"Mars is there, waiting to be reached" -- Buzz Aldrin
For four years now I have been fascinated by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory's efforts to send data-collecting rovers to Mars. http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mgs/ It's all thanks to Mark Davis's fantastic documentary "Mars Dead or Alive" that I saw right after the 2004 launch of the two rovers, "Opportunity" and "Spirit". (Oh how I wish NASA was more creative in its naming of space craft.) The documentary showed the incredible ingenuity and determination of the team creating the rovers, and the emotional roller coaster of the launches and subsequent successful landings. The tension and delight were truly contagious. It struck me while I was watching the scientists meet these overwhelming challenges with such smart and optimistic solutions...that this was one of those things that make humans truly remarkable. The ability to create a sensitive scientific machine that will collapse, survive a launch into outer space, hurtle towards its target 35 million miles away, land on the target, bounce along unhurt, come to a stop, open itself and drive itself off of its little landing pad, and start collecting data....ON MARS is really miraculous! The team that accomplished this feat really seems to be a group of grown-up kids with enormous brains (and enormous budget) that are living their childhood dream. I wish MY brain was bigger!
Now "Phoenix" has joined its siblings on the red planet. Congratulations to the Jet Propulsion Lab Team! Here's to Phoenix lasting as long and as productively as her brother rovers.