Quantcast
Latest Stories

Wheel prints not moonwalk but still darn exciting



LOS ANGELES—Neil Armstrong inspired millions with his moonwalk. Can a feisty robotic rover exploring Mars do the same for another generation?

The rover last week beamed home photographs of its first wheel tracks on the Martian soil since its daredevil landing.

With manned missions beyond the International Space Station on hold, the spotlight has turned on machines.

While it did not rise to Armstrong’s “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” interest was so high in the rover Curiosity’s “seven minutes of terror” approach to the red planet earlier this month that the website of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) crashed after receiving nearly 2 billion hits.

“There’s something exciting about reaching another place in the solar system. If you think about the kind of interest the landing of Curiosity had, you get a sense of that,” said Roger Launius, Smithsonian Institution space curator.

It wasn’t on the same level as Armstrong’s feat, “but it was pretty darn exciting,” Launius said.

Man inspires, robot can’t

John Grotzinger, Curiosity chief scientist,  said the wheel prints on Mars may turn out to be an iconic image just like those first boot prints on the lunar surface.

“Instead of a human, it’s a robot pretty much doing the same thing,” Grotzinger said.

Henry Lambright, a space scholar, said while Curiosity was inspiring, the world still needed to send humans beyond low-Earth orbit.

“It can’t inspire to the degree that Apollo did because a robot can’t inspire the way a man can,” Lambright said.

Next giant leap

On Monday, Nasa played a recording from administrator Charles Bolden that had been sent up to the rover on Mars and relayed back to Earth. In it, he thanked scientists and engineers for their achievement.

David Lavery of Nasa headquarters said the hope was that someone would be inspired by Bolden’s message and become the first human to stand on Mars.

“Like the great Neil Armstrong, they’ll be able to speak aloud—the first person at that point, of the next giant leap in human exploration,” Lavery said.

Robotic spacecraft

When Armstrong and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin stepped on the moon on July 20, 1969, an estimated 600 million people watched and listened. “Virtually the entire world took that memorable journey with us,” Aldrin recalled after Armstrong’s death on Saturday.

Early in the Space Age, the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts were the public face of Nasa’s space endeavor while the unmanned lunar missions were in the shadows. The public craved adventure and the manned missions delivered.

Next, the space shuttle ferried a new crop of astronauts to low-Earth orbit, but after three decades, it became routine. And the Cold War thawed with the Russians and Americans cooperating on the Russian space station Mir and the International Space Station.

The space station is all that’s left.  Its crew of six quietly goes about doing its job about 400 kilometers above the Earth. US President Barack Obama nixed plans for returning astronauts to the moon in favor of landing on an asteroid and eventually Mars.

These days, space exploration is carried out by robotic spacecraft—commanded by human handlers on Earth. Advances in technology have allowed unmanned spacecraft to go farther and peer deeper, circling Mercury, Saturn, and the asteroid Vesta, with others headed for Jupiter and dwarf planet Pluto.

At center stage

The twin Voyager craft are still going strong at the fringes of the solar system 35 years after their launch in 1977.

“Robotic exploration has taken more of a center stage,” said Howard McCurdy, American University space policy analyst. “It gets more publicity now than the International Space Station.”

When the first Mars rover Sojourner landed in 1997, science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke rephrased Armstrong’s famous line and said the event was “one small step for the rover.”

Three other rovers have followed, including Curiosity, which landed on Aug. 5 by executing an intricate routine that ended with it being lowered by cables to the surface.

Curiosity’s acrobatics proved so popular that its Twitter followers surged from 120,000 on the eve of landing to more than a million.


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter




Recent Stories:

Search for Etihad passengers launched 6 mins elapsed Boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter dies at 76 17 mins elapsed Study: Fuels from corn waste not better than gas 44 mins elapsed Yemen: Airstrike targets al-Qaida training camps 1 hour elapsed Wawrinka beats Federer to win Monte Carlo Masters 3 hours elapsed Japan presents $57-B ‘dream plan’ to solve Metro congestion 4 hours elapsed Healing priest invites political leaders to join ‘prayer for nation’ 4 hours elapsed Tagle: Christ’s resurrection a message of hope to faithful 5 hours elapsed
Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Mars , Moon , Neil Armstrong , Robotic Rover , Science , Space , technology



Copyright © 2014,
.
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement Advertisement
  1. Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  2. Did Deniece Cornejo lambast Vhong Navarro on social media?
  3. Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  4. Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  5. Filipinos #PrayForSouthKorea
  6. Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  7. Mommy Dionisia sings ‘Riking Bull,’sends netizens ablaze
  8. Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  9. Taylor Swift tries video blogging, crashes into fan’s bridal shower
  10. Aquino may be ousted for cybercrime law, says lawmaker
  1. Did Deniece Cornejo lambast Vhong Navarro on social media?
  2. Mommy Dionisia sings ‘Riking Bull,’sends netizens ablaze
  3. Mommy Dionisia Pacquiao scores, takes over social media
  4. Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  5. IT technician found guilty of defrauding firm of P130,000
  6. Netizens react to Pacquiao’s victory over Bradley
  7. Memes flourish after Pacquiao victory
  8. Philippines may watch ‘blood moon’ online
  9. Online-addicted man arrested over son’s death
  10. Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  1. #RejectedBbPilipinas2014Questions flood Twitter
  2. Did Deniece Cornejo lambast Vhong Navarro on social media?
  3. Netizens fall in love with Crimea prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya
  4. Mommy Dionisia Pacquiao scores, takes over social media
  5. Nude and so dangerous
  6. Mommy Dionisia sings ‘Riking Bull,’sends netizens ablaze
  7. Russia tries to curb Crimean prosecutor’s Internet fame
  8. Memes flourish after Pacquiao victory
  9. Netizens thank Capa for Lee arrest
  10. Filipino artist copies piece from digital art

News

  • $57-B mega plan to solve Metro’s mega woes
  • Aquino vows to step up fight against corruption
  • Santiago scoffs at rushing defense pact for Obama visit
  • Former solon, 2 others sanctioned for unfair labor practice
  • Let us pray for the nation, healing priest asks leaders
  • Sports

  • PH Am match play golf under way at Orchard
  • Road Warriors target win No. 6 vs Oilers
  • UE Warriors test new system in Filoil Hanes Cup
  • Boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter dies at 76
  • Wawrinka beats Federer to win Monte Carlo Masters
  • Lifestyle

  • Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  • ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  • Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  • ‘Imports’ from London, and play of the year
  • Korean animation comes of age
  • Entertainment

  • Easter musings
  • Solenn in shorts
  • Unmerry mix of attention-calling moves on ‘Mini-Me’ TV tilts
  • Persistence pays off for The 1975
  • Special section in LA fest for Filipino films
  • Business

  • BDO seen keen on bidding for Cocobank
  • Bataan freeport investment pledges up 1,302%
  • Golden Week
  • Bourse to woo Cebu stock mart investors
  • Supper power
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Gigi’s home
  • Palace stonewalls on MRT inquiry
  • Couple of things too
  • There is plenty of water behind Wawa Dam
  • Triduum thoughts of a young boy
  • Global Nation

  • Search for Etihad passengers launched
  • Japan presents $57-B ‘dream plan’ to solve Metro congestion
  • Tim Tebow’s charity hospital in Davao seen to open in 7 months
  • OFW died of Mers-CoV in Saudi Arabia, says family
  • Aquino, Obama to tackle US pivot to Asia during state visit
  • Advertisement
    Marketplace