C2C Science Advisor and head of the Enterprise Mission, Richard C. Hoagland, discussed the successful landing of NASA's Curiosity Rover on the surface of Mars. Over the course of the program, he was joined by other space experts, who shared their reaction to the historic touchdown. "This is probably the most important night in NASA's history," Hoagland mused, "since Neil and Buzz landed on the moon." In light of the advanced technology aboard the rover as well as his own analysis of the current political landscape, Hoagland surmised that the arrival of Curiosity on Mars may set the stage for revelations about past or present life on the Red Planet. "My prediction is that this is the beginning of some amazing things," he said, contending that a revelatory announcement about Mars could constitute an "October surprise" by the Obama administration prior to the election.
In the second hour, plasma physicist Dr. John Brandenburg joined the conversation. Regarding the research to be done by Curiosity on Mars, Brandenburg was particularly interested in getting more information about what he believes to be a previous nuclear event on the planet. Citing evidence which suggests a radiation scar as well as a radioactive hot spot on Mars, he suggested that a natural nuclear reactor may have broken down on the planet in the past. Although his hypothesis has been denounced by both Livermore Labs as well as the Russian government, Brandenburg was delighted when Hoagland revealed the Curiosity has a "specific suite of radiation detection instruments," which could pinpoint if and when the nuclear event happened.
During the third hour, aerospace engineer Dr. Robert Zubrin reacted to the potential findings of Curiosity now that it has arrived on Mars. He was extremely enthusiastic about the possibility that the rover will determine if life currently exists on the planet. Zubrin explained that Curiosity not only has a "methane sniffer" to identify the gas, but also can distinguish if its origins are geological or biological. In his estimation, the discovery of the latter form of methane could fundamentally change NASA's future plans. "If they sniff out the scent of life on Mars," he said, "there's going to be tremendous support to send humans there to check it out." Additionally, Zubrin noted that the landing system for the rover, which saw it descend gently, "like a crate of eggs," allowed for future development of similarly designed missions to Mars for humans.
In the final hour, space expert Dr. David Livingston marveled at the inspirational nature of the successful landing of the rover. Beyond the potential scientific discoveries that lay ahead in the future for Curiosity, he said that renewed interest in space science by young people is but one of the "intangibles that will pay off for the United States like you would not believe." To that end, Livingston observed that, in light of the continuous cycle of bad news over the last few years, the accomplishment of such a difficult task serves as a tremendous morale boost for the country. Ultimately, he was optimistic about the end result of Curiosity's mission, saying "a great rover has gone to Mars from a great nation and we expect great things back from it."