. The method by which she landed was novel and original, another first.
A few of you were lucky enough to have my rather crude, ill-timed, and non-descriptive play-by-play showing up on facebook. I hate to admit it, but I had forgotten the landing would be today. I remember being excited when the MSL launched, but 249 days do surprising things to memory, and I simply expected this date to come later rather than sooner, I suppose.
But to know that everything went right, and everything is working with the rover, is spectacular.
I won't bore you with a recitation of facts, or expounding upon the purpose of Curiosity. I will only say it is the moments like these... the tense wait for hours as approach nears, and the sheer, exultant rush when the first signals come home from so far broad is what makes knowledge her own reward. There is the stuff of dreams. Right there, in that tiny, grainy photograph. All of my dreams, and the dreams of those before me, and the dreams of those yet to come. They are there, on that tiny red dot in the sky, and the dots further distant still.
We shall watch your development with great interest, child. There is nothing you can do that won't make us proud.