domingo, 30 de septiembre de 2012

Curiosity didn’t kill the Cat…

but instead, got so many people’s dreams and hopes so far away, in deep space, on Mars. Now turns out that the old saying about that poor cat isn´t really true. It tries to warn people about to be curios and its consequences (normally bad ones). Now NASA/JPL’s engineers, scientists, thousands of collaborators from many countries and a curios girl have demonstrated the opposite.

Now it’s been almost two months since the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity has safely landed on Mars surface, and conducting maneuvers and experiments with Mars rocks and soil, not to mention the big collection of amazing hi-res pictures, and the first ever song broadcasted from the red planet. Thanks to for that piece of inspiring song. You can hear the song here.
Did I mention something about a curios girl, well yes… and that’s what this blog entry is all about. As you may imagine, such big science project take years to come true, and it was until 2009 that 12 year old Clara Ma from Kansas won a NASA essay contest to name the MSL: Curiosity. Here is the complete essay:

Curiosity is an everlasting flame that burns in everyone's mind. It makes me get out of bed in the morning and wonder what surprises life will throw at me that day. Curiosity is such a powerful force. Without it, we wouldn't be who we are today. When I was younger, I wondered, 'Why is the sky blue?', 'Why do the stars twinkle?', 'Why am I me?', and I still do. I had so many questions, and America is the place where I want to find my answers. Curiosity is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives. We have become explorers and scientists with our need to ask questions and to wonder. Sure, there are many risks and dangers, but despite that, we still continue to wonder and dream and create and hope. We have discovered so much about the world, but still so little. We will never know everything there is to know, but with our burning curiosity, we have learned so much.

Awesome, don’t you think. Congratulations Clara!

The landing night of Curiosity (august 5th) people at NASA JPL in Caltech were boiling in a nervous stove so hot, that by the time Curiosity touched down over Mars surface everybody just exploded in an unified shout of joy and happiness (watch this). The so called 7 minutes of terror of not knowing anything from the MSL were the preamble of the beginning of a new success history in space exploration. That night, another soup of messages and comments was cooking in Tweeter. And that was the moment I had the chance to “meet” Clara Ma and tell her the great opportunity and moment in life she was having witnessing how her Curiosity had gone beyond Earth and landed on Mars.
Seven Minutes of Terror

After the first weeks of big emotions and excitement, I kept on sending messages to Clara Ma and finally I dare to “interview” her by email. I have to say Clara is a wonderful person and was so kind to answer my questions from her deep heart. Now I want to share parts of my email and the complet interview to a science celebrity:

Hi Clara,
Thank you very much for tweeting me back. My name is Javier Hidalgo and we just shared a couple of tweets last Sunday night during the Curiosity’s landing event. Just as you might imagine, I’m also a very big fan of NASA and all things around this Institution. I really think they have achieved so many awesome things in history. I’m a Mexican Electromechanical Engineer and love everything that has to do with science and tech. But despite of that, I really think that your contribution to science and history is very valuable and is very important to let people know how things are done and what kind of people is involved. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you and express you that you are now a raw model for me just as the engineers and scientists at NASA are.

Hello Javier,

I am so, so, so sorry it took me this long to respond. It is absolutely unacceptable on my behalf. I have been extremely busy this past month with school and homework and tests and college entrance exams. I hope I am not too late! Thank you for your support and interest in what I have to say! :)

J. How do you describe your life before and after Curiosity (since your essay contest until nowadays)?
C. My life has changed immensely since I won the essay contest to name Curiosity. But I don't really see it as a before and after, instead I see it as a major event in my life that I was lucky enough to have been able to experience. Getting to meet all the people I've met and see the things I've seen has shaped the person I am and continues to shape my goals, hopes, aspirations, and dreams.
J. Are you a “science” girl?, like math at school? Have you ever thought on what to become when you grow adult? (Professionally speaking)
C. I love science and math, but I also love language arts and history and social studies and foreign languages (especially Spanish and French). I don't know exactly what I want to do when I grow up, but if it could somehow involve all of those things, I'd be so happy!
J. How was your experience at JPL/NASA the days or hours before Curiosity’s landing, the D-day and days after?

J. What is the (second) most exciting moment of all this adventure besides from Curiosity´s safe touchdown?
C. The second most exciting moment of this adventure.. hmm.. I can't pinpoint an exact moment as there were just so many great ones! The most meaningful part of this experience for me has been meeting all of the scientists, engineers, administrators, outreach people, etc. who are behind this entire MSL mission. I admire them because they are so kind and passionate and intelligent and hard-working, but at the same time incredibly humble. They inspire me greatly.
J. What do you consider to be the most valuable piece of advice or tip that you have received from NASA’s crew?
C. Most valuable pieces of advice: do what you want to do and do what makes you happy. Don't try to live up to what other people expect of you-- set your own goals. - from an Mars outreach member of the mission.
Some more valuable advice: (this came from a quote I saw on the wall in Fuk Li's (director of Mars program at JPL) office) "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." -Ralph Waldo Emerson
J. Did you ever thought to be part of such an important event? (I guess not, but now…) what do you think that could happen to you to exceed this experience?
C. I never in a million years thought that something this amazing could happen to me. Sometimes I still can't believe it.

J. Do you really think there will be a time when mankind could inhabit Mars? Would you go there?
C. I believe anything is possible.
J. What message would you tell to all kids about their dreams, fantasies and wishes?
C. My message to kids: Never stop asking questions. Be curious and have an open mind. Dream big dreams but also work hard to achieve them.
J. Any message for the mexican people...
C. A message for Mexican people: Landing a rover on Mars is an incredibly arduous and difficult task, and it could not have happened without the support and aid of countries all over the world. Curiosity represents an international accomplishment, proof that science really does bring people together. Never ever let race or culture or ethnicity be an obstacle for you-- every single human being has the potential to accomplish great things! I love Mexican/Latino culture and history; it is rich and deeply compelling to me. Les quiero! (Haha, I hope that is appropriate to say :)

Thank you again!

I really have enjoyed this blog post just as I did planning and writing it. I just have to thank Clara Ma for her valuable contribution to my blog and to my person. I definitely admire people who contribute to humankind from their deep heart.
I also want to take the opportunity to express my feelings about Neil Armstrong’s dead and salute all the brave men and women who have gone beyond earth.
Finally, I would like to congratulate and wish the best of luck to Felix Baumgartner for his next big jump on October 8th with the Red Bull Stratos Project.
Until next post.