I was trying to explain to someone how incredible I think the fact that we landed the Phoenix rover on the surface of Mars is, and was unfortunately coming up short for words.
However, I think this picture does it pretty good justice:
Not much to see, eh?
Well, think about this: What you’re seeing is a photo of the Phoenix rover as it descends to the surface of Mars under its own parachute. The photo was taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE camera as it circles a planet that is tens to hundreds of millions of miles away. As it circles that planet, it’s tracking and photographing a man made object that is gracefully touching down onto the surface of that planet under the guide of its own parachute. Both objects are acting remotely and robotically, and then sending their data back to earth at the speed of light (and it still takes 15 minutes to get here). In short: We created a remote controlled vehicle, shot it millions of miles into the sky, landed it on a precise location on another planet, and then programmed it to run its own scientific experiments and then report back to us with the results.
See what I mean?
[Image Via: Bad Astronomy Blog]
Also, if you’d like to keep track of the rover, follow it on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MarsPhoenix
(What I like most about the Phoenix Twitter is that it’s probably one of the smartest people in the world (a NASA scientist) that has to dumb down what he’s saying and then put it into the third person so that the rest of us can understand what’s going on. Somewhere there’s a guy sitting in a room that’s hating life and wondering when he can leave his Twitter post and get back to playing with the world’s coolest remote control car.)