Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Got 3 minutes to kill? Have a look at these movies from Mars

On the news last night Brian Williams showed some clips of a landscape he compared to the Jersey shore. It was all pretty boring until he announced that it was, in fact, Mars.

The probes, Spirit and Opportunity, were launched June and July 2003 and landed January 2004 in widely separated equatorial places on Mars. This video was shot by Opportunity. Conspicuously absent is the Travelocity Gnome.

 Sadly, the logistics of success dictate a landing in the safest location; i.e. flat and boring. These explorer vehicles cost $850 million, after all. Let’s not jeopardize the mission with unnecessary risks. Of course they can be designed to negotiate steep inclines and torturous terrain. But if I remember correctly, there’s something like a 45-minute delay between the sending and receiving a command.

So say you see the rover approaching the edge of a crater. By the time this data reaches you it's 45 minutes old. By the time your frantic “STOP!” command arrives 45 minutes hence, Opportunity has been a mangled splatter of nuts and bolts for 90 minutes. Now you know why this particular area of Mars looks like the Jersey shore.

Click and see:

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