Monday, June 02, 2008

Phoenix and Me

The successful landing of Phoenix on the northern polar region of Mars was a sensational event (which live coverage by the Science Channel managed to make dull; how could they do that?), being the first rocket-powered soft landing on Mars since 1976, when the Vikings landed. You've all seen pictures from the Mars surface, no doubt--but you might not have seen this picture, the first time any craft has ever been photographed landing on another world:

If you go to the full image at Astronomy Picture of the Day, you'll see the magnificent crater near which Phoenix landed.

Phoenix is not just a national and international triumph; it's a personal one, as well. I was reminded by the Planetary Society that my family and I are personally represented on Mars by this craft: it carries a DVD that bears our names, along with those of 250,000 other people who signed up for the mission. It also bears a library of science and science fiction works about Mars, to be recovered and enjoyed by future explorers. Here's a picture, taken by Phoenix itself, of the DVD on Mars.

Now that's a good feeling, knowing that a part of me is up there on Mars right now.

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At 11:14 AM, Blogger Charlza said...

The landing was incredibly exciting watching on CNN with Miles O'brien. I was on the edge of my seat and literally yelled when it touched down!

At 10:22 AM, Blogger Rockdragon said...

I missed it, unfortunately, and managed to sprint to the computer just in time to see them clapping and hugging each other, at which point I said "Cool, guess it worked then." I feel so bad about that, because when Spirit and Opportunity landed I was absolutely at the edge of my seat. I even got to see the Phoenix Lander in person a few years ago when I had a tour of Lockheed Martin. Back then, 2008 seemed impossibly far away. My high school mentor was head of avionics for the project and now he plans to retire, so I'm glad his final project got to be a successful one. But bugger all, I wish I could have gotten to watch it!

Oh, completely un-related, but I borrowed my boyfriend's copy of Dragons in the Stars and absolutely loved it. I need to hunt down a copy of Dragon Rigger so that I can find out what happens! Eternity's End is still my favorite though. I need to hunt down copies of the Chaos Chronicles so that I can be prepared when Sunborn comes out :)

At 12:43 AM, Blogger Jeffrey A. Carver said...

Rockdragon, you definitely were fortunate to see this machine in person!

I guess I was watching the wrong station. But I was definitely longing for the days of Mercury/Gemini/Apollo, when the networks provided practiced coverage, and people like Walter Cronkite (who knew how to hold an audience) helped make it exciting.

Glad you enjoyed Dragons in the Stars! Dragon Rigger is around (and is a personal favorite of mine), but remember, too, you can always order books directly from me:

At 8:34 PM, Blogger substandardTim said...

Unless a future explorer gets there in the next 30-40 years then it's not likely that anyone would ever see the contents of that dvd.

DVDs and CDs only have a certain shelf life before the information starts to degrade. And with the extra radiation that the surface of Mars receives due to such a thin atmosphere, I'd bet that it lasts even less time unless it is shielded quite well.

Still very cool though. My name has certainly never left the planet.

At 1:04 AM, Blogger Jeffrey A. Carver said...

I'm not sure about this DVD, but I know the CD they put on Voyager was etched in gold to give it maximum durability. I'm sure they must have done something similar with this one. In any case, I believe there's a sign next to it saying, "Explorer--greetings. Take this DVD and play it." That might happen in a couple of decades.

Of course, we really don't know how long our regular DVDs are going to last, including the ones we burn ourselves. The manufacturers make claims (I think they say 20-30 years), but it's not yet been put to the test.


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