The excitement at Curiosity’s safe landing on Mars was felt well beyond Mission Control last night, as directors, White House officials and science geeks of all varieties took to Twitter and press releases to express their enthusiasm.
The gold star for American rah-rah goes to White House Science Advisor John Holdren, who put it this way:
“And if anybody has been harboring doubts about the status of US leadership in space, well there is a one-ton automobile sized piece of American ingenuity that is sitting on the surface of Mars right now,”
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden went even further:
Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars — or if the planet can sustain life in the future. This is an amazing achievement, made possible by a team of scientists and engineers from around the world and led by the extraordinary men and women of NASA and our Jet Propulsion Laboratory. President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid-2030’s, and today’s landing marks a significant step toward achieving this goal.
And Scientist and television personality Neil Degrasse-Tyson went with a more Trekkie take:
Jet Propulsion Labs, NASA: A reminder of what it feels like "to boldly go" pic.twitter.com/oUohiGzg
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) August 6, 2012
Given the hammering he’s taken on Fox News and elsewhere over his (entirely sane, well-supported) opinions on global climate change, Bill Nye the Science Guy’s take is even more amusing:
Hey humans. Celebrate Curiosity! pic.twitter.com/95sVUOIo
— Bill Nye (@BillNye) August 6, 2012
While the official Mars Curiosity Twitter feed asked us something bigger:
To the entire team & fans back on Earth, thank you, thank you. Now the adventure begins. Let's dare mighty things together! #MSL
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) August 6, 2012
President Obama’s remarks on the touch down read in part:
Tonight, on the planet Mars, the United States of America made history. The successful landing of Curiosity – the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet – marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future. It proves that even the longest of odds are no match for our unique blend of ingenuity and determination… I congratulate and thank all the men and women of NASA who made this remarkable accomplishment a reality – and I eagerly await what Curiosity has yet to discover.
Already, the mission is paying dividends, proving that the unique – read: right on the edge of wacky – design for the “Sky Crane” could do its job. By allowing the Rover to be set down in a precise location, the new lander paves the way for much more accurate landings and telemetry. The previous two landers were bounced across the surface of Mars in giant airbag cocoons.
Mission Control believes that the first real operations on the ground will take place sometime in September, after extensive diagnostics are performed. In the meanwhile, Curiosity stands at the foot of an enormous mountain in the middle of a crater the size of the San Fernando Valley, awaiting its next command.