Last weekend, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity touched down on the surface of Mars. In a complicated dance involving a parachute and a rocket-powered sky crane, Curiosity was delivered to Gale Crater near Mount Sharp, where scientists hope the rover will be able to study the geology of our neighboring red planet.
Shortly before his death in 1996, astronomer and science broadcaster Carl Sagan recorded a message for future Mars explorers:
"Maybe we’re on Mars because of the magnificent science that can be done there — the gates of the wonder world are opening in our time. Maybe we’re on Mars because we have to be, because there’s a deep nomadic impulse built into us by the evolutionary process — we come, after all, from hunter-gatherers, and for 99.9% of our tenure on Earth we’ve been wanderers. And the next place to wander to is Mars. But whatever the reason you’re on Mars is, I’m glad you’re there. And I wish I was with you."
We wish you were too, Dr. Sagan.
Listen below to a 2010 piece in which we shared some archival audio of Dr. Sagan's appearances on Science Friday.
Last week, before Curiosity's touchdown, Ira spoke with NASA scientist John Grunsfeld about what we can expect from the Mars mission.
Later this week we'll be speaking with John Grotzinger, project scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory mission, about plans for the exploration ahead. He was on Science Friday in 2011 to discuss where the rover will land, and what scientists hope to learn from the mission.