A Covid-19 angle? The Perseverance live show had that, too. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory had to start teleworking back on March 12 of last year and has been doing its work under Covid safety protocols ever since. (Rocket scientists—they’re just like us!) It also had a special cameo: a microphone designed to capture the sounds of life on Mars, something no previous probe has done.But the real thing that made the landing super suspenseful is that it literally promised “seven minutes of terror.” As the rover approached Mars yesterday, its supersonic parachute slowed its descent, and its “sky crane” dropped it into place. Watching it happen was incredibly nail-biting. Literally. I lost two nails. It was a lot of watching scientists watch screens, but seeing their enthusiasm and nervousness as years of their work flung itself through space was about as gripping as it gets. Ron Howard could never.
Perhaps the excitement is just a byproduct of the fact that, for me at least, the kind of human joy on display at JPL after the rover touched down is something that, frankly, hasn’t been seen in a long time. Or perhaps it’s getting a glimpse of a room full of government employees, all wearing masks—most of them even double-masked—working together to solve a problem. Either way, something about watching it happen live just clicked. For months now, fiction—whether in the form of movies, books, or TV—has been an escape when watching the news got to be too much. For six minutes on Thursday, existence on Earth got a little more wondrous, by offering a glimpse into life somewhere else.
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