May 8, 2021


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The Mars landing was the best thing on TV this week

3 min read

The monitor is a weekly column devoted to everything that happens in the WIRED world of culture, from movies to memes, from TV to Twitter.

Look, it’s been a horrible week. Winter storms caused power outages and chaos from Oregon to Texas. Reply to all cohost PJ Vogt and others have resigned over accusations of toxic culture at Gimlet Media. Unemployment is still on the rise. And that’s just scratching the top of the shit pile. Meanwhile, there wasn’t a ton of pop culture to offer a distraction beyond the new trailers for Mortal combat and Cruella. The TV also looked sparse, except for one thing: the Landing of the rover on Mars.

The idea of ​​space travel may be even more fantastic when so few of us leave our quarters these days, but truly watching the climax of the Perseverance mission had all the makings of television. Do not miss. On the one hand, there was a lot of anticipation. Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s latest Mars rover launched since Florida Kennedy Space Center in July and has spent the past six months en route to the Red Planet. He also had some cool gadgets: Perseverance is a 2,300-pound nuclear-powered rover tasked with searching the Martian landscape for signs of ancient microbial life. In other words, it’s a “autonomous extraterrestrial hunting carAnd for over an hour that NASA teased her descent on her livestream, she did so using interviews with super-enthusiastic scientists (read: deliciously cheesy) and animations that looked like something thing of The extent. So science fiction!

A Covid-19 angle? The Perseverance live show had them too. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory had to start telecommuting on March 12 last year and has been working under Covid safety protocols ever since. (Rocket Scientists – they’re just like us!) There was also a special cameo: a microphone designed to capture the sounds of life on Mars, which no previous probe has done.

But the real thing that made the landing super suspenseful was that he literally promised “seven minutes of terror”. As the rover approached Mars yesterday, its supersonic parachute slowed its descent and its “celestial crane” put it in place. Watching it happen was incredibly biting. Literally. I lost two nails. It was a lot watching scientists staring at screens, but seeing their excitement and nervousness as years of their work threw themselves into space was about as captivating as it gets. Ron Howard never could.

Maybe the excitement is just a by-product of the fact that, to me at least, the kind of human joy on display at JPL after the rover landed is something that, frankly, hasn’t been seen since. long time. Or maybe he sees a glimpse of a room full of government workers, all wearing masks – most of them even masked – working together to solve a problem. Anyway, just click on something about to watch it live. For months now, fiction – whether in the form of movies, books, or television – has been an escape when watching the news has become too much. For six minutes on Thursday, existence on Earth became a little more wonderful, offering a glimpse into life elsewhere.

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