Curiosity... It inspires us all.

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By: Emilee Richardson, Marketing & Communications Coordinator

It’s been five days since NASA’s latest Mars rover, Curiosity, made its much-anticipated landing on the Red Planet. And five days later, I still haven't settled down!

What made this mission so captivating was that for the first time, the public could follow along with the action... live. (Minus the 14-minute delay that it takes for data to reach us from Mars, of course.) NASA did a great job of building the anticipation, and they followed through by live-streaming and live-tweeting the whole event. (Keep in mind, when Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars in 2004, YouTube didn’t even exist. Crazy, right?)

So yes, I stayed up past midnight to watch the landing via NASA’s live video stream. And yes, I was glued to my monitor in anticipation as Eyes On the Sky, the computer simulation, showed Curiosity performing its impossibly difficult and risky Entry Decent and Landing (EDL) maneuvers. And yes, I’ve been geeking out for the past five days as new images and information are transmitted back to Earth. But the thing that made me most excited?

What made me most excited was how EVERYONE was into it. Everyone was talking about it. Everyone was excited about Mars – about space – about science! The mission was remarkable, but the response it got was equally as remarkable.

From the minute I sat down at my laptop around 11:00 pm on August 5, my Twitter stream was almost exclusively focused on @MarsCuriosity. And it only got better. My fingers could barely type and click fast enough to keep up with the new information from NASA and the nearly instantaneous reactions from the public. But as MSL began its "7 Minutes of Terror," the tweets slowed down… Everyone was holding their breath and watching their screens.

“We have touchdown – We are on Mars.”

With that, we were all back at it. Tweeting, posting, commenting. Sharing the excitement of the feat that had just been accomplished... an incredible mission that started with something as simple as curiosity.

I’m not ready to let that excitement go yet. I want to keep reliving it. So here are some of my favorite tweets from that historic night. [Full disclosure: @emileeann is me!]


Acronym Decoder:

Since Twitter only allows 140 characters, acronyms are used heavily. The rest of the post will make much more sense if you know what people are talking about!

MSL = Mars Science Laboratory, the name used for the spacecraft that carried Curiosity on its journey. Common consensus is that MSL was the spacecraft; Curiosity is the rover.

JPL = Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the U.S. center for robotic exploration in Pasadena, California, where Curiosity was built.

EDL = Entry, Decent and Landing, the mission phase from when the spacecraft hits the top of the Martian atmosphere to when it reaches the ground, as described JPL's video "7 MInutes of Terror."


Anticipation Builds...

It started early on Sunday

"The Olympics is cool and all but today NASA is lowering a car sized rover onto Mars using nylon strings attached to a rocket powered shelf." -Catherine @CatherineQ 4:52 am

The Science Center was into it

"Tonight, much like an Olympic gymnast, @MarsCuriosity needs to "stick the landing." " -Science Center of IA ‏@SCIOWA 7:35 pm

I was into it

"YOU GUYS, there's a rover landing on MARS in like four hours!!" -Emilee Richardson @emileeann ‏8:13 pm

Then Curiosity itself got in on the action!

"#MSL is currently moving 362 times faster than Usain Bolt! The Spacecraft is still accelerating until hitting Entry Interface... #Olympics " -MSL Curiosity ‏@MSL_101 9:00 pm

(Note: Curiosity was not actually tweeting from space. But it is a verified NASA account, and it was awesome.)

My favorite science blogger, Emily Lakdawalla, was live-blogging from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) when, coincidentally, the International Space Station flew by overhead

"About half the media room just ran outside to watch the Space Station fly overhead #ISSwave#MSL nice bright pass, wowed the crowd!" -Emily Lakdawalla ‏@elakdawalla 11:21 pm

Then Curiosity switched into EDL mode

"I'm inside the orbit of Deimos and completely on my own. Wish me luck! #MSL" -Curiosity Rover ‏@MarsCuriosity 11:12 pm

"Applause in #MSL control room: We are now in EDL mode." -New Scientist ‏@newscientist 11:50 pm

"Science is my new favorite Olympic sport." -Megan Sparkles‏ @megobits 11:52 pm

Some celebrities got a little goofy

"GUYS LOOK THERE IS WATER ON MARS.' -Wil Wheaton ‏@wilw 11:57 pm

But when the Mars orbiter, Odyssey, confirmed its position and that it would be able to relay Curiosity's landing live, things got really exciting

"That is, Odyssey's roll worked; she's now listening to #MSL Curiosity." -Emily Lakdawalla ‏@elakdawalla 12:07 am

"Earthlings. Cross stuff. Fingers, toes, whatever. Keep it there. Get the peanuts. We’re about to make history again w/MarsCuriosity" -Amber Naslund‏ @AmberCadabra 12:13 am

People were tuned in from coast to coast, including this gathering in Times Square

"In case anyone wondered if people would show up in Times Square at 1am on a sunday night to watch a robot land on Mars." -Blue Milker‏ @bluemilker 12:14 am

Entry, Decent and Landing...

Remember that 14-minute delay?

"#MSL is now on the surface. We're just narrating its progress, 14 light-minutes delayed, from here." -Scott Maxwell‏ @marsroverdriver 12:17 am

The "7 Minutes of Terror" begin

"Guided entry is begun. Here I go! #MSL" -Curiosity Rover ‏@MarsCuriosity 12:25 am

"7 minutes of terror starts NOW! #MSL#Curiosity" -Popular Science‏ @PopSci 12:26 am

"Parachute deployed. Backshell separation. Rockets are firing." It all happened so fast, and then...

"Standing by for Sky Crane! #MSL" -New Scientist ‏@newscientist 12:31 am

"'We're safe.' #MSL" -Emilee Richardson‏ @emileeann 12:31 am

"We're On Mars!"

Initial reactions

"Gold medal for NASA in the 563 billion meters" -Ben Dolman ‏@bdolman 12:34 am

"Hey 8-year-old me, I just watched NASA land a giant rover on Mars on my wireless pocket computer. You’re going to like it here in the future" -Matthew Panzarino ‏@mpanzarino 12:33 am

"Hey, I still have a job Monday. :-D #MSL" -Scott Maxwell‏ @marsroverdriver 12:48 am

And within seconds, images were coming in

"'Images coming down.' #MSL" -Emilee Richardson ‏@emileeann 12:35 am

"I see wheels on SOIL ! #MSL" -Emily Lakdawalla ‏@elakdawalla 12:34 am

"USA! USA! USA! USA!" -Jeremy Bingaman‏ @iowaradioguy 12:35 am

"'Keep watching the screen! There's more stuff, any minute now!' says someone on NASA TV #MSL" -New Scientist ‏@newscientist 12:35 am

There were some funny comments, too

"Sure, they can precisely land a rover on Mars. But I see a lot of awkwardly missed high fives in that control room." -Chris Sacca‏ @sacca 12:35 am

"Curiosity contemplates which Instagram filter to use." -Eva Giselle‏ @EvaZebra 12:36 am

The first hi-res images illicit some stunned reactions

"New hi-res images show the surface of Mars, and @MarsCuriosity's shadow. Amazing. #msl" -CNN Light Years‏ @CNNLightYears 12:38 am

"How do I buy a round for these NASA #curiosity engineers?" -Jill Van Wyke ‏@JillVanWyke 12:39 am

"Holy frak it actually worked. #MSL" -Emily Lakdawalla ‏@elakdawalla 12:39 am

And Curiosity got snarky again

"No photo or it didn't happen? Well lookee here, I'm casting a shadow on the ground in Mars' Gale crater #MSL" -Curiosity Rover ‏@MarsCuriosity 12:47 am

Other Great Moments...

There were some Olympics references


"Can NBC outsource their Olympic coverage to NASA? Better quality livestream, more knowledgeable announcers & actual live programming" -Whitney Muse‏ @arieswym 12:45 am

"Tonight's Mars landing = Proof you don't have to air something in prime time to capture the attention of the nation." -Matthew Keys ‏@ProducerMatthew 12:47 am

"Today I saw a man with no legs run in the Olympics and a robot from Earth land on Mars. Holy cow - science is awesome." -Janessa Goldbeck‏ @jgoldbeck 12:50 am

"NBC has a 6 hour delay for events 3000 miles away. NASA has a 15 minute delay for an event 150,000,000 miles away." -Matt Nunogawa ‏@amattn 12:58 am

Some people reflected

"I don’t know what we’ll find, but I do know that I’ll always remember this night. 'We dare mighty things.' #MSL" -Norah Carroll ‏@norahcarroll 12:48 am

"The excitement, joy & relief I saw in that room gave me tears. Tears of geeker joy. #MarsCuriosityLanding" -Heather ‏@BazingaCat 12:51 am

"Jokes aside, we're on Mars again. We are on Mars. This is another amazing milestone in humanity's quest to reach out to the stars. Bravo." -Thai Luong ‏@thailuong 1:03 am

And there were some pretty amazing quotes

"'It's time to see where our Curiosity will take us.' #MSL" -Emily Lakdawalla ‏@elakdawalla 12:38 am

"'Given a task to do. One that seems impossible. Given the desire to do it, humans can accomplish almost anything.' – Jim Lovell #MSL" -Geoff B‏ @zerogguy 12:51 am

"Holdren: 'Even the longest of odds are no match for America's unique blend of technical acumen and gutsy determination' #MSL" -Popular Science‏ @PopSci 1:28 am

"'There's a one-ton piece of American ingenuity and it's sitting on the surface of Mars right now,' @whitehouseostp's John Holdren #MSL" -NASA ‏@NASA 1:30 am

Even from the President

"'Tonight, on the planet Mars, the United States of America made history.' —President Obama" -Barack Obama ‏@BarackObama 12:57 am

And we crashed the NASA website!

"#NASA websites are down because all of you, and all of us, are so excited about #MSL" -Popular Science‏ @PopSci 12:55 am

"NASA websites crashed. Lander didn't. Way it should be. #MSL#MarsCuriosity" -Katie Mack ‏@AstroKatie 1:00 am

There were pleas to save the space program

"Mr. President, this is why space is still cool and worth exploring. Boo yeah! #MarsCuriosity" -Romelle Slaughter II‏ @RHS76 12:52 am

"In case you missed it earlier - Curiosity cost $2.5B. Americans spend $7B on potato chips annually. To say we can't afford this is nonsense." -Nick Hlavacek ‏@NickInNC 12:54 am

"Hey Congress/@BarackObama: This was Times Sq tonight: - @NASA inspires us, brings us together. Fund it." -Rob Sheridan ‏@rob_sheridan 2:53 am

And Curiosity thanked us for our support

"To the entire team & fans back on Earth, thank you, thank you. Now the adventure begins. Let's dare mighty things together! #MSL" -Curiosity Rover‏ @MarsCuriosity 1:37 am

While I'm sure many of you agree with the irony of this tweet...

"Years from now when our kids ask where we were when @MarsCuriosity landed, we can proudly say ‘furiously updating Twitter.’" -Grant Goodale ‏@ggoodale 1:05 am

...this statement pretty much sums up my feelings on the whole night

"I love that we did this, and I love that people love that we did this." -Phil Plait‏ @BadAstronomer 1:28 am

The excitement even continued the next day...

"You know what? I still can't believe it worked." -Emily Lakdawalla‏ @elakdawalla 9:16 pm

And my friend Jeremy posted a tweet that was retweeted more than 800 times (including by @NASA)

"When was the last time hundreds of people gathered in Times Square and chanted the name of a gov't agency? Oh yeah, never. Go @NASA!" -Jeremy Bingaman ‏@iowaradioguy 8:31 am


In Summary...

We did it. We landed on Mars. And we captured the imaginations of millions. Mission accomplished.

Shameless plug: Continue the journey, and learn more about the challenges of space travel by visiting SCI's latest traveling exhibition, Facing Mars, where you can try walking with Mars' gravity, test your space surgery skills and see a real Martian meteorite! Learn about other space-themed events at

Category: NASA