Mid-Week Science News Update: Space ballet

80 million miles down. 275 million to go.

We interrupt our regularly scheduled afternoon radio silence with a Mars Rover Curiosity update. From our in-house space correspondent comes word that the Curiosity has successfully performed the first of two planned space ballets on its 352-million-mile journey to Mars.

During the three-hour choreographed maneuver, the Curiosity fired its thrusters some 200 times in a sequence designed to place it on a more direct flight path to Mars. Although flawlessly executed, this course correction won’t be the last. NASA expects the Curiosity to complete a second relatively minor course correction in mid-March.

Without the course corrections, the Curiosity would have missed Mars altogether. NASA deliberately aims the Rover just off-target at launch to prevent the upper stage of the rocket from hitting Mars. Apparently even if you aren’t sure there’s life on Mars, it’s considered poor form to pelt potential planetary neighbors with space debris.*

Though these course corrections are planned well in advance and are a relatively commonplace occurrence (previous Rovers have had to make similar corrections on their journeys), we at Caterpickles Central are still pretty happy that the Rovers make time to dance while traveling at 10,200 miles per hour.

*Personally, I hope NASA also planned a trajectory far far away from Kepler 22b. It would be extremely unfortunate if the rocket crashed into our nearest habitable neighbor and caused an intergalactic incident just at the very moment we Earthlings arrived, hat in hand, looking for a new planet to colonize.

About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book, Did Dinosaurs Have Belly Buttons?, is currently planned for release in 2018. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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