It was 1:30AM, and we were sitting in our living room with a friend, staring at each other blankly. "So, uh, what do we do now?" we asked each other.
"Weeellll, the Mars rover lands in an hour. I guess we could stream that and play Minecraft?"
Up to this point I had been aware of the Curiosity landing in much the same way that I was aware of the Olympics. It was neat because it's a big event that happens only every few years, and it showcased a large amount of talent. I was interested in a sort of vague, "Yay engineering!" kind of way, but didn't care too much.
I figured the stream would make neat background noise while I did some mining.
But I quickly became glued to the video - the fantastic details of Curiosity's flight and descent were far more interesting than I had previously thought. "ROCKET PARACHUTE!!" is what I screamed when the video showed a simulation of Curiosity's landing, "MOTHERFUCKING ROCKET PARACHUTE!" My Minecraft Steve stood inside his blocky villa, holding his pickaxe, abandoned. You can't compete with rocket parachutes.
During the 7 Minutes of Terror we sat in silence and I chewed my nails. "There's no way this is going to work," I said. "They're right on time, though," said T, glancing at the clock. "They're fucking NASA, of course they're on time," was my half-serious response.
There was silence. Tension. More silence and tension. Then the control room exploded into cheering.
The landing had been a success. A few moments later - "We have thumbnails!" and even more cheering, as we all saw a low-res, blurry, black-and-white picture of some dirt.
It felt amazing. The excitement of those folks at NASA was completely contagious. I kept the stream on until I went to bed, listening to all the details. The landing was more than successful - it was practically flawless.
I think, though, what I liked most about the stream were these two fellows:
I think it's a credit to technical and scientific fields that folks with unconventional appearances or hair styles can still be taken seriously. These job positions are quite prestigious and well-respected, and yet having a mohawk or being a male with long hair doesn't affect people's faith in your ability to do a job. Which, of course, is common sense - why should your hair affect your work? Why is it that people considering tattoos, piercings or hairstyles are told to consider their ability to get hired?
I really do love the engineering community for the fact that no shits are given. My fiancee T, as you may recall, is a scrawny long-haired boy, and yet he commands a tremendous amount of respect from his peers and supervisors because of his engineering ability. The guys above put a rover on Mars. They are just as capable with their fancy hair as they would be with more traditional cuts. Engineering and scientific fields are definitely ahead of the curve on this one, and it makes me proud.