• 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 one of the cafeteria ladies bought me some pretzels at lunch.

    I feel somewhat inclined to make up ridiculous qualifications for my presence here. So if anyone asks, I’m the high chancellor of Antarctica. Screw you, penguins.

    Here’s a rundown of what to expect tonight. You might have seen this video today, which gives you a more detailed play-by-play of this evening’s terrifying activities (all times Pacific):

    • 10:14 – cruise separation
    • 10:24 – Entry into Mars’ atmosphere
    • 10:25 – Peak heating and deceleration
    • 10:29 – parachutes deployed
    • 10:30 – heat shield separation
    • 10:31 – Back shell separation
    • 10:31 – Touchdown
    • 10:31 to 10:35  –  possible communications window. This all depends if the aging, cantankerous Mars Odyssey can successfully perform a roll maneuver necessary to communicate with the rover. We’ll get another chance when the orbiter comes back around for another pass later.
    • 11:15  – Press conference
    • 12:45  – Communication via Mars Odyssey on its second pass

    The key to remember is that we might not immediately receive word from Mars Odyssey. This Batmobile lost its wheel (one reaction wheel, anyway), and while the Joker won’t get away, we might not hear from him until 12:45 am on the west coast. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will also periodically pass overhead, and give additional chances for the “bent pipe” communications relay to do its thing. This video has all you need to know.

    More updates to follow!