Yesterday I was out at the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex at Tidbinbilla to witness a piece of space history – the landing of the Mars Science Laboratory (a.k.a. ‘Curiosity’) on Mars. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of coverage of this amazing feat of maths, physics, and engineering in the last day or two, so I’ll skip all that and just share my experience. 🙂
Here are a few pix I snagged during the day…
Early in the day, the 70m dish (DSS43) and smaller DSS34 (hidden) are pointed towards where Mars will soon rise over the horizon, so that they’re ready to acquire the signal. Tidbinbilla was the primary receiving site for the landing, as none of the other two sites in the Deep Space Network around the globe had line-of-sight to Mars at the time. Just like in the movie The Dish, Australia’s space tracking stations were key to communicating with the spacecraft during the most critical phases of the mission.
I had a few colleagues come up to peer at the sun through my filtered binocs during today’s transit of Venus. While we have amazing images coming in from huge telescopes and orbiting spacecraft, there’s nothing quite like seeing an astronomical event *live* with your own eyes.
I’m always super-excited when I remind myself that the photons annihilating themselves on my retinas at that very moment CAME DIRECTLY FROM the object I’m looking at—whether they started their journey 3 seconds (Moon), 8 minutes (Sun), an hour (Saturn), or millions or billions of years ago (galaxies).
Mind = blown, every time. 🙂