#NASATweetup: First Day and Oozing with Mars Scientific Goodness

Rover Xing Sign and VAB, MSL NASATweetup, Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Nov. 25, 2011
Rover Xing Sign and VAB, MSL NASATweetup, Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Nov. 25, 2011

Science is cool. No, wait. Science is ULTRA cool and nothing brings out the geek in me more than soaking up the wisdom of scientists and being surrounded by like-minded people. This weekend I’m attending #NASATweetup at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Yeah, it’s days like these when I wonder why I’m not utilizing my earth science degree…

Mars Science Laboratory Will Reach Destination in Nine Months

This post will be short as I have a 4:30 a.m. wake up call [note: okay, post ended up being a bit longer!] but simply put, NASA wowed 149 Twitter users and me today with its parade of scientists and engineers who shared their excitement over Saturday’s scheduled launch of the Atlas V rocket carrying MSL, also known as the Curiosity rover. Not only is the launch exciting but so are the planned activities once the 2,000-pound rover (yeah, that’s as big as a small car, or as Doug McCuistion, director, Mars Exploration program called it, “monster truck of Mars”) reaches the Gale crater on Mars in August 2012.

Stephanie Smith, of JPL, Displays Mars Rover Wheels, NASA Tweetup, Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Nov. 25, 2011
Stephanie Smith, of JPL, Displays Mars Rover Wheels, NASA Tweetup, Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Nov. 25, 2011

During its first week on Mars, Ashwin Vasavada, MSL deputy project scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told us Curiosity will take several black and white photos from the front and back of the rover along with a color photograph from a magnifying glass cover. A Mars orbiter will collect data after its second pass following the landing.

Curiosity’s Mission, It Chose to Accept…

I suppose once the rover has its bearings it will dig (pun intended!)  into gathering and analyzing samples including monitoring radiation levels, since someday, humans will land on Mars. It will also gather samples of and analyze: air, ice, rocks and measure Martian chemistry to learn how it was formed (just to name a few of its duties).

Tweeps Photograph Mars Rover Mini-Model and Wheels, MSL NASATweetup, Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Nov. 25, 2011
Tweeps Photograph Mars Rover Mini-Model and Wheels, MSL NASATweetup, Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Nov. 25, 2011

As explained by McCuistion, MSL “is not a life finding mission but may find some signs of life” with the sample returns.

There are more than 200 scientists associated with MSL. Two hundred! Curiosity will have two extra drill bits, lesson learned from the other Mars rovers (Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity) when the bits broke. Additional lessons learned from other rovers: importance of driving around hazards, better understanding of navigating through sand dunes, and how wheels and rovers in work in general.

United Launch Alliance Atlas V Rocket with Tweeps, MSL NASATweetup, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Nov. 25, 2011
United Launch Alliance Atlas V Rocket with Tweeps, MSL NASATweetup, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Nov. 25, 2011

I Can’t Wrap My Head Around It, Because It’s Just Amazing!

Thinking about what Curiosity may find is just mind blowing. There’s ice on Mars which means water was (or is?) there in some form. Water doesn’t necessarily mean life exists but it’s a pretty good indicator it MAY support life. Think about it. We’re closer to determining whether there was (or is) life on Mars. Whoa! Doesn’t that just give ya chills?

Remember to follow me on Twitter/jenniferhuber on Saturday for live updates of the rocket launch. The day begins at 6:45 a.m. with an impressive lineup of speakers.

Find additional images over on my Flickr account.

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Jenn

Jennifer A. Huber is an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, SoloTravelGirl.com with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. The unexpected death of her former husband in 2008 reminded her how short life is. His passing was a catalyst for sharing her experiences with the goal of inspiring and empowering others to travel solo. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

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