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Tonight at 10:30 pm (Pacific), the new Martian rover Curiosity will hopefully touch down safely on the Martian surface to begin several years of research in the crater Gale.
What has been most amazing to me is the amount of interest in this landing by the press, especially the mainstream press. Normally these outlets don’t care that much for space exploration, a trend that began after the Apollo 11 landing in 1969 when it became trendy in liberal circles to down play space exploration so that “the money could instead be spent solving our problems here on Earth.”
Today, however, I count more than forty news articles on this upcoming landing, most of which come from mainstream sources. It seems that these outlets have finally discovered something that has been obvious from the beginning: the American public is fascinated with space exploration, and if you want to attract readers, it is better to provide coverage of what interests them rather than push a political agenda that few agree with.
Anyway, if you want to follow the landing live, go here for a full outline of options. Or go directly to NASA TV. Most of what you will see will the control room at JPL, with many engineers staring at computer screens waiting to find out if the landing was a success, about twenty minutes after it took place. This is because it will take that long for the communications signals to travel from Mars to the Earth. Essentially, Curiosity is on its own in this landing.