This is so cool. Yesterday the Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced that they have put up a live Web camera on Curiosity, the next Mars rover, as it is being assembled and tested in the clean room, using Ustream. The camera is mounted in the viewing gallery above the clean room and provides video (but no sound; sound's not audible from that viewing gallery). Periodically, they'll have staff on hand to answer questions in the chat room. As I am writing this, there is a veritable pile of bunny-suited engineers working to re-mount the wheels on the rover, lots of discussion in the chat room, and 1400 people viewing. Awesome! Yay for JPL for inviting the public to watch our next Mars explorer get built.
Here is the live feed:
This is a bit of an experiment for JPL. They've done Web cams before, many times, but having the open chat room is really new. It's a bit scary of course because with a chat room any troll can come in and post nasty stuff, so moderators have to be quick to jump on them. But I've been sitting in the chat room all day and have been very happy with the discussion. There are lots of people coming in who have not heard about this mission before and who are asking questions like "what are they building" and "where is it going" and "why do they wear those suits" and so on -- this Web cam and chat room is clearly reaching and educating people who JPL has not been able to reach before. If you think this Web cam and chat room is a good idea, I encourage you to support it by sending NASA an email (try sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org) about how great you think it is, and why.
If you happen to be reading this when the feed is not active, try coming in again a little later; most work will be done from 8:00 a.m. to early evening hours Pasadena time, though sometimes they work quite late in the evening. For those of you who are unlucky in finding live video, I'll repost this bit of fun, which was taken from the same perspective...
I want to give special thanks to someone who I know was deeply involved in establishing this Curiosity Cam, Veronica McGregor, and thanks too to everyone who helped her along.