#MSL #NASATweetup

14 11 2011
Topographic Map of Gale Crater

Topographic Map of Gale Crater, with MSL landing site indicated by circle

I’m starting to ramp up for the NASA Tweetup next week. My initial burst of excitement about the Tweetup drowned in the subsequent flood of information related to the event—transportation and lodging options, meals before, during and after the Tweetup and launch, T-shirt designs (multiple), pin and patch designs, press releases, social media introductions, etc. Add to that the details of arranging travel to Florida, finding a housesitter, working through some personal stuff (see a couple posts back), planning ahead so I wouldn’t be swamped at work when I returned from the trip, and all I really wanted to do was take a nice, long nap, not to wake up before the New Year.

But that stage is over. My partner, who isn’t part of the official tweetup, landed her Rocket Launch Transportation Ticket (excuse me, RLTT) today, and that was the last stressful detail I needed to work out between now and our departure. We have a sixteen hour drive from home to Florida, so we’ll be entertaining ourselves with choice passages from the Mars Science Laboratory Launch Press Kit. Also, we’ll be playing Slug Bug.

In the meantime, I’ve been studying topographic maps of Mars. Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory rover, is projected to land near the edge of Elysium Planitia in the Aeolis quadrangle.

Aeolis Map

Map of Aeolis Quadrangle

If the name of the quadrangle sounds familiar, that’s because the Spirit rover landed there in 2004. However, Spirit explored Gusev Crater (at the right in the above image), while Curiosity is bound for Gale Crater (at the left). Spirit’s mission centered mostly around the search for water activity on Mars. Although Curiosity will also be seeking water, the mission as a whole is broader then previous ones, in that the rover will be seeking water as evidence of past or present habitable environments on the planet. It’s not seeking signs of life, per se, but rather trying to determine if and when conditions in Gale Crater might have been capable of supporting life. The presence of water would be a particularly strong piece of evidence, but it would be even better if it coincided with a possible energy source or other chemical ingredients considered necessary for the creation/sustenance of life.

Daybreak at Gale Crater

Daybreak at Gale Crater (computer simulation)

As the #MSL #NASATweetup draws nearer, I’ll be posting more information about Curiosity’s mission. I’ll do my best to post regular updates, if not about MSL itself, then about the wicked fun we’re bound to have during our trip. Oh, and “Lunch with an Astronaut” on Thanksgiving Day. You can bet I’ll be telling you all about that.


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2 responses

14 11 2011
Annie Wynn

Great post! I’m with you, between work and the flood of prep time, I haven’t blogged about the upcoming tweetup at all πŸ™

15 11 2011
JR

I have a feeling that, despite my promises, I won’t be doing much blogging next week, either.