I interrupt your Olympic viewing to bring you this special announcement. Spoiler alert. Oh, wait, NBC might be too transfixed on Michael Phelps or Gabby Douglas or Missy Franklin to pick up on this one anyways.
We were just witnesses to one legendary wow moment of far beyond Olympic proportions. NASA has done it again. At 12:39 am central time, Curiosity landed on Mars and started sending back images from the Red Planet.
The video from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, once Curiosity landed on Mars, was akin to that seen after a gold medal performance.
This gold medal performance was 8 years in the making, just like many Olympians competing in London. It took 36 weeks alone just to get Curiosity to Mars. The 4 year Olympic cycle looks rather miniscule compared to the 8 year program that NASA has been on to make this day a reality.
Much like other Olympians, Curiosity is even sending back tweets (@MarsCuriosity) from the surface.
The technological feat is stunning. NASA dubbed it “Seven Minutes Of Terror”, in which Curiosity would go from 13,000 mph to zero. What does that mean to you and I? How about driving on the highway at 65 mph and making a full stop in 2.1 seconds – and walking away?
I am sitting here shaking my head in utter disbelief – no, amazement – at what NASA has accomplished. This is the same organization that brought you Gemini, Apollo, and countless other programs. Once again, NASA showed us that it has "The Right Stuff".
As mentioned by John Holdren in the early morning press conference today -
"There's a one-ton piece of American ingenuity and it's sitting on the surface of Mars right now"
That one sentence says so much.
The United States is the only country in the world to put a lander on the surface of any planet. A robotic orbiter, also of American origin, took pictures of the landing.
If that doesn’t make you proud to be an American, I don’t know what will. Made in America. That’s something that Apple and Microsoft can’t claim anymore.
The Curiosity program cost $2.5 billion, which amounts to about $8 per person. That isn’t a big investment given how much it provides this country with endless inspiration for our youth and great pride for all of us. NASA has repeatedly provided the country with some of its greatest moments. I would suggest that it is a pretty darn good return on investment. But NASA is facing budget cuts.
We have some of the greatest minds in the world right here in our own backyard. We must continue to have a deep-seated commitment to science, technology, education, and innovation. It is one of the things that makes the United States the great country it is.
Moments like this remind us of the true capacity of the human mind and spirit. This is yet another example of what happens when you dare to dream, and when you dare to live that same dream. Welcome to the United States of America.
The United States may have a bunch of gold medals after a week at the London Olympics. But this is truly a gold medal performance for the ages, and sadly these athletes won’t have a medal ceremony or have a moment to watch the raising of the American flag. They should.
I now return you to your regularly scheduled Olympic television-fest already in progress.
Photo credits: ToastyKen