Satellites and Missions


The mere mention of an upcoming celestial event usually draws minimal attention from my family.  Their participation is usually confined to me excitedly recounting the details of an eclipse or a meteor shower, while they half listen to me.  So on the day of the landing of the latest Mars rover, Curiosity, I was pretty sure I would be the only one glued to the computer at 12:30am.

I set my alarm in case I fell asleep, crawled in bed and turned on the TV. I was passing the time going back and forth from the summer Olympics and the NASA coverage online.  I reviewed the video describing the EDL (entry, descent and landing), otherwise known as the ‘7 minutes of terror’. It’s during this time that we’re all on equal footing. All of us, mission control scientists and scientist wannabe’s (like me!) are all equally helpless as to the outcome of the descent.

I decided to use my Kindle because it would be just me watching.The Kindle screen is small, about 5″ x 7″, but it’s big enough for me to watch with.  At 12:20am, the house was quiet; my husband was tucked in bed next to me, sound asleep. I turned off the lights and was now just sitting in the glow of the Kindle.  Suddenly my phone chirped. Who in the world is texting me at this hour? It was my daughter, texting me from her bedroom. “7 minutes of terror starts right now. Live cam online.” Hmm, they do listen sometimes! “I’m watching” I replied.

The door to my room opened and in walked my daughter all bundled up in a blanket. She shuffled over to my side of the bed and I slid over making room for her to sit. “Here”, I said, “take this” as I gave her one of my ear buds.  There we sat ear to ear, tethered to the Kindle, getting caught up in the excitement! They would announce each step in the EDL and I’d quickly explain what was happening.  (Thank goodness I watched that video!) Finally – Curiosity was on the surface of Mars! She laughed and I let out a quiet ‘yeah!’ We watched mission control erupt in celebration! They laughed, cried, high fived and hugged each other. It was such a proud moment for them and for the entire country!

We watched together until the first images from Mars came through. Then as quickly as she shuffled in, she shuffled out and back to her room.  While the Astro Babe in me was amazed at the success of the Curiosity landing, the mom in me was cherishing the moment spent huddled under the blanket with her daughter, watching history unfold.


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