Space Exploration as Entertainment

By Alexis C. Madrigal

A heart-pounding homage to the hopes and dreams of planetary scientists.

Two weeks from today, NASA's latest Martian visitor, the Mars Science Laboratory (aka Curiosity) will land on the Red Planet and begin broadcasting updates from its surface.

Or so NASA hopes.

The landing will be fraught with danger to the spacecraft as it tries to keep from burning up as it slows itself down in the thin Martian atmosphere. It probably will make a safe landing, but it may not.

Last month, the space agency put out a trailer to dramatize the fear and excitement scientists have about the descent. If you haven't seen it, you can check it out above, in all its heart-pounding glory.

You might watch this and think, "Why is NASA trying to get all Hollywood on us?" I'd just remind you that space exploration broadcasts have always been very successful entertainment. Let us not forget that as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were preparing to set human feet on the surface of the moon for the very first time, they were actually talking about how to set up the cameras to capture the moment. Of course, 500 million people back on Earth were tuned in, so it's probably a good thing they got the f-stop right.


This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/07/space-exploration-as-entertainment/260215/