A hundred years ago, man looked up at the sky and dreamed of one day going into space. Fifty years ago, man saw the flight of the first ever re-usable spacecraft in the X-15. Now in 2013, man has already sent no fewer than seven rovers to Mars to study the red planet. The first of the rovers was a Chinese rover named Mars-2. It was sent to Mars in 1971. Since then, only two rovers remain in definitive operation. They are the American made rovers, Opportunity and Curiosity. The latter of the two is the one on which PBS’ NOVA focuses in its special, Ultimate Mars Challenge.
Ultimate Mars Challenge was released in February 2013. The actual episode originally aired in 2012. It is an interesting episode for anyone that has ever had any fascination with space science or even with engineering. It takes viewers behind the scenes of the creation of the Curiosity rover from its earliest inception to watching it touch down on August 6th, 2012. Whether watching on DVD or on Blu-ray audiences will be amazed at just how much work went into bringing Curiosity to life. Even more incredible is just how large the rover actually ended up being. One can’t help but feel for certain team members as Curiosity is put through rigorous tests to make sure that it could survive on the Martian landscape.
Watching Curiosity come to life is an interesting journey for anyone that has ever had any interest in space and space exploration. It’s amazing to consider how far man has come since the dawn of the space race so many decades ago. It’s only one part of what makes this episode of NOVA so enjoyable. Just as enjoyable to watch is the computer graphics incorporated into this episode. Audiences get to see a pretty close representation of what the Martian landscape looks like without actually being there. And the associated discussion on the existence of ice underneath the initial level of soil makes for an excellent starting point for an even bigger discussion. For those that have watched other documentaries on Mars, one can’t help but wonder had another object allegedly slammed into Mars, what might it have looked like today? It even raises the ultimate question for which the Curiosity rover was built. That question is whether or not life ever existed on our neighbor or if it could have existed there for that matter. With any luck, as long as Curiosity is working and sending information back to NASA, maybe one day that question will be answered. This episode of NOVA is available now on DVD and Blu-ray. It can be ordered online direct from the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=16824446&cp=&sr=1&kw=ultimate+mars+challenge&origkw=Ultimate+Mars+Challenge&parentPage=search. More information on this and other NOVA releases is available online at http://www.facebook.com/NOVAOnline.
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