AirTalk for August 6, 2012

To Mars and beyond! Does the Curiosity rover landing mean space is back?

Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Grant Slater/KPCC

The project leadership team for the Curiosity mission to Mars prepares to take a bow before a press conference at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena late Sunday night.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Grant Slater/KPCC

The project leadership team for the Curiosity mission to Mars prepares to take a bow before a press conference at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena late Sunday night.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Grant Slater/KPCC

Members of the news media wait for Curiosity to enter Mars' atmosphere.

Mars Curiosity

John Minchillo/AP

Lennon Batchelor, 27, of Orlando, center, pauses while watching a live stream of the Mars Curiosity landing while neighboring spectators cheer in Times Square after the successful touch-down, August 6, 2012, in New York. After traveling 8 1/2 months and 352 million miles, Curiosity landed on Mars Sunday night. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Grant Slater/KPCC

Engineers in mission control celebrate Curiosity's landing on Mars.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Grant Slater/KPCC

The first pictures from Mars sent back by the Curiosity rover's onboard cameras.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Grant Slater/KPCC

Engineers monitor a telemetry test from the vehicle carrying the Curiosity rover through space in the Mission Support Area of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Mars Rover Panoramic

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Jet Propulsion Lab scientists test Scarecrow, Curiosity's terrestrial doppelgänger, in the Dumont Dunes in Death Valley months before the rover is set to land on the Red Planet.

Mars Rover Shots

NASA

On the left, the first photograph sent back from the Mars Curiosity rover. On the right, Curiosity sees its own shadow on the surface of the Red Planet.

Mars Image

NASA

One of the first high resolution images taken from Mars rover Curiosity's onboard cameras


Tears, yells, hugs, high fives. When the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Curiosity rover successfully touched down on Mars Sunday night, fans of space exploration and those involved in the $2.5-billion NASA mission rejoiced across the United States, from Pasadena to New York City’s Times Square.

The Mars rover is considered the most advanced spacecraft ever sent to another planet, and comes on the heels of privately held space transport company SpaceX making history by sending a cargo payload to the International Space Station.

Is space making a comeback? The primary mission of the Curiosity research project, in the works since April 2004, is expected to last 687 days, culling data and images from the so-called “Red Planet,” a staggering 154 million miles from Earth. Already the rover has delivered various images, including one grainy picture of its wheels on a crater.

Did you stay up to watch the Mars rover landing? Will an increased fascination with space exploration and space travel lead to more funding for NASA, and more missions? In the hopeful words of “Toy Story” toy astronaut Buzz Lightyear, “To infinity and beyond!”

Guest:

Luther Beegle, group supervisor, JPL’s Mars Science Laboratory


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