I read with amazement the The Washington Post story about the landing on Mars by NASA’s rover, Curiosity, and the first day of exploration of the Gale crater near its equator. Immediately I was drawn to the original video of the 2,000-pound vehicle’s exit from the shuttle and first “steps.”
Overwhelmed by the magnitude of this achievement, I also worried that our children might not be so impressed and the adults might be too caught up in red and blue politics to focus on the red planet.
Watching the first moon walk and growing up when the space program was something we Americans talked about at the dinner table and dreamed about, I was immediately awestruck.
And then it got better. NASA released high-definition photos and now the high-definition video has been released. What an achievement. Photos compiled from the descent camera by effects artists have become an amazing video!
It's not so amazing that humans can travel to conventions to make speeches, that there is controversy about issues or that protesters show up in Tampa or Charlotte. Really, Curiosity is far more interesting and lends itself to better learning opportunities for our kids.
I suspect computer games and movies today deaden the impact of our achievements in space, and I wonder whether most kids might think we already had a Curiosity explorer on Mars. Many would surely be unimpressed by the first set of photographs than they would be of the realistic-looking vehicles and monsters in the latest video games. But now it's gotten even better with the video release.
Did you know that a Martian day is about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day? If you want to be more precise, read how in Smithsonian.com.
Video games or not, I think this Mars accomplishment is well worth a dinner table conversation, or discussion in the car while driving to school one morning. Adults and kids can watch the video, talk about career opportunities, think about what life would be like on another planet, and maybe wonder what kind of pets the residents of other planets might have or the food they would eat. And it's all G-rated.
Take a little time out from politics, back to school and focus on the events ahead and really pay attention to the cool things that our American scientists have created and are manipulating from back here on earth. Do you know how far away we are? The answer is, "it depends."
Show a little Martian curiosity and applaud our American accomplishments!