Mars landing and the Sydney connection

NASA’s Curiosity Rover has already done 550 million kilometres on its trip to Mars. There’s only a measly 12 million to go until it lands on Mars on the 6th of August at 3:31pm Sydney time.

Curiosity will be landing, or attempting to land, in Gales Crater which is named after Frederick Gale from Sydney. Gale was a banker with a keen amateur interest in astronomy. He found several comets and, in 1892, described oases and canals on Mars. He was an ardent believer in life on Mars. While Gale’s beliefs had nothing to do with the choice of landing site for Curiosity, there’s a nice synchronicity in the fact that the site was chosen because it has favourable environmental conditions for supporting microbial life and for preserving clues about whether life ever existed.

NASA will be televising the event live on the web. The Sydney Observatory is hosting an event showing the live feed with local commentary; although strangely they appear to have the event starting one minute before Curiosity is scheduled to land – so don’t be late. Full details of the landing are on the Mars Science Laboratory site.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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