Category Archives: Sci/Tech

Science And Technology News

NASA and Curiosity Celebrate Four Years On Mars

Four years ago today, NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity made one of the most dramatic and technical landings in the history of space exploration.

On the night of August 5, 2012, a rocket powered sky crane lowered the car size Curiosity onto the Mars red dirt using cables, then flew off and intentionally crash-landed a safe distance away.

Curiosity team members had modeled this novel technique repeatedly using computers, but it had never been tested fully here on Earth, let alone employed on the surface of another world.

Still, everything worked perfectly at crunch time, and Curiosity soon began exploring the interior of Mars’ 96-mile-wide Gale Crater. The discoveries came fast: The rover found that the area near its landing site harbored a lake-and-stream system long ago, showing that at least some parts of the Red Planet could have supported microbial life in the ancient past.

“It was just an early home run that kind of took the pressure off, and allowed us to expand on that [discovery] for the next few years,” Curiosity project scientist Ashwin Vasavada, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, told the media.

The New Horizons Mission To Pluto

The epic, first exploration of Pluto and its moons by the NASA New Horizons mission was completed last week, on Tuesday, July 14. And it captured the attention and imaginations of people across America and the entire world.

New Horizons is truly an American-made product, and one we can all be proud of. More than 2,500 Americans worked to design, build, launch, and fly New Horizons.

This NASA-industry-academia team included major partners at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, the Southwest Research Institute, Ball Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance, KinetX Corporation, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Stanford University, the University of Colorado, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as well as dozens of other universities and small companies who contributed.

The people who created New Horizons to complete the first reconnaissance of the planets delivered on the promise we made in 2001 to explore the Pluto system. We invested 15 years of our careers and lives to do this, to create knowledge, to show the United States on its game, to inspire kids and adults alike — across the world — and to make you proud.

In addition to gathering incredible science, one of my hopes for the flyby was that we’d excite people about the power of exploration, the sheer audacity of our species, and the great things we can achieve. And it’s working — from an unprecedented response on social media to global news coverage, the exciting and historic nature of New Horizons has really caught on!

It took us more than nine years to cross the 3 billion miles of space to get to Pluto — and you have followed our journey, supported us, and believed in our mission. We can’t thank you enough for that, or for your support of NASA that made New Horizons possible.