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Mars NASA Science

Shatner and Wheaton Narrate Mars Rover's Landing Sequence 114

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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  • Amazing (Score:5, Insightful)

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

  • Re:Oh Dear God No (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @01:03PM (#40830547)

    I disagree, Shatner is an excellent narrator. I was quite surprised by his talent for it in "Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie"

  • Real News (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaKong ( 150846 ) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @01:14PM (#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:Real News (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @02:07PM (#40831515)

    "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.

  • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Yaztromo ( 655250 ) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @02:17PM (#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.


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