Stop whatever you're doing right now. You need to see this.
Last night, being the huge space nerd that I am, I woke up at 1:30AM in order to witness history as NASA landed the 2,000lbs Curiosity rover onto the surface of Mars. For those of you who were sleeping (or, for west coasters, otherwise occupied) here's what you missed.
Note: the money shot happens at 3:10, but do you yourself a favor and don't skip ahead. The building tension in the room only amplifies the incredible moment of elation when it arrives.
Curiosity (which you can follow on Twitter @MarsCuriosity) is by far the largest and most advanced craft we've ever landed on the surface of another planet, and the landing process involved dangling the rover from nylon cables as the craft parachuted into the Martian atmosphere, just to put things in perspective. My favorite moments of the above video include the mohawk guy with stars painted onto the sides of his head (designed by his coworkers, naturally), scientists young and old brought to tears as a life's dream is fulfilled, and best of all is the team leader who knows they're about to get confirmation and silently points across the room, practically daring someone to be the first to say it out loud. Oh yeah, and then the pictures start coming in and everyone goes totally nuts all over again.
I've watched this video three times in the last half hour and every time I get a huge shit-eating grin on my face and tears in my eyes. Humanity's had a pretty rough go of it recently; here in the U.S. we've had a horrific shooting at a temple, a lightning strike at a NASCAR event, and thousands of people endorse deep-fried hatred and discrimination against their fellow citizens. And that was just this past week. Olympic medals are great and all, but in two weeks you'll be struggling to remember the name of that one gymnast while Curiosity continues to send back incredible images and data for the benefit of all mankind.
Let's see what's out there.