Being a proud space geek, I of course sat up in bed with my iPad late Sunday night, watching the live USTREAM of the Curiosity Rover’s landing on Mars. I’ve been to NASA’s Jet Prepulsion Labratory (JPL) in Pasadena before, and on this night I was as thrilled by the successful touchdown as I’d have been if I was in the JPL control room at that moment. I held my breath and then erupted in cheers along with the geniuses in blue shirts. And then I cheered some more at the “We’ve got a thumbnail!” announcement. As a photo junkie, I never thought I’d be so excited in 2012 to see photos captured by a 1-megapixel camera. But on Sunday night I couldn’t take my eyes off that first image shot by the rover’s Hazard-Avoidance camera (in which you can see Curiosity’s wheel).
Curiosity has since sent higher resolution versions of those initial photos, as well as its first color photo of the Red Planet. You can see those here. Still, I will never forget the thrill of that first thumbnail image.