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20 March 2014

From TED: 3 rules to spark learning

Ramsey Musallam’s TED talk is described as the following: “It took a life-threatening condition to jolt chemistry teacher Ramsey Musallam out of ten years of “pseudo-teaching” to understand the true role of the educator: to cultivate curiosity. In a fun and personal talk, Musallam gives 3 rules to spark imagination and learning, and get students excited about how the world works.” What the description does not share is that he …


1 October 2013

Update: Government Shutdown Felt All The Way To Mars- Curiosity In Hibernation?

Now that the Federal Government has shut down, here are some of the effects in the science community. 1. Curiosity on Mars is being put into hibernation mode. (Update: Am told Curiosity is still doing science… for now…) (Update Wed. 2 AM: Because JPL acts as a contractor Curiosity is still being operated as of now. See HERE.) 2. Almost all (97%) of NASA will shut down with the exception …


30 April 2013

Rocketplanes, Science comics, and Curiosity

First of all, in case you missed it, we live in the future. Proof? This actual photograph from Virgin Galactic’s successful supersonic rocketplane flight:


15 August 2012

What time is it on Mars? Science Time.

We’re wrapping up the flight software update on Curiosity and getting ready to continue the commissioning phase, testing out each instrument in turn and gathering new science data. As you have seen, the cameras were already busy before the software update. That’s because taking a picture is relatively simple: the only movement involved is the rover mast and the focus. ChemCam is more complicated than taking a photo, but it …


11 August 2012

First Full-Resolution Mastcam Panorama

Feast your eyes on this: As you can see, there are still a few frames missing, but still. Wow. I love the way the crater rim fades in the distance, and the tantalizing glimpses at the layers of Mt. Sharp. The foreground is plenty interesting too, with a variety of rock shapes and colors, and of course the rocks exposed by the blast of the skycrane’s rockets. I feel like …


Sols 4 to 5: New Flight Software, MSL memes

After my uplink shift yesterday, I managed to catch a few hours of sleep before coming in at 3am. Today was my day off, you see. You may be wondering why one would come in to work at 3am on one’s day off. Answer: because that’s when the science happens! Actually, I mis-read the schedule. The science theme group meetings were more like 1am, but I got in in time …


10 August 2012

Sol 3 to 4: Colorful Gale

Today was a long day for ChemCam uplink. We are planning to collect the first passive spectra of the calibration target on Sol 4, and that means it is also the first time that the ChemCam optics will be focused, placing the instrument at risk for damage from the sun if it is pointed incorrectly.


8 August 2012

Sol 2 to 3: First Navcams, and some new craters

There was a lot of excitement today because the remote sensing mast successfully deployed and overnight we received the first full-resolution images from the navigation cameras.


Sol 1 to 2: MAHLI landscape, HiRISE Crime Scene

So, remember the awesome new data that I was geeking out about at the end of my previous post, but which I couldn’t share? Well, it has now been discussed at a press conference, so I’m free to share it. First up, here’s the image that made the ChemCam team shout out loud because of its sheer awesomeness…


6 August 2012


We made it! Curiosity is safely on the surface of Mars and is returning some spectacular data!


Dare Mighty Things

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”


5 August 2012

Sol -1: Planetfest, and ChemCam team rocks the house

  Today I managed to start off getting a bit of work done, then headed down to Planetfest, where I helped out with the Google Mars station for a while, giving tours of Gale crater and answering questions. In the afternoon, I was on a panel moderated by Emily Lakdawalla with a bunch of other young scientists and engineers, talking about how we got involved in space exploration. The panel …


Good Luck Curiosity!

“The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. From it we have learned most of what we know. Recently, we have waded a little out to sea, enough to dampen our toes or, at most, wet our ankles. The water seems inviting. The ocean calls.” – Carl Sagan They’ve planned for every conceivable eventuality. Let’s just hope the do not run into a space demodulator and …


4 August 2012

Sol -2: Loose ends, interviews, landing site bingo, and Pixar

With this blog entry, I’m switching over to a more journal-like style that I will hopefully use throughout the mission. When there are Big Science Ideas to talk about related to the mission, I will of course try to explain them in their own posts, but I am also going to be doing posts like this one (although likely not usually as long), sharing what my day was like, what the ups and downs were, and hopefully providing a window into what it’s like to be involved in the mission without crossing the line into that which must not be blogged.


1 August 2012

5 days…

I don’t have much time to post since I am currently wrestling some particularly beastly paper revisions that need to be done by the end of the week before my life gets really complicated. But I wanted to mention a few things here before I dive back into revisions: Curiosity has already switched over to its Entry, Descent and Landing sequence. From the @MarsCuriosity twitter feed: “Timeline activated. Bleep-bop. I’m running …


18 January 2012

Rovers in the Mars Yard

Check out this great photo that I saw on the Curiosity Facebook page, showing models of Sojourner, MER and MSL, along with two engineers for scale. Curiosity is a really big robot!


30 November 2011

MSL Launch

We got up before dawn, tired but buzzing with anticipation. To get to the VIP viewing area for the launch, we had to drive to a nearby stadium, park, and then show our bus passes to get on one of the dozens of buses waiting to drive to NASA. As the bus filled up, I started to see other faces that I recognized. Scientists involved in the mission, grinning to hide their nerves.


27 November 2011

MSL Launch Videos

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be in the VIP viewing area at Kennedy Space Center to watch Mars Science Laboratory launch to Mars! I’ll put up a proper post about the whole experience, but in the meantime enjoy these videos. The first is the one that I took, the second was taken by my friend Casey Dreier, and finally I’m posting the official NASA video of the launch. I find that the “home video” versions are more exciting because you get to hear the crowd’s reaction.


23 November 2011

MSL Launch Info

MSL is ready for a launch on Saturday, and the forecast is looking good! In preparation for the launch there is a bunch of great information about the mission available online.


Curiosity as Art

This morning I heard a bunch of really interesting status updates from all of the instruments but I can’t tell you about them. Instead, here are some artist’s renditions of MSL, courtesy of the folks at Unmanned Spaceflight.