It’s fantastic that for the second time in a couple of months the world has been transfixed by a scientific story. Personally I find the arrival of Curiosity on Mars far more exciting than the discovery of the Higgs Boson, although I realise it will probably have a smaller place in the history of science.
However, in all the (well-deserved) fuss I have only just discovered that Gale crater, in which it landed, is named after an Australian scientist. William Frederick Gale was wrong when he thought he saw oases and canals on Mars, but his claims probably contributed to the popular fascination with the planet.
Another Australian connection is through Marion Anderson of Monash University. She was included in my book for her role in helping to choose the landing sites for Spirit and Opportunity, and she was consulted again for Curiosity. She’s interviewed here about the reason for the choice of site, and what Curiosity may find. Since publishing the book she is one of the scientists I’ve been asked about the most. Generations of students at Monash have been inspired by her and I’ve had a couple open the book and say things like “You really should have included Mar…. Oh you have.”