The Mars rover Curiosity, first launched in November 2011, lands on the Martian surface tonight (08/05/12). As excited as I am about having a new rover on the Red Planet looking for clues that might lead to a discovery of a martian biosphere, I am even more excited by the fact that anyone with access to the internet is going to be able to watch it all happen in real time.
The rover’s camera feed will be available to everyone HERE , though I’m not sure if there will include any footage of the actual descent. The footage should continue for some time, meaning anyone interested in what the rover is up to can check in on it anytime in the future.
This kind of access to real time footage of scientific discovery as it happens is unprecedented in human history. In the time of Isaac Newton, most scientific documents were written in Greek and Latin, making them unreadable to all but the educated elite. Charles Darwin published his works in English to a wide audience, but such a process was hardly real time. Now, in 2012, the public has access to valuable scientific information as it is revealed to us in real time. This is a significant milestone in scientific and human history.
The rover itself is equipped with technology that will allow it to examine Martian soil for chemicals usually associated with life, as well as instruments for studying the mineral content of the planet. Also on board the rover is a device known as DAN (Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons) which can be used to look for water.
Even if you didn’t catch this article in time to watch the landing of the craft, if it is even shown, I recommend checking out the stream and see for yourself the beauty of the Red Planet. You might even discover something amazing at the same time as the scientists at NASA do.