Curiosity has successfully made it to Mars! While it’s gotten a generous amount of press in recent days, we wanted add our own nod to the successful landing of the Mars Science Laboratory aboard its rover, Curiosity, (after its Seven Minutes of Terror) at 1:32 a.m. EDT, Aug. 6, 2012 (10:32 p.m. PDT on Aug. 5, 2012). Since then it has proceeded with its set up to get itself fully up and running in order to study the red planet.
The rover, launched Nov. 26, 2011, hosts a myriad of instruments that will allow it to analyze the martian landscape. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is about the size of a small SUV and carries with it three cameras, several spectrometers, as well as radiation detectors, environmental sensors, and atmospheric sensors. This mission is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the red planet. Curiosity was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. In other words, its mission is to determine the planet’s “habitability.” The rover will analyze samples scooped from the soil and drilled from rocks. The record of the planet’s climate and geology is essentially written in the rocks and soil — in their formation, structure, and chemical composition. The rover’s onboard laboratory will study rocks, soils, and the local geologic setting in order to detect chemical building blocks of life (e.g., forms of carbon) on Mars and will assess what the martian environment was like in the past. We look forward to all that we can learn about Mars from the MSL aboard Curiosity.
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During the last weekend of July Baltimore was host to about thirty-two thousand very interesting people (in addition to the devoted sports fans at Camden Yard and M&T Bank Stadium). Nerds, geeks, fans and enthusiasts alike gathered at the Baltimore Convention Center for Otakon 2012, the nineteenth-annual Baltimore convention devoted to the appreciation and epxerience of anime (Japanese animation), video games, comics, and artists. Thousands of attendees spent the months before the convention hard at work on their cosplay, costumes fashioned in the likenesses of their favorite characters from beloved series. Among the thousands of characters represented, Captain Jean Luc Picard, Sailor Moon, Static, the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes, and Batman were all in attendance. But whether they were the Onceler, the Thundercats or the Avengers, royalty or giant robots, all of these fans have in common the love for elements of science-fiction and fantasy incorporated into compelling stories and creative works as tools for storytelling, worldbuilding and imagination. Being a self-identified geek myself, someone who not only appreciates the inclusion of a degree of science in my science-fiction stories of choice but is interested in hearing how my fellow enthusiasts relate to science, and how science-fiction can function as a bridge to the sciences, while I was at Otakon I interviewed a selection of the attendees to get their thoughts. We talked about science in their sci-fi, their experiences with science, things they noticed about the portrayal of scientists in pop culture, cool things in space, and some of the exciting stuff that NASA is up to right now.
Congoers crowd one of the open areas at Otakon for photoshoots and event programming, many of whom are in cosplay (including the series Team Fortress 2, Portal, Tiger and Bunny, Phoenix Wright, Sailor Moon, Homestuck, Mass Effect, Okami, The Avengers, and more)
Credit: Jillian Brown
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