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Hazardous Living: Watching Curiosity land safely was exhilarating

Curiosity's shadow in the Gale Crater on Mars within minutes of landing.

Credit: 

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity's wheel on Mars — one of the first pictures received just minutes after she landed.

Sometimes humanity accomplishes something absolutely awesome. Tonight was one of those nights. We put another rover on Mars — by far the most advanced rover yet. Curiosity is now out exploring Gale Crater and much is expected of her.

Think about how many computations, how many hours (years!) of work, how many different people, how many wires, bolts and parts, and how many things I can't even begin to imagine much less comprehend went into this accomplishment. That's the part that blows my mind. One tiny little computation error or a wire not connected and none of this happens. It takes years of people constantly working at their peak to make this happen. There can be no bad days. No typos. No mistakes, none.

I found myself getting chills while watching the runup to the landing and the actual landing on NASA TV — watching the excitement of the scientists and engineers in the room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and hearing their cheers as the rover separated from her spacecraft was electrifying. I was biting my nails in the nervous moments until she landed safely. Then came the eruption of cheers, hugs, high-fives and, I'd imagine, huge sighs of relief. Thanks to NASA for broadcasting the landing and letting the world share in the accomplishment, even if we did crash your websites as the world watched your achievement and tweeted about it.

I'm one proud scientist, one proud American, one proud human today. Way to go NASA!

We look forward to hearing more from Curiosity and seeing what she can do. We at EARTH will keep you up to date on what Curiosity finds.

Megan Sever
Monday, August 6, 2012 - 05:00