…across the gulf of space…

Last week, I got to do one of the coolest things I've ever done in my life: I went to JPL in La Canada to record a video for the landing of Mars Curiosity on August 5.

I have to believe that their first through eighth choices weren't available, because it's the only thing that makes sense, but somehow I was chosen to be the host and narrator of a video for, among other outlets, NASA TV, that explains how Curiosty gets to the surface of Mars, and what she'll do once she's there. It's pretty incredible stuff, and I am still astonished that I was chosen to be the guy.

While I was at JPL, I got to get up close and personal with the full-scale replica of the rover that stays on Earth while her sister goes to Mars, so I took a few pictures:

image from i.imgur.com
image from i.imgur.com
I grew up about 10 minutes from JPL, so I lived around a lot of NASA sceintists and went to JPL's open house every year. Being chosen to go to JPL to make the modern equivalent of the films I loved watching when I was a kid was a tremendous honor. I'll post the video I made whenever it's live.

31 thoughts on “…across the gulf of space…”

  1. Spacewriter here:
    Did they give you a tour of the von Karman visitor center? I worked on that exhibit — wrote all the text for it, a couple of years ago. I’ve visited JPL many times as a scientist and writer, and each time I go, it’s a HUGE thrill to be there where it all got started in planetary exploration.
    Can’t wait to see your video!

  2. I couldn’t think of a better and more deserving guy to do this! I’m excited for you – and excited for all the future scientists out there who’ll get to learn about Curiosity by the sound of your voice, Wil!
    As a Planetary Society Subscriber, I applaud JPL’s choice.

  3. Lucky they didn’t ask Jim Parsons to co-host. Actually, with you being on Big Bang Theory is probably why you got asked, and the regulars were too busy filming the show.

  4. Congratulations, Wil. That is so cool.
    One of my favorite pictures is me standing in front of the sign for the spacecraft assembly building.
    Sadly, I hear JPL is not the place it once was.

  5. Excellent! You know, I have 2 immediate family members who work(ed) at JPL and yet never made it up there before moving across the country. I kick myself for that. Frequently.

  6. I hope you said nice things about Mars. If you didn’t, you might make the Martians very angry. Very angry indeed. I don’t want to be blown up with an Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator!

  7. That is so cool. I love Star Trek in all its forms, but our exploration of Mars is way, way cooler, because it is REAL. I am sure you’ll love doing the video. I know I would.

  8. I thought I was a geek until I saw that picture of you with that robot.
    Okay, so I would have felt the same way, but I wouldn’t have let it show on my my face. Have some dignity ma…..wait, those grippers and the on-board laboratory does what?! Can I touch it? Can I play with it? Can you give me and the robot a few minutes alone? We are making such a connection.
    Um, forget I said anything. And stop looking at me so funny.

  9. I’m very excited about the video. I think a little celebrity endorsement is just what this mission could use in order to reach a wider audience and Wil was an excellent choice.
    Retiqlum, I’ve created a Curiosity toy that you actually can touch and play with on LEGO CUUSOO. I won’t ask what you might need “alone time” with it for.

  10. On the one hand, I’m glad they chose you – someone who’s truly excited about science/tech/geek stuff to be truly excited as the narrator (acting, shmacting, nothing replaces true excitement).
    On the other hand, there’s a part of me that wishes they asked you to read it as Wesley Crusher. It just seems like the kind of thing Wesley would have done if there were a NASA in the future that wanted to tell everyone about a new robot…
    I’m guessing this would have been of no interest to you at all (and for good reason). But it would have been cool…

  11. So, this happened… because you & NASA rawk! :)
    I’m jealous that you were near Curiosity’s sister rover, and at JPL. I’ve yet to set foot anywhere near JPL. Must.rectify.this…
    Huge space nerd, forever…
    PS: When are you going to grace a NASATweetup, I mean NASASocial, with your presence?!?! Levar Burton has. We SpaceTweeps want you. I’m guessing maybe the folks at the 3-day social for MSL’s landing might get to see you? Hmmm…. Dammit, I *knew* I should’ve registered…
    In exile in Texas…

  12. Way cool! Congrats on the gig! I can’t wait to see the program on Nasa TV, it’ll be great.
    As a nasatweetup alum, I gotta echo ageekmom, you need/should try to attend one of the tweetups/socials! Lots of like-minded spacetweeps, and really cool access to nasa people and programs.
    No matter that, thanks for being willing to narrate for NASA. I know lots of people will appreciate your work!

  13. That’s pretty spectacular. Congratulations on getting to do that.
    Was this the really cool thing that you were doing so you couldn’t go to Comic Con? (at which point I just gave away that I don’t really know when that was).

  14. I just watched ‘Curiosity’s Seven Minutes of Terror’ and it is so geek-tastic, I can’t even breathe right now! …Which brings to mind a concerning thought…Do you suppose there are trillions of Martian children trapped in high orbit above Mars; deprived of atmosphere and gravity as well? Gosh, I hope that JPL has considered calculating a collision avoidance system into their descent vector! QUICK! Someone notify Star Child!

  15. “I grew up about 10 minutes from JPL…” – I totally read that as “you grew up 10 minutes after you left JPL” which really made me squee

  16. Not only JPL did a lot of work on this but a lot of the science instruments were developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and invented the power supply (I know Idaho National Laboratory built it…but we invented it!) This rover is close to my heart as I work with people who helped develop the instruments (alas this happened before I started working at LANL).

  17. // you have an incoming interplanetary call
    >> ACCEPT
    < *crackle crackle* Hello?
    > Oh, hi sis’. How’s it going?
    < Oh, you know... I'M ON MARS WOOOOOO!
    > Cool.
    < Bet you wish you were here. How's life back on Earth? *smirk*
    > You know. Same old, same old. Oh…. and I met Wil Wheaton the other day.

  18. Dude, I know you don’t know this, but you were totally in the lobby of the building where I work. I get to see that every day and yes, it’s still amazingly cool.
    Can’t wait until I see the video at the launch event on 8/5 – my astrophysicist boyfriend and I will both be there!

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