• All posts by Brendan Mullan

    Brendan Mullan

    About Brendan Mullan

    Brendan Mullan is a nordic-skiing, science-writing, outreach-practicing PhD student in astronomy at Penn State. He studies how galaxies collide and form stars in their interstellar wreckage. Brendan likes his beer dark, but his conversation light. Where the categories of science communication, pop culture, and early-90's nostalgia intersect in life’s Venn diagram, Brendan is there.

  • Curiosity has landed!

    This is it.

    You know that scene at the end of Apollo 13 when the capsule splashed down and Mission Control erupts into unbridled jubilation? Multiply that by a thousand. I’m so coked up on the room’s energy that I can barely type.

    Everything went perfectly. No problems with communicating, entry, landing, nor descent. An untested landing strategy has proven effective. And right now, the first Hazcam thumbnails are coming in. They’re grainy, hazy, and of low resolution, but right now they’re the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen.

    I have one word for you, friends.


    Pack your bags. We’re about to go

  • Parachutes deployed!

    Everything good so far. The seven minutes of terror is more like seven minutes of adrenaline and cold sweat. I don’t know about anyone else here, but I feel like I could punch out a bear.

  • Mars Odyssey Maneuver successful!

    There’s a very good chance we’ll receive communication from the satellite tonight! Looks like Mars Odyssey and Curiosity will have a love connection after all.

    Tones are coming in. Everything looks good so far. But remember, by the time this is posted, Curiosity is on the ground in one way or another.

    As of this writing, the rover is trying to land. Cross all your digits, ladies and gentlemen. A new dawn of space exploration is nearly upon us.

  • Things to do while you wait

    • 1) Watch the olympics. Just not NBC’s coverage. It’s nationally myopic and just terrible. Also, Bob Costas’ hair hasn’t visibly changed since 1996. That’s creepy.
    • 2) Travel and find yourself
    • 3) Take up a new hobby. Like spelunking.
    • 4) Check out this interactive simulation:

    This will give you a good picture of what to expect tonight. You can also follow NASA TV’s live coverage here. If you’re following the current footage, you might also be hoping that the control pit for MSL is built in

  • Live from the VIP room

    This thing had better land. I don’t wear ties very often.

    Professor FancyPants, at your service.

    We’re in the VIP room, one of the swankier auditoria this side of JPL. Outside there’s quite the delectable spread of miniature sandwiches, the consumption of which make me feel like some kind of classy giant.

    I can’t say I’ve been a VIP in any context before; I think the last time I was ostensibly special was my 6h birthday, when I got to be head of the line and

  • A new face on Mars

    Tonight, Mars will have a new face.


    Aw, it has its mother’s eyes!

    Naturally, we’re all hoping that the face stays intact and makes it to the surface with the rest of Curiosity, as opposed to catastrophically slamming into the surface at 13,000 miles per hour as dispersed, charred bits of human anguish and crushed aspiration.

    After participating in the weekend-long educator workshop at JPL, I’ve developed a strong proclivity for anthropomorphizing NASA’s latest mission to Mars. After a few days of getting to know Curiosity a