We seem to have had a bit of a run on topical strips recently, but this one is by far our most topical to date, coming less than three hours after the successful landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars.
That the rover landed successfully is quite an incredible achievement. This isn’t the oversized remote controlled car of past missions: this one is an enormously oversized remote controlled car that’s actually the size of a real car! Parachutes wouldn’t be practical for such a heavy object in Mars’s thin atmosphere, so they…
- Dropped it from orbit in a capsule
- Slowed the capsule with rockets
- Deployed parachutes to slow it further
- Ejected the capsule
- Lowered it further using ‘sky crane’ with more rockets on it
- Made the whole assembly hover while lowering the rover from the sky crane on cables
- Released the cables and flew the sky crane to crash a safe distance away
Just take that in for a moment. NASA managed to successfully lower a one tonne SUV on cables from a rocket powered hovering platform on a totally different planet — and nothing went wrong. That’s some seriously impressive engineering.
With the creation of such a large rover, we started to think of them as a little family — even NASA likes them to pose for family photos:
So we decided to draw a family reunion (even though such a meeting is unlikely to ever actually happen on Mars). Not everybody could make it, of course — but how do you explain to a young rover that it’s little pet Beagle isn’t around anymore?
Congratulations to NASA’s Curiosity team. Here’s hoping for many years of exploration and discovery from your new Martian explorer.
(After a slight delay, the Inkscape SVG file is now available to download. If you’re looking for an Easter Egg, you might want to remind yourself of the one in ‘War of the Worlds Part I‘ first…)
Opportunity: Mummy? Is that you? You've made it at last!
Sorry it's only me here to meet you — my idiot brother's gone and got his foot stuck
Opportunity: Where's the dog?
Curiosity: You mean little Beagle?
Curiosity: He's fine… but he's had to go away somewhere
Opportunity: Like cousin Sojourner did?
Curiosity: Yes, that's right dear… Beagle's gone to live on a farm with cousin Sojourner