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January 27, 2004

Oscar Contest Coming Soon

Now that the nominees have been announced watch this space for my Oscar Contest, coming as soon as the good people at Yahoo refresh their site for this year's awards.

Update: As of 1 February I'm still waiting on Yahoo.

January 25, 2004

Opportunity Has Landed

The Opportunity lander is currently rolling and bouncing on the surface of Mars!

January 19, 2004

Valleys of Mars

Valles Marineris - Click for larger version

As if in response to that lovely hill shot the ESA today released the first high resolution image from the Mars Express orbiter (which is working quite well despite the loss of its rover, thank you very much). This image depicts the undulating canyon region, Valles Marineris. ESA has a press release with their own versions of this shot but unlike NASA they make it very hard to find unadulterated versions of their images and I grabbed this one from Space.com (ESA still gets the photo credit, though).

January 13, 2004

The Hills Nearby


My favorite image so far from Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, via JPL. These hills are only a mile or two from the rover, which may visit them. Click the image for a larger version.

Interpreting Mars

The Mars Rover folks have posted a nice little piece about the need to abandon preconceptions when analyzing pictures and other data from Mars.

January 05, 2004

The Color Of Mars


This is the first color view of the Martian surface to be sent back by the Spirit lander. I was watching the live NASA TV stream Saturday night during the landing operation and was almost as thrilled as the mission team at JPL when they received confirmation that the lander was okay.

It's thrilling to look at the first panoramas that they released on Sunday morning, to see the landscape, the hills in the distance, the textures of the ground, and to understand the site as a place where a person could stand and scan the horizon with their own eyes. It takes an effort of will to remind myself that the place in the pictures is over a hundred million miles away.

Reading Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars books filled my head with ideas to stimulate comprehension. The horizon is half as far as the one I know. Close enough, Robinson says, that you'd notice the difference if you were there. You could see how close it was (three miles). The air is 99% thinner than ours, so everything is incredibly crisp and clear (as long as the wind isn't blowing). It's also extremely cold, but perhaps not so cold or so airless as to require what we think of as a spacesuit. A heated pressure suit might suffice, and at 40% of its terrestrial weight the suit wouldn't feel very strange. A person might walk over the horizon in under an hour in such as suit, and the view would change almost constantly as she walked.

Might someone my age be the first to stand on Mars, to touch the surface, to walk over the horizon? Might my child travel there?

Happy New Year!

I'm back! You're probably expecting this to be my now-bimonthly excuse post, and I won't disappoint you. I've been on vacation for the holidays, and I cut the wires this trip. Prior to that I was rather busy with several things which I'll discuss here in future posts. I hope you all had happy holidays, whatever they were, and that the new year treats you well!