We landed on Mars today!

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Mars_Insight

Our latest Mars probe landed successfully today, after a 7 month journey from it’s launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Designed to study the physical structure of Mars, the probe will look for water, and use super-sensitive seismometers to study the planet’s interior. It will drill down into the ground beneath the lander to help scientists explore the mantle and core of Mars.

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#Mars Geek: Sept. 3, 1976 #Viking2 lands on Red Planet

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Two days before my 19th birthday. Incredible images to follow the successful Viking 1 lander in July.  What a summer!

#Mars hooey making rounds on #Facebook. Again.

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Since most people know more about astrology than astronomy (and, no, they’re not the same thing), this nonsense has been making the rounds on Facebook recently.  Needless to say (at least to anyone who paid attention in junior high school science class), Mars will not appear to be as big as the Moon.

The absolute closest distance the Earth and Mars can theoretically ever come to each other is 33.9 million miles.  We’ve never observed that, due to the elliptical nature of the orbits of planets. An approach that close requires a coincidental alignment of orbits that is exceedingly rare.  So rare, that it’s not been observed in human history.

For comparison, the orbits of Venus and the Earth can come within 24 million miles of each other.  The diameter of Venus is 3,032 miles, while Mars is 4,212 (not much difference in the grand scheme of planets).  Earth’s diameter is 7,918 miles. (give or take. It’s a bit more at the equator, less at the poles, due to the spin of the planet on it’s axis.)  Venus, even at it’s closest approach, 10 million miles closer than Mars ever gets, never appears as more than a bright star in the morning or evening sky, so the idea that Mars will look like our Moon is, simply, hooey.  Never going to happen.

If you ever do see something in the sky as big as the Moon (that’s not the Moon), we’re in deep shit.  That’s either the Death Star, or Gallifrey.

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Either one of those, and we’re screwed.

Mars Space Geek – Curiosity seen from orbit

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Curiosity, on Mars, from orbit.  Photo taken by HiRISE.  Just wow.

To give you a sense of scale, here’s the Curiosity’s twin on Earth:

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Science!

(and, as an aside… if NASA can take pictures like this from orbit, and release them, can you imagine what spy satellites are capable of these days? It boggles the mind.  Next time you’re outside, look up, smile, and wave.  It’ll give the CIA and NSA guys something to wonder about!)

Running the Dunes on #Mars

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February 10,2014.  Mars. Unbelievably freaking cool.

The JPL source page, here.

Mars is a real place.

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Pictures like this just enthrall me.  This is a real place. On another planet.

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Mars isn’t the only place we’ve landed out there!

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The surface of Titan, a satellite of Saturn

Space Cadet JimmieJoe is taking me to task right now.  This is a big thing, and I missed it!

On January 14, 2005, NASA and ESA landed a probe on Titan, one of the moons of Saturn!

I don’t recall being aware of this, at all.  I don’t even know if I’ve seen this picture before, but if I have, I’m fairly certain I would think it was of Mars.  Instead, this is the surface of a satellite orbiting a planet 794 million miles away from us (at it’s closest approach).

I’m thinking, right now, of all the hoopla surrounding the recent landing of the Curiosity on Mars, and marveling that there was not something similar back in 2005.  Yes, the Huygens probe, part of the Cassini mission, only parachuted to the “ground”, and Curiosity did the whole ‘heat shield – parachute – retro rocket – sky crane’ deal, but still…

I missed it!  (hanging head in shame, avoiding the glare of 12 year old Space Cadet JimmieJoe)

Mars, and Titan.  But did you know, they’re not the only two places we’ve set down on.

We’ve landed on another planet, too.

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