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Shoot for the Stars to Land on Mars

At 10:31pm Sunday night Caltech stood still to witness history.JPLscientist, including Caltech students, alumni, and professors, succeeded in landing a chemistry lab the size of a car on Mars.Curiosityfor space has a whole new meaning.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a viewing of the landing for JPL employees that was hosted by thePlanetary Society, the "largest and most influential public space organization group on Earth." I was quite surprised when our welcome speaker walked out and it was the guy on the left.

BILL NYE THE SCIENCE GUY!!!!! If you don’t know who this is, then you’re childhood was deprived of awesomeness.

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Apparently now that he’s not a tv star, he’s CEO of the Planetary Society.

After listening to my childhood science hero talk about the wonders of space for half an hour, we started watching NASA’s live stream coverage and endured one of the most intense two hours of my life. Like I said earlier, I was in an auditorium of JPL employees. Arguably the only people more invested in the success of this mission were the guys in mission control who we were watching.

The craziest thing about the entire landing was that nothing went wrong. Just look at how insane this landing was. Heat shield, parachute, radar, thrusters, and a sky crane. 900 m/s to 0 in seven minutes. If you want to be picky, someone pointed out to me that they did not start receiving telemetry data as early as they had hoped, but they still basically had signal from the rover for the entire descent. And the Odyssey satellite was in perfect position to assist with communication and capture some sick photos of the rover decelerating by parachute(which I’ve heard was orange and white for Caltech).

That rover got a more enthusiastic standing ovation than any stage performance I’ve ever seen. When the first pictures came, in the crowd erupted again. Everything about that landing was so satisfying. It was a seemingly ridiculous project that was planned and executed so perfectly that it succeeded. And I got to watch it with a group of friends who are spending their summers working with the people who made it happen.

So Curiosity, now that you’ve stuck the landing, what can you tell us about the red planet?