NASA launched the Mars Science Laboratory on Nov. 26, 2011… and now, just days away, it’s about to reach its destination.
These have been exciting times for anybody who has even the slightest interest in astronomy and our universe. From the new discoveries by Cassini, Keppler and Hubble to the transit of Venus across the Sun, if you’re someone who Keeps Looking Up, your neck is probably cramped from all the stargazing.
Now it’s time for the main event: the landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars. An event so big, so public, it’s being broadcast live on the big screens in NYC’s Times Square.
Where should you watch the event, which doesn’t actually happen until 1:30 am EDT – and which we won’t have actual confirmation of for the 14 minutes it takes light to travel from Mars to the Earth? Take your pick – there’s plenty to go around. Listed below are just some of the ways you can watch.
Let’s start with the “official” coverage from the people who are behind this event: NASA. They’ve got a page with educational materials, press kits, fact sheets, and a guide to their coverage at http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/msl_landing.cfm. And they’ve got a nationwide event map here.
Some of this is duplicated over at the JPL Curiosity Rover website, although in my opinion the JPL site is the better of the two: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/
Both sites have links where you can watch their coverage live online at:
And here’s JPL’s event schedule:
Saturday, Aug. 4
9:30 a.m. — Prelanding Update and Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) Overview News Briefing
Sunday, Aug. 5
9:30 a.m. — Final Prelanding Update News Briefing
3 p.m. — NASA Science News Briefing
8:30 p.m. to about 11 p.m. — Landing Commentary No. 1
No earlier than 11:15 p.m. — Post-landing News Briefing
Bill Nye and The Planetary Society
Bill Nye the Science Guy and The Planetary Society are pulling out all the stops with The Planetary Society: Planetfest 2012 and Celebrate Curiosity: A Party on Mars. They describe it as a “two-day celebration for all ages of the real-time landing of Curiosity on Mars. You’ll get play-by-play narration during the spacecraft’s descent and landing, plus a peek at the first images returned from the mission.” The event is at the Pasadena Convention Center in California.
Can’t make it to Pasadena? The Plantary Society has also put together an interactive map of worldwide Planetfest and Curiosity landing related events, from St. Petersburg, Russia to Victoria, Australia.
Google+ Hangout – Curiosity Landing Coverage
Last, but certainly not least is the 4-hour Google+ Hangout on Air being run by Fraser Cain (Publisher of +Universe Today (UniverseToday) and co-host of the AstronomyCast Podcast with Dr. Pamela L. Gay) and his extended crew. It’s the one at which I (Jeff) will be spending most of my time for StarTalk Radio. It’s being run in conjunction with +CosmoQuest (http://www.cosmoquest.org) and the SETI Institute, and includes guests from the Curiosity team, JPL, and +The Planetary Society. At the last Virtual Star Party, I heard that Dr. Pamela L. Gay, Phil Plait (The Bad Astronomer) will be there. And some of the VSP regulars like +Scott Lewis who will be covering the event from JPL along with Vintage Space Blogger +Amy Shira Teitel. As Dr. Gay described it, their coverage will be a little sillier and more fun than NASA’s coverage. (I’ll reserve judgment, since the NASA coverage of the Transit of Venus got pretty silly the later the hour!)
You can find out more information on Twitter by following the hashtag, #marshangout.
So get out the Red Bull, get comfortable, and spend Sunday night and Monday morning watching history as it happens.
That’s it for now. And, as always, Keep Looking Up!