I'm writing this from the media room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is unbeLEEvably packed. And there are still more than four hours to go. I took a blurry photo.
People have been asking how to tune in to the landing. If you have TV or a good Internet connection, you'll want to watch one of the live streams. There are many options. NASA TV. JPL's Ustream. The European Space Agency's livestream. If you want to join 2,000 people geeking out together, try the Planetfest livestream (there have been intermittent problems with it today due to problems with the Pasadena Civic Center's network, but when it works it's very good; you can also try the SpaceVidCast feed if our live stream isn't working). Universe Today and Cosmoquest will be running a Hangout throughout the evening.
The one I will be watching is JPL's alternate Ustream feed, which is supposed to be a so-called "clean" feed -- mission audio only, no commentary. It'll be unintelligible if you don't know the acronyms that the engineers use, but it's very spacey-sounding.
I will also have open in a browser tab the marvelous Eyes on the Solar System simulation of the landing. This is absolutely packed with details intended to precisely mirror what is going on on the spacecraft. Run it fast-forward to watch the landing; I'll be leaving it in realtime mode as events unfold this evening. If you're interested in watching this, help everyone out by loading it now. Your browser will cache all the graphics, lightening the load on the system this evening.
And then I will be watching Twitter. And Tweeting, a lot. Once things start happening I will do my best to be in pure transcription mode. If you're in a low-bandwidth situation, I hope that my Twitter feed will provide you all you really need to know what's going on, when. That's my goal, anyway.
I've got an awesome office set up here at JPL. Here's a picture of that. That's Rob Manning (master engineer for JPL's Mars landings) being interviewed in the middle background, and Kelly Beatty (ace space journalist) working in the back right. Yes, I brought my own coffee maker. It's not really for me; I'll be jumpy enough without caffeine tonight. A couple of my fellow journalists knew I was a local and asked me to bring it in, since there's no coffee in the media room for the hard night of work ahead of us.
Yes, I have a coffeemaker, my desktop computer, monitor, full-size keyboard. I have snacks. I have a sweater. I have lots of stuff, and it seemed weird even to me that I had brought so much stuff. It was while I was driving here that I realized what was behind my urge to bring so much stuff.
The similarity between a Mars landing and the birth of a baby has been noted before. At this moment, I'm feeling excited and terrified about what will, one way or another, be a life-changing experience. Yet I'm powerless to influence the outcome of events this evening; Nature will take its course. I have this urge to prepare, in any way I can. So I brought a sweater. And coffee for everyone in the room. And everything else that seemed like it might possibly be of any use to me this evening. None of it will help Curiosity land safely, though.
Related: We are on Mars