The Mars Landing Was the Best Thing on TV This Week

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Look, it’s been a god-awful week. Winter storms have brought on energy outages and chaos from Oregon to Texas. Reply All cohost PJ Vogt and others stepped down following accusations of a poisonous tradition at Gimlet Media. Unemployment remains to be on the rise. And that’s simply skimming off the prime of the crap heap. Meanwhile, there wasn’t a ton of popular culture to supply distraction past new trailers for Mortal Kombat and Cruella. TV additionally seemed sparse, apart from one factor: the Mars rover touchdown.

It’s attainable that the concept of touring to outer house is much more fantastical when, as of late, so few of us go away our neighborhoods, however actually watching the zenith of the Perseverance mission had all the elements of must-see TV. For one, there was numerous anticipation. The Atlas V rocket transporting NASA’s newest Mars rover launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center in July and has spent the previous six months en path to the Red Planet. It additionally had cool devices: Perseverance is a nuclear-powered 2,300-pound rover tasked with looking out the martian panorama for indicators of historical microbial life. Put one other approach, it’s an “alien-hunting self-driving car,” and for the hour-plus that NASA teased its descent on its livestream, it did so utilizing interviews with super-enthusiastic (learn: delightfully nerdy) scientists and animations that seemed like one thing out of The Expanse. So sci-fi!

A Covid-19 angle? The Perseverance dwell present had that, too. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed to begin teleworking again on March 12 of final yr and has been doing its work below Covid security protocols ever since. (Rocket scientists—they’re similar to us!) It additionally had a particular cameo: a microphone designed to seize the sounds of life on Mars, one thing no earlier probe has executed.

But the actual factor that made the touchdown tremendous suspenseful is that it actually promised “seven minutes of terror.” As the rover approached Mars yesterday, its supersonic parachute slowed its descent, and its “sky crane” dropped it into place. Watching it occur was extremely nail-biting. Literally. I misplaced two nails. It was numerous watching scientists watch screens, however seeing their enthusiasm and nervousness as years of their work flung itself via house was about as gripping because it will get. Ron Howard might by no means.

Perhaps the pleasure is only a byproduct of the undeniable fact that, for me a minimum of, the type of human pleasure on show at JPL after the rover touched down is one thing that, frankly, hasn’t been seen in a very long time. Or maybe it’s getting a glimpse of a room full of presidency staff, all carrying masks—most of them even double-masked—working collectively to unravel an issue. Either approach, one thing about watching it occur dwell simply clicked. For months now, fiction—whether or not in the type of motion pictures, books, or TV—has been an escape when watching the information obtained to be an excessive amount of. For six minutes on Thursday, existence on Earth obtained a bit extra wondrous, by providing a glimpse into life some place else.

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