And because it takes so long for a signal to reach Earth from Mars, we won't even know if it worked for 14 minutes. For seven minutes after the Seven Minutes of Terror, Curiosity could be completely destroyed. Or completely and incredibly on the surface of Mars, already at work.
In a world that's currently entranced by people swimming for a few minutes, or running for a few more minutes, I can't help but think that there will be people missing out on what is currently one of the most exciting races of, well, the human race. Each nation is cheering on their best athletes to not fail in passing a finish line 100 meters away, when tonight the globe should be cheering for a one-ton robot to not fail in landing on something 60 million kilometers away. We should all hold our breaths and be on the edge of our seats for 14 minutes, wondering at the possibilities, and hoping for success.
Yes, I meant literally.
Now, I don't want to belittle the accomplishments of our Olympic athletes. They've worked remarkably hard, and they are certainly the most physically fit of anyone on the planet except, I don't know ... tigers or something? Tigers? Whatever. Regardless, in 2012, fitness is no longer merely physical, and we should be shifting toward the celebration of the mentally fit. Darwin's "survival of the fittest" remains true, but much less in regard to our physical evolution. We have mastered our harsh environments and dangerous predators (like tigers). Our survival on a global level now depends on our collective mental and technological evolution, not on individually being the fastest or strongest.
So let us cheer for a robot today. Let us celebrate its excellence, its possibility of failure, and the incredible task it will undertake for seven minutes. And, hey, if it does fail, I imagine we would enjoy that, too. In our current YouTube culture, who doesn't want to see a one-ton robot fly 50 million miles just to fall flat on its lack of face?