August 6, 2012 10:45 pm

Sharing Our Curiosity

In the summer of 1969 I was 7 years old. The only thing I remember doing from July 16th to July 24th was following the flight of Apollo 11 in the papers, on the radio and on the television with Walter Cronkite. Other than a few conversations with my grandparents about what I was doing with my plastic spacecraft models in the corner of their apartment, I don’t remember sharing the experience with anyone.

Last night, I witnessed the landing of the Curiosity Rover on the surface of Mars. And I shared the experience with hundreds of thousands of people on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube, and countless more watching the live streaming on or on their Xboxes or even, yes, television.

When I say shared, I don’t mean we all did it at the same time, separately. I mean shared. People tweeted their excitement and their fears and their joy and their tears to complete strangers via hashtag. They posted comments. They texted their friends.

I also got to share the event by attending the Virtual Landing Party for the Curiosity Lander Google+ Hangout on Air thanks to Fraser Cain and his friends, Curiosity Rover driver Scott Maxwell, Dr. Pamela L. Gay, Phil Plait, Scott Lewis, Amy Shira Teitel, Miles O’Brien, The SETI Institute, Christian Schaller, Jason Major, Emily Lakdawalla, Dave Mosher, Ly Ly, Barbara Cohen, Mike Brown, David Knight, Sawyer Rosenstein and Shiraz Siddiqui.

In the past, when I watched Miles O’Brien cover a space flight for CNN, it was a one-way street. Last night, it was a conversation. In the past, when we saw inside Mission Control, it was at a distance. Last night, NASA and JPL let us inside. In the past, if we didn’t understand what was going on, we had to wait and wonder. Last night, all we had to do was type our questions into the comments feed, and we would get an answer.

Then, at 1:32 am August 6th, I saw this tweet:

Tweet from NASA's Curiosity Rover when it landed on Mars

Sure, I know that it wasn’t actually the robotic Curiosity Rover tweeting from Mars. But that didn’t stop the tears from welling up in my eyes.

And when I went to the StarTalk Radio Facebook page to share my emotions, and you all shared them along with me, I realized, in this new age, none of us ever need to experience the momentous alone anymore.

That’s if for now. Keep Looking Up!

–Jeffrey Simons

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