It was August 5, 2012 and a historical event was about to take place. It was the day when the automated robotic rover ‘Curiosity’ was about to land on the surface of Mars. Sixteen lucky students including Christine Jung ,Shreyas Gore ,Levi Boscardin ,Arvind Deshmukh ,Kevin Jennings ,Sergio Majul Salazar,Thanet Dharmikavongs ,Van Tran ,Juan Calfunanco Gallardo ,Leanne Olsgaard ,Mauricio Wanstein ,Yasmin Badri ,Sajeesh Kakkat ,Haoran Zheng ,Ramkumar Ganesan and Matthew Gottesman got this wonderful opportunity to witness this landmark event along with the school President – Ambassador Barbara Barrett.
It all started when Ambassador Barrett received an invitation to visit University of Arizona’s lunar space laboratory in Tucson with some of Thunderbird’s students. We began our bus tour at 5 PM from Thunderbird campus. During the bus ride Ambassador Barrett shared her valuable insights about the space explorations and aeronautical training programs. On our way to Tucson, we even took a little Detour to see Tucson’s Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center popularly known as the ‘Boneyard’. It was definitely an adventurous days as we encountered storms, lightening and rains as we made our way through the valley of the sun.
We arrived to the laboratory later in the evening and met some eminent personalities from the University of Arizona who were involved in this project along with some Congressmen and other distinguished guests. We also got an opportunity to see some spectacular space exhibits which were at display in the observatory. The reception was followed by special speaker events on topics such as ‘Continuation of the Phoenix Mars Mission’,’ Water on Mars’ and ‘Mapping Mars and the Search for Landing Sites’. At 9 PM, the Live Video Feed from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory was streamed before us. We could see the NASA scientists waiting with a baited breath for ‘Curiosity’ to land without any issues. The magical moment arrived at 10:30 PM when the space vehicle landed successfully on the surface of Mars. The NASA scientists, engineers and everybody watching this event in the laboratory rejoiced and celebrated with champagne and passing the peanuts (it has been a tradition in NASA to pass peanuts since 1960’s when the first visits were sent to the moon). Soon enough we saw the first pictures from the rover. Though it seemed like a tiny patch of light in a black background, it was in fact the wheel of the rover. It was a proud moment for all of us.
The party headed back home at 11:00 PM. All of us were delighted to be a part of this trip. On behalf of all the T-birds who attended this event, I would thank Ambassador Barbara Barrett for giving us this splendid opportunity. A very special note of thanks to Gbemi Disu, Mary Ellen Pruenca and Dr. Kay Keck for making all the arrangements for this trip. The students expressed their delight in the following words…
Curiosity’s landing was not only a historic moment for mankind, but a tremendous experience for Thunderbird: as we were able to merge our business prowess with our interest of technology and science. Being able to represent the school at this event helped to satisfy my intrigue in the subject of space exploration and it was a rare opportunity to connect with leaders in the field.
Juan Calfunanco Gallardo
“For me it was a unique experience in my life, because I could know the University of Arizona, an important partner of NASA’s mars missions. Share with the scientific community and I was a privileged witness of this historic moment to aerospace science and to the US”
“The 7 minutes of terror, an extraordinary complex descent involving parachutes, retrorockets and a hovering sky crane that lower Nasa’s $2.5bn robotic rover in Mars, was a 7 minutes of triumph after 7 years hard-working of all the scientists and engineer at Nasa. Congratulations.”
“I think it was great for Thunderbird to be a part of such an event of global and scientific achievement. It is important for us to represent Thunderbird not just to the business community, but sciences and education as well.”
“As riders in the storm we came to experience the farthest terrestrial adventure humans have undertaken. What we took back was an overwhelming sense of pride and that our time at Thunderbird should be filled with nothing but curiosity.”
Want to know how to get to Mars: