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Mars NASA Science

Shatner and Wheaton Narrate Mars Rover's Landing Sequence 114

Posted by Soulskill
from the to-boldly-narrate-where-no-one-has-narrated-before dept.
SternisheFan tips news that William Shatner and Wil Wheaton have each narrated a NASA video titled "Grand Entrance," which documents the upcoming descent and landing of Mars rover Curiosity onto the Red planet. Curiosity is the nickname for the Mars Science Laboratory, the largest rover ever sent to another world. It is scheduled to land on Mars on August 5 at 10:31PM PDT (August 6 at 05:31 UTC), and the event will be broadcast live on NASA TV. The landing process documented in the video will take about 7 minutes, and it has to go perfectly all on its own — the time delay caused by the 154-million-mile distance to Earth means that signals will take 14 minutes to even reach us. For further details, check out Wil's video or William's. NASA's fact sheet (PDF) has more information as well.
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Shatner and Wheaton Narrate Mars Rover's Landing Sequence

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  • by Narnie (1349029) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @11:46AM (#40830267)

    Wheaton: We're still waiting for the first signal.
    Shatner: The... probe... must have... broken... up.

  • I don't want Shatner narrating anything. Couldn't we have Nimoy instead? Heck Nemoy and Spiner or Stewart would rock.

  • I wonder which future NASA project will be narrated by Jeri Ryan
    • Girls Gone Wild: JPLC Edition
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I wonder which future NASA project will be narrated by Jeri Ryan

      Pluto - no longer 1 of 9

    • by VGPowerlord (621254) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @12:37PM (#40831067)

      I wonder which future NASA project will be narrated by Jeri Ryan

      Back when Voyager was created, Uranus was the 7th of the 9 planets in the Solar System.

      Therefore, she'll narrate when NASA goes to probe Uranus.

      • by mdielmann (514750)

        I can see this now....*start dream sequence*

        Scientist (on phone): Uh, hi, Jeri Ryan? I'm *scientist* from NASA. We're calling to see if you'd be willing to provide a narrative while we probe Uranus.
        Jeri: What?!?! Look, I know I did Co-Ed Call girl back when, but this is too much! *click*

  • by RapidEye (322253) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @11:54AM (#40830393) Homepage

    I thought the one they posted earlier with the actual NASA scientists/engineers was pretty solid: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/video/index.cfm?id=1090 [nasa.gov]

  • MSL Directory: You wouldn't crash a multimillion dollar rover just to win a bowling game!

    Wil Wheaton: Keep on thinking that!

  • The Shatner version of that song is indelibly etched in my neurons for all eternity.
  • by cplusplus (782679) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @11:55AM (#40830429) Journal
    Is anyone else having a Mars lander party? It's like a geek sporting event, a virtual Super Bowl of space exploration. I'm having a bunch of friends over for a BBQ, beer, and then the main event - Curiosity vs. Mars - who will win?! Anyone betting on Mars is officially uninvited :-)
    • by vlm (69642)

      Is anyone else having a Mars lander party? It's like a geek sporting event

      More like gladiatorial combat, at least if Mars wins this battle in the lithobraking round. Those who are about to re-enter salute you, Caesar!

      As for BYOB are the guests supposed to bring liter or quart booze bottles? Don't want to mix up imperial and metric again.

    • by dgatwood (11270)

      It's like a geek sporting event, a virtual Super Bowl of space exploration.

      Indeed. It's a battle of Wils.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The Planetary Society is having a landing party ("Planetfest"); check out their web site. You can join at your local planetarium or they might offer web access to their "Planetfest".

  • Amazing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @12:01PM (#40830517) Journal

    Leaving the discussion about Shatner's narrating abilities to the side for a moment, I am shocked at how little excitement this rover is generating.

    From my nerd perspective, I think about how freaking hard it is to launch something into orbit, get the payload into the right trajectory, travel nearly 600 million kilometers and then land on a relatively small and fast moving rock. The landing must be controlled, but cannot be done remotely becuase light itself takes several minutes to get from Earth to Mars. That in and of itself is freaking amazing.

    The rover itself is about the size of a compact car and filled with electronics that have been optimized to run off of solar power. This solar power is mich weaker than on earth in terms of Watts/m^2. Also amazing. I understand it also has a small nuke reactor so it won't freeze in the winter, but I'm not sure if it supplements the electrical capactity for the toolsor not. Also amazing.

    Other countries are partnering up to provide instruments that measure atmospheric pressure, temperature and other attributes of Mars. Also pretty darn cool.

    Yet I hear very little about it on the news and surprisingly little in even tech websites like this one. I don't get it.

    An onboard laser will vaporize rocks (okay, really small rocks) looking at chemical composition including organic compounds. We are looking at answering questions that have been around for centuries. Very exciting stuff.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Yet I hear very little about it on the news

      "The news" is no longer relevant culturally anymore. Even among the luddites. What is a great news show rating, like 1% of the population?

      surprisingly little in even tech websites like this one. I don't get it.

      Too many recent lithobraking outcomes. Combined with the usual data silence period for a year (or so) all we'll know is pretty much binary, did it land or crash. Boring. It would like like if superbowel football coverage was minimized to one binary bit of which team won.

      Now on the other hand if I had a live telemetry data feed to watch and we could all gather around

      • An interesting concept. I can imagine corporate sponsors handling the hosting of the servers for video feeds...

      • I think the greatest PR thing NASA could do would be to say "F all this data blackout shite, taxpayers get a live "CBS big brother" feed of whatever we download, as it arrives". Of course that would result in their webservers melting, and a lot of idiotic comments, but it would also result in explosive interest levels.

        It appears that is EXACTLY what the MarsOne organization has in mind http://mars-one.com/en/ [mars-one.com].. They plan on getting major funding thru making the astronaut selection (supposedly to begin in a few years) and everything else in the initial planning and execution stages between now and 2023, as essentially a reality-tv series.. From reading their website, they seem to have their act together.. Admittedly, they are going for a VERY far-fetched goal, but geez.. if you wait for NASA or even other governments to d

        • by vlm (69642)

          >It appears that is EXACTLY what the MarsOne organization has in mind

          Isn't that the weirdest thing you've ever seen? If tax payers pay for it, its closed. If a private company pays for it, its open.

    • Re:Amazing (Score:5, Informative)

      by Russ1642 (1087959) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @12:25PM (#40830885)
      No solar power on this rover. It uses a radioisotope thermoelectric generator.
    • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Yaztromo (655250) <`yaztromo' `at' `mac.com'> on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @01:17PM (#40831691) Homepage Journal

      Yet I hear very little about it on the news and surprisingly little in even tech websites like this one. I don't get it.

      Well, we have had two articles on it this week on /. that I recall, so it isn't as if there is no discussion or awareness that it's on its way.

      I think the general lack of excitement is due to a number of factors, including what I perceive to be a general distrust of science by a significant part of the American population. However, the two biggest issues I see are the following:

      1. "Almost there" is virtually a non-story. Other than the sorts of information presented in the videos linked to this article, there really isn't much to talk about when it comes to this story at this time. The rover is still on its way, and how it intends to land probably isn't exactly general interest. Your average human probably doesn't care about the mechanics of the rovers landing. To use an analogy with the event currently dominating much of the news, "will land next week" is about as interesting as "Canadian Olympic Team plane to land in London tomorrow".
      2. NASA's landing record on Mars. Don't get me wrong -- NASA has done some amazing stuff on Mars, and IMO should be applauded long and heartily for their achievements ont he red planet over the last several decades. The performance of Spirit and Opportunity in particular has been way beyond expectations. They're doing some of the most awesome engineering and science out there. However, Mars is notoriously difficult to land on (for all the reasons mentioned in the videos), and there is still the chance that Curiosity is just going to slam into the surface at high speed, never to be heard from again. It's somewhat hard to get emotionally invested into something that could be shattered into millions of tiny bits in the blink of an eye.

      I think you'll see much more interest when Curiosity a) lands safely and b) sends its first pictures/videos back to Earth. That's something people can sink their teeth into. For my part, I know I'll be keeping a keen eye on the news next weekend around landing time to hear if the rover was successful in its manoeuvres.

      Yaz

      • I think the general lack of excitement is due to a number of factors, including what I perceive to be a general distrust of science by a significant part of the American population.

        It has little, if anything, to do with a "general distrust of science".

        More like a "lack of interest" in something that fits well within the "been there, done that" part of reality.

        Mars won't be "exciting" again till we discover life (and then only for a few days), or send people there (and then only now and then - how long can

    • I'm excited about it, but I'm also not getting my hopes up. In the original "Seven minutes of Terror" they tell you the success rate of Mars missions. I'll be getting more excited once the thing lands and is functional. Otherwise I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that everyone did the job right and the mission will land successfully. Otherwise it is a lot of counting chickens before they hatch.

      If the things lands like the Genesis spacecraft, it will be very anti-climactic. (That isn't a cheap s
    • If it lands safely and becomes functional as planned, THEN I'll get excited. Until then it is Schrodinger's probe ... both dead and alive until it is observed. Kind of hard to get excited at this point.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The headline needs about 8 periods.

  • My first impression when I read the subject line was, "Wow, what an odd couple selection." Who would have thunked that in the aftermath, my childhood hero (Shatner) would have such a devistating fall from grace; while, at the same time, as an adult...my contempt for the young brat (Wheaton) would turn into admiration (if not respect). What they have done with their fame/notoriety... what they model in real life, as role constructs for the impressionable, could not be more diametrically opposed.

    Wheaton...

  • Real News (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaKong (150846) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @12:14PM (#40830723)

    I can't spare a moment to watch the advertising debacle that is the Olympics; I won't waste a second of my time to endorse or support the corruption of the IOC by watching; I can't be bothered to weather 25 minutes of backstory, 30 minutes of commercials, to see 5 minutes of competition quick-cut between 15 different events, none of which NBC will ever let me witness the beginning or conclusion of; and furthermore as much as I can appreciate supreme human effort in pursuit of a goal, these athletes are the very class of people we geeks were neglected and abused for in school, while we tried to solve the problems that plagued civilization and tried to improve mankind's lot, so I don't have a whole heck of a lot of sympathy. Sorry.

    But for all that, the Olympics are about *games*. That is, they don't matter. They produce no outcomes that advance the human species, beyond tertiary considerations.

    The Mars landing, now, that represents a new frontier. Everything we do within our solar system or the universe to understand our place within it matters. Our grandchildren will wonder that we found the time to explore other worlds while most of the world's governments' attention was absorbed with worthless things like the Olympics. They'll shake their heads at the unfathomable naivete of beggaring the future to satisfy the momentary, ephemeral impulses of manufactured demand.

    It's like pooh-poohing Columbus's discovery in favor of the local bull-fighting results.

    I, for one, will be awaiting this landing with the ardor that others watch football. Football doesn't matter. This does (tm). Hope all you other /.-ers are there with me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "these athletes are the very class of people we geeks were neglected and abused for in school"

      Here is where you lost me. If you are saying you got beat up in school by an athlete and are now lumping in all athletes into the same category, you are guilty of stereotyping. I agree we have far too great an emphasis on professional athletics, but your statement is off base.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The point remains that sports in school are promoted to the detriment of all other aspects of the school. Its supposed to be a distraction, not a focus.

    • If you were as much of a self-righteous ass in high school as you are now, I would've shoved you into a locker too.
    • by Trogre (513942)

      You, sir, have beautifully tied "News for nerds" with "Stuff that matters". Well done.

  • Considering how complicated this landing is going to be, all the different parts that come into play, and the inability to really test the full blown procedure, I just don't think this is going to be a successful landing.

    I understand literally some of the best minds in the world are working on this project, but that still doesn't negate the inherent difficultly of having such a complicated system work perfectly.

    I really want this to succeed, but I just don't see the landing working out. The bad part is, thi

    • Why do you think this will fail? Just because they have tested ALL of it, but not the full thing? Well, I hate to tell you this, but that is how ALL missions occur.
      • I think it will fail because it is probably the most complicated robotic landing sequence ever attempted in the history of robotic space missions.

        I also see no evidence they tested other than via simulation the heat shield blowing off, the parachute separation, the rocket hovering and the lowering of the rover from the hovering rocket platform.

        I don't blame them for not testing it, I understand it is next to impossible to test those things, but that doesn't change the fact they are untested.

        Hopefully I'll

      • That may well be. But one difference between those missions and this mission is the number of steps involved.

        Consider the current Mars rovers. What had to work? Heat shield and parachute and inflators. Consider the Mars Polar Lander. What had to work? Heat shield and landing rockets. Consider this mission. What has to work? Heat shield and parachute and hovering rockets and crane. There's a lot more that can go wrong.

        That's not to say it will go wrong. It's easier to predict gloom and doom becaus

  • I like the idea of actors well known for scifi characters to narrate those videos. I'd love if they did one with John de Lancie and Leonard Nimoy. Their "Spock VS Q" performance was amazing.
  • Their landing time is 1:31 AM, Monday morning, here on the Eastern side of the U.S. It would have been nice, NASA, since you're also on this side of the country, to have done a better job of planning when the rover was going to land.

    Don't you guys ever think of this? I mean, you're NASA for crying out loud, you put a man on the moon, you're geniuses! You're the guys that're thinking shit up! I'm sure you got a team of men sitting around somewhere right now just thinking shit up and somebody backing t
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Their landing time is 1:31 AM, Monday morning, here on the Eastern side of the U.S. It would have been nice, NASA, since you're also on this side of the country, to have done a better job of planning when the rover was going to land..

      Yeah you are right... The Director of NASA should have contacted the local Deity and had the orbit of Mars/Earth adjusted to suit your viewing pleasure !

  • Not because of the making of history, but to watch the change of facial expressions when they finally realize they neglected to convert Imperial units to Metric.

  • Funny how a pretend space program has a much bigger and loyal audience than a real space program. Just goes to prove that people are more willing to believe garbage and lies than the truth.
    • Funny how a pretend space program has a much bigger and loyal audience than a real space program. Just goes to prove that people are more willing to believe garbage and lies than the truth.

      Hint: the "pretend space program" is...wait for it...interesting.

      The real one is, alas, mostly boring. Wow, VW-sized robot goes to Mars. Yah, that'll get people excited!

      Or not.

      Put some men there, people might get excited. Or even send men back to the moon. But you don't get breathless anticipation and excitement o

  • Why would ANYBODY want an idiot like Shatner to narrate this. Next, that idiot will start his 'singing'.
  • This week the BBC had a one-hour special on Curiosity. Despite entirely too much focus on "ZOMG the landing sequence is soo complicated" (*) it's worth watching (**) as it gives an overview of the whole project.

    *: Deplorably, even Horizon has fallen prey to the same decline we've seen on the Discover and NatGeo channels, where documentaries are poisoned with faux suspense at the expense of information. In this case, Horizon forgets to mention WHY the landing sequence is so complicated.

    **: finding the torren

  • I would have prefered the comments to be made by actual astronauts/boffins instead of star trek actors...
  • I've heard Shatner's work and I think he's really good. I'm a little skeptical about Wheaton as I've seen some terrible celeb narrators like Christian Slater, Sigourney Weaver, and John Goodman.

  • Evidence of life on Mars is the kind of thing you find by accident. Serendipity. It's the kind of thing you find when you least expect it.

    These missions should be about finding gold, or oil. Yeah, yeah.... I know, I'm not stupid. But most people are and support for these programs among the taxpayer citizens would increase dramatically.

    Then maybe we'd really have a chance of finding something cool up there.

  • Oh man. So the descent stage, hovering on its own exhaust plume, is supposed to lower the rover down on a bunch of wires? Who came up with that idea? Kudos to NASA if this all works, but are these decisions really guided by the desire to (statistically) maximize the (Mars) science output, rather than a bunch of engineering/robotics geeks testing out their newest toys?
  • The "Science" channel will be airing an in-depth program on this landing on Monday, August 6, at 10pm Eastern time.
  • Shatner and Wheaton !!!

    Is this a case of NASA double jumping the shark ?

  • Does Wil Wheaton have a Clever Nick Name?

  • Given that this lander has a pretty good chance of not landing properly how are we justifying the very real possibility of contaminating the Martian landscape with 4.8 kg of Plutonium-238? I can't wait to hear the justification for this given that we have two rovers up there that have done quite well on solar power.

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