Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate John Grunsfeld, left, and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) director Charles Elachi present an overview of the status and plans for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at JPL in Pasadena, Calif., Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012. After traveling 8 1/2 months and 352 million miles, Curiosity will attempt a landing on Mars Sunday night. In keeping with a decades-old tradition, peanuts will be passed around the mission control room at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory for good luck. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) --- Three people here at UT have the coolest job on the planet, but its not our planet. No, if you want to see their office you have to look up, and keep looking for 150 million miles.
Because that office is a car sized rover named Curiosity and right now it's parked on mars.
Not parked for long.
On Wednesday something gigantic happened, NASA put curiosity in drive.
Its one very very small step for the robot but one almost unimaginable leap for mankind
"We're having cheers and hoots and holloring every day" Dr Linda Kah told us from the NASA office in California.
She is part of the general science team that has worked Curiosity's cameras and given us the remarkable images of a foreign world.
"It's a different sort of awe", Kah says about seeing the pictures, "because its like, oh my gosh. I just took a picture of something on a planet a very long way away and here it is."
They're on Mars to answer a question; one that has inspired books, movies, science, philosophy and the imaginations of countless kids. Are we the only ones here?
"The goal of the mission is to try and understand whether or not the martian environments, at any point in time, might have been inhabitable." Kah understands the scope of that question, "That's a big question and i think its a big question that a lot of people just cant sort of wrap their brains around."
Kah and her fellow UT professors and students will arrive back in Knoxville in November.