From Heroes to Humans: The Totally Regular People Who Landed a Robot on Mars
Yesterday afternoon, a group of the scientists and engineers orchestrating NASA’s Curiosity mission got together to do an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit. They got — and answered — questions about the mission itself, about the engineering that went into the Curiosity rover, about the lifestyle the mission requires of them. (For example: They reset their alarm clocks by 40 minutes every day to keep Mars time.)
The many exchanges of the AMA were, unsurprisingly, informative and illustrative and educational. But my favorite was, practically speaking, none of those things. It went like this:
Shorter version: “Hey, congrats on the robot you helped land on Mars, and everything! Also, you still have that algebra book I loaned you eight years ago. I don’t want it back, or anything, but just FYI.”
And yet the exchange, for all its absurdity and awkwardness, was also totally charming. And illustrative. And human. It was a reminder of the wonderful ordinariness — not the averageness, of course, but the ordinariness — of the people who worked together to land Curiosity on Mars.