Sunday, January 4, 2004  [!]
Watched the press conference; nothing really new to report other than they're trying to deploy the high-gain antenna. Immediately following the conference, there was a landing video, with highights of entry, landing interspersed with the Dan Maas video. Beautiful. Great to relive the moments. Looking to see if that video is posted online somewhere, because it's definitely worth point to and viewing again.

Now live in mission control, interviewing Mark Adler, mission manager.

High gain antenna did deploy. did so exactly as planned. They had to go through the data to find evidence that it deployed.

They've found that they can command the rover through Odyssey, through the low-gain antenna, will now test to see that they can command through the high-gain antenna.

Today didn't see the cable cutting, cutting cable that connects rover to lander electronics and battery. But there weren't sufficient data to make sure it'd work. Cut cable needs to happen before rover stands up and moves. Prolly will happen tomorrow (though whether that's Earth Monday or Sol 3, as mars days are counted).

Standby for data reception from Spirit.... yes. data flowing, so the high gain antenna deployed. 36db. very high signal strength from a dish able to focus sending to earth.

The rover is commandable at 1 kbit per second. that's uplink. downlink at 11.8 kbits per second (heh. just like asynchronous dsl)

waiting for images to come in...

rover status poll: response: No faults, no errors, solar groovy.

Mark Adler elaborates: solar groovy is an official term of the rover state. It's providing all power through solar panels.

needs to use batteries mostly to keep itself warm through the night, tho it can be woken up for overhead passes.

In this pass, we're getting all recorded telemetry.

Thumnails (small image previews) are coming in... starting to get some navcam images.. 7 minutes to go on this pass, we'll see how many images we can get in that time, but the rest will come later on in the Odyssey pass.

from Navcam... image of the legobot on the DVD... no doubt this will all be there. NASA JPL logo.

Can continue to retract airbags, pick up a petal, retract airbag and set petal down again.

pancam thumnails coming down. One is a picture of the sun.

[note: I just logged on to AIM: AuntiAlias... if you're reading this and you're on AIM, give a holler!!...update... and I've gone offline again.]

end of news briefing; another one tomorrow morning at 9am pacific.

1/4/04; 9:14:19 PM | Space | Discuss | # | |

Put together by David Palermo (former QTVR Product Manager, and who wrote the foreword to my QTVR book). Good going, David. Requires QuickTime. We'll be seeing a lot more of these Panos to come once the rover gets moving.

1/4/04; 8:44:44 PM | Space | Discuss | # | |

Louis Friedman giving updates on international programs.

2003 great year for Mars; it came closest to earth in all recorded history (60,000 years). What that meant was the celestial mechanics (the way to get to teh planet) were best of entire cycle periods ot get to Mars. So a focus internationally: Japan, European orbiter and lander...

Japanese Space Explration: Nozumi, the Japanese mission that was headed to Mars. Nozomi means "hope" it failed to get into orbit around Mars, and is flying off in a heliocentric orbit...

Shows list of several missions: asteroid surface sample return, Lunar penetrators measuring sub-surface conditions on moon, an orbint mission.. plus some missions under study, venus climate study, a mission to Mercury, follow up lunar mission (they're envisioning a lunar base, robotic lunar base over time)

Nozomi: clever with celestial mechanics in design.

Fisrt problem: half openfuel valve didn't allow enough fuel to insert into orbit around mars. Heroic workaround ultimately succeeded, and they were on target.

But. solar flare particles from storm caused short-circuit, affecting temperature control and radio telemetry. The heroic workaround didn't work, alas. So they couldn't get it into orbit around Mars.

Nozumi did spend a lotta time in interplanetary mission. collected much data. observe magnetic field of solar wind, solar corona, earth-moon images.

Friedman's showing a statement from associate executive director, an apology (whcih Friedman thinks isn't necessary, since failures are inevitable. but that I figure is a cultural expression). Also they've gotten tons of emails of support...


So to European mission. the person scheduled to be here got caught up in all the europe to LA flight cancellations, and couldn't make it. So we have his vuegraphs that he sent along.

Mars Express is successful. the lander is part of it, but so far no contact has been made.

ESA: European Space Agency plans for missions: 1986 Giotto to Halley's comet fly-by, Cassini-Huygens - Titan Probe, Mars Express, and planned for later, SMART 1 moon and technology (slow trip there, take 16 months to get outta earth orbit and cross there), 2005: Venus Express: Atmosphere & Surface (adaptation of Mars Express), 2011 (with Japanese: Bepi Colombo to Mercury)

Mars Express: Orbiter and Lander... Lander design with airbags, petals to open on surface. Lander: The persons proposing it wanted to get private funding for it, didn't succeed, but got some private funding, they ultimately got government money. Built in Great Britain, which contributed about half the money.

Orbiter has ultra high resolution camera. MARSIS: Sub surface sounding radar altimeter (this is what I've referred to earlier as mebbe coming out of JPL)

Status: The orbiter has made it to Mars, in a large, looping orbit that's going to be tightened to be smaller. Shifted from equatorial orbit to polar orbit, now shrinking oribt. testing instruments but not doing science.

Lander hasn't been heard from. Did it land? DOn't know. They haven't given up hope. The main means of communicating through Mars Express Orbiter, which is supposed to begin today. If they haven't heard from it in 3-4 days, then outlook is gloomy. Stay tuned on that.

Intro: Viacheslav Linkin, Russian scientist. Anecdote about Russian Mars program, which closed down. Compared to Viking, very successful, but couldn't compete. Recounts participating in other Mars missions, all of which fail. So he feels for those waiting yesterday for landing. Be ready to lose not one but many years. But still go -go-go- go- go (worth trying for). Looking for ways to get individuals or small university groups to go on a mission for very low price. The solar sail. [sorry, thick accent, hard to understand] Payload that's 2 to 4 kilograms, a small university payload attached to a large launch.

[note: next session is panel discussion on human exploration of mars. Alas, Buzz Aldrin is ill and can't make it, and I'be been ill all last week and pushing quite hard, so am going to take a break from this one and get some grub. Tune into the webcast, if you'd like.... I'll be back for the 8pm news conference.]

1/4/04; 6:21:55 PM | Space | Discuss | # | |

Shows map of remote place in Pacific, Wake Island. Dad was there (prison camp?), counted constellations, and got into sundials big time when he was there, even wrote a book about it. Collected images of all these sundials.

You might think of a sundial as a flat thing with a triangular piece sticking up casting a shadow. Can hang them on a wall, or other ways...

So I had grown up with all this sundial lore. Grew up with bronze one at home made for the place where we are...

Now we call on fone and get lat/longitude to 6 digits, or enter zip code to web site to get lat/long.

I got invited to this meeting in 1998, Steve Squyres, others. with this picturel. We're going to calibrate our cameras wiht this stick that casts a shadow.....

If you were Ed Nye's son, you'd say "That's gonna be a sundial! It's gonna be great!" They'd say, "Bill, we have more improtant things to do, but we have good clocks..."

It's a metal stick with three rings, one that's white, not so white, one that's dark. You screw something onto a spacecraft, it could break, it weighs something.

Look at the shadow of anything.. (the thing that sticks up on asundial is called a nomen) The shadow is not gray, it's also light blue, b/c our sky is blue, it broadcasts blue behind the shadow. It turns the shadow is a little blue.

What they found on the viking missions, was the sky was too blue. things were too pink. looked at american flag.

oops,, next image wasn't what he wanted.. so a little jag...

image of a sundial with hyperbolic curves, asymmetrical, and cast shadow with single point. designed by Woody Sullivan. Nye said, let's get him involved. he was waaaay into it.

Mars sundial, fits into palm of hand. 80x 80 mm... calibration target dressed up. blue dot earth, red dot mars. oblongcircle, of mars orbit circle. Bkack space inmiddle is post that sticks up. painted with flattest black paint, so it looks like it's not there. Mars 2000, motto (say where the sundial is) and "Two worlds one sun" shadows cast here on earth and there on Mars by same sun. Mars in 16 languages.

You set up a sundial on earth, set up one 80x80 centimeters. Ping pong ball painted black. ping pong ball 40 mm. point webcam at it... Idea to get as many people on the earth to make these all over the earth...

Then have to get signal from webcam to where you are in your house. shows pix of his rig... I guess you gotta go see it on the web,,.,

incidentally, the first picture we got back was teh sundial...

some web links: Nat'l Geographic News story on sundial

Sundial page on Planetary Society web site

1/4/04; 5:40:50 PM | Space | Discuss | # | |

Wes Huntress, formerly NASA's head of scientific exploration: introducing Ed Weiler, the man in charge of this country's scientific exploration - Hubble telescope and interplanetary exploration. This is the man who's responsible for making sure Spirit and Opportunity worked, and got the money they needed.

Ed Weiler: Nice to be with you, a better reception than with media last night... one media person, but you told us that we're not going to get this for another couple of days. 6 minutes from "hades"... I've worked at NASA for 25 years. Until now the only event that rivals this was -- I was chief scientist of Hubble--fixing Hubble. This has been outstanding. Credit to JPL...

I was extremely thrilled when I saw the first image come down, and see how flat the terrain was. I wondered why.. There's a good chance that we'll last more than 90 days. I'm going to push hard. After 90 days.. I'd like to pick a direction and go over that next hill. [applause]

Charles Elachi, JPL director's comments (lost what I typed, but I'll recap). Exciting to see exploration happen in real time last night. You saw the excitement, the frustration, the waiting. Most of these missions succeed, but we also fail. But when we fail, it's because we're doing something good. You do homework, you try to do great things, and if you fail, it's okay. you learn from it. We learned from what happened in 1999, and we have Odyssey orbiting, and Spirit on the ground, and soon, Opportunity. Have a permanent presence on Mars.

Tomorrow morning, go back to work to make sure that Opportunity works well...

Question: If each of us were to write our congressman and tell em something, what would you want that to be?

Answer: Letters in support of exploration. Not a particular planet, but just support of exploration.

Q: What would it take to get humans to Mars?

A: That involves technology, involves funding, involves [something]. If we had enough money and a goal, we could get there in 20 years. We don't know how to make them survive the radiation of space; don't know that yet.

Aggressive robotic program that preceded Apollo program, run out of JPL... names 3 that happened, before we sent humans.

It'll take billions. It'll take robotic exploration. Also need to know where to go, same land amount there as on earth. Need national commitment.

Q: What about sending, say, 20 smaller sized rovers?

A: It's been an idea we've thrown around.... a mothership with smaller ships... We've sent out a call for proposals among whole scientist community. We'd like to see that happen.

Introduce: Donna Shirley, former director of Pathfinder

introducing Rob Manning, in charge of entry, descent and landing.

Rob Manning: This experience over 3.5 years is very different... a major team effort; incredible organization of people among NASA and other companies in order to pull off this feat of all these vehicles talking to each other. Whereas Pathfinder was this small thing we put together, but it was a shoestring job by comparison,. We're all proud of this family of people... I'm a talking head, I can take very little credit for all these incredible group of people.

How it felt last night-- I was the systems engineering manager, and after launch, narrowed sights, focus strictly on landing. Mark Adler done wonderful job getting vehicles landing. All I had to do is worry about 6 minutes.. I mean, how tough is that?

I was sitting there, watching it happen. One job, sit next to Polly Estabrook and Wayne Lee, and figure out what was going on. We were very shocked at what we saw. At press conference yesterday afternoon, we said it was unlikely for tones to show up. And there we were saw tones that radar was working. I was surprised. Shocked at how well this worked. one of the action items for the team is to figure out why it worked so well. We wrote something called an ISA Incident Surprise Anomaly report... (joking)

We were reporting tones, and Wayne Lee was interpreting that to everyone. Thought we had tones on ground. All jumping up and down. Then I realized that I did the math wrong...

then we hear this funny message, that Stanford is picking up UHF signal. I didn't ask them to do it. (as lander repels down on bridle, it has an ultra high frequency walkie talkie, it's only supposed to work to point that airbags deploy)... to get a signal at earth, Stanford.. I thought, no, these guys are wrong. I thought this is not happening, they're getting an airplane flying overhead. But no, they got it, that was the first confirmation.. to their credit they pulled it off w/o our even making a request that they do that. Also kudos to Deep Space Network, Canberra and Goldstone...

we do have some new information... it turns out the vehicle was balancing on a knife edge on two sides of the bag, and we could actually see the signal going up and down. So it was an enormous amt. of fun to get our signal back, and to get our tones. tones were almost 10 db above our expectations, a huge amount in radio land. Data transmission were constant, transmitted so much data. we're analyzing.

We tend to design for worst case. so we got all of our data. As soon as Odyssey goes over the horizon, until it sets, and it send lots of UHF data... vastly more than we have expected. We're sending more data than we have actually planned. (I'm afraid I'm going to jinx it it's going so well...)

we kept data for longer period of time, but at least 20-some bounces. By this evening, we'll have processed it and figure out exactly how many times we bounced. These airbags are good superballs... if we could harness it and sell it. have you ever bounced anything for 60 minutes? these airbags are good energy absorbers... it's very effective bouncers.

And did you see these images we got on the way down. One is either the heat shield on the way down or a shadow of the parachute. Hopefully by this evening we'll have pinpointed where in Gusev we landed.

We're definitely on Mars... it was definitely windy. If we hadn't used those rockets, we'd have 60 mph horizontally. With rockets, we were moving about 25 mph, that's some good wind... we've had dust in upper atmosphere. it's affected our density... we may make changes for how we land Opportunity in the next few weeks. But so far, so good.... thanks for your enthusiasm, and it was a kick in the butt. Thank you very much.

Charles Elachi: About that question what would you say to your congressman? I just got word from our web people in last 24 hours, 460 million hits. It's a world record, even more than Olympics... shows you how much interest there's been in this mission. And this is only weekend, wait till Monday when people get to work with high speed access.

From Q & A to Rob Manning: yes, good way to protect against sandstorms, and possible to use wheels to dig into the ground. wheels one way, and then rotate and dig another way.

Q (young voice): What is the future of the rover that just landed? We'll run the rover until it runs out of "gas" ... gets energy from solar panels, over time, dust accumulates on solar panels. we designed it to work for 90 sols (90 Mars days, 3 months), it might work longer, but it'll be there until we can send people there to pick them up...

1/4/04; 4:35:03 PM | Space | Discuss | # | |

Opening comments. Exec. Director Louis Friedman says, "I've been in the planetary business for a long time and this is a weekend like no other." (referring to both Comet encounter Friday and the Mars landing Sunday).

Wes Huntress, president of Planetary Society: 70 more images from the comet have been downloaded, stay tuned... Happy New Planetary Exploration Year-- enjoy.

Bruce Betts, Dir. of Projects at Planetary Society (Red Rover goes to Mars): Starting out w/ 4 people who were participating in the process. Introducing a panel of...

Mark Adler , Spirit Mission Manager; Jim Bell from Cornell University; head of the Camera team on the science team, Courtney Dressing from Alexandria VA (Student Astronaut); and Rafael Morozowski from Brazil (Student Astronaut)

Mark Adler: This rocket science stuff isn't as easy as it looks. We went through tremendous trials and tribulations. Worked on system for last 3.5 years. I've seen airbags burst open, parachute, solar ray cell manufacturer went out of business, Worked through each problem, made airbag stronger. redesigned parachute. We had another solar ray manufacturer, delivered to Cape in Florida at last minute. We continue to do development, robustness testing. We had the biggest solar storm ever experienced, both spacecraft went through it okay.

Yesterday, we discovered issues the day before, pyro devices. (many small pyro devices, 40 that have to fire in final stage) There were cases that pyro circuitry wasn't working. We went through the consequences of the problem. Enable pyros to fire differently, very careful that late late change wouldn't cause more problems than fixing. Thorough examination of code. Yesterday 5 hours before landing, uploaded the sequence and enabled the pyros to fire. So that's one example of what this mission has been like all along.

It couldn't have possibly been any better. We didn't expect earth communications, the UHF communications. We didn't know if Odyssey... we didn't test our radio with their radio... It all worked. All passes since then have worked... We'll deploy the lollipop [high-gain, i.e., high data-rate] antenna.

Jim Bell, on science team, in charge of the pan-cam, representing hundreds on the science team. We are all in awe of the job that mark and everyone did in getting the rover down safe on Mars... It's a team effort. Team is very excited. We didn't anticipate being this far along... Rover just work up a half hour ago, played Good Morning by the Beatles....

We're in it for the long haul. Got a robot on the surface of Mars in good condition. It's an extension of us. The eye is about as high as a 10-year old's eye. No more simulation, but we're going to be really do it... We've already begun detecting some interesting things, soil patches, rocks and color cameras first data down hours ago. working beautifully. First color images should go out this evening on the web. Resolution is 16x higher than this panorama you see here [onscreen].

What's the next week going to be like? We'll all have to be patient, b/c Mark n the engineering team have lots to do. Rover isn't landed yet. The Lander's on the surface on Mars, but rover is raised up on lander platform. All the things to happen may take all week... Then sometime next week, we'll have 6 wheels on the dirt. We'll a very high resolution panorama with the pan-cam; take several days to acquire, and many days to transfer to earth. Hopefully will begin to provide clues whether this is a lake bed, and some clues of the past of this planet. The team knows that people like you are behind them and supporting this effort.

Courtney: Thrilled to be inside operations and see how happy the scientist were.. to see what it was like when Mars landed. It was incredible. Looking forward to the rest of the time. I'm turning 16 in 2 days, I can't have asked for a better birthday present. From human perspective, being inside operations was the best moment of my life.

Rafael: Yesterday we were at JPL, and I have to say. it was amazing to be there and be one of the first people to see the first pictures that came from Mars from Spirit. This whole week being at JPL was amazing... It was great to be alongside scientists of different kinds; see them discuss the different issues.. to know what is happening with the mission.

Now for Q and A....

Q: regarding the lander. What was the reason for cutting off the parachute just before landing...

A: The problem with landing slowly with the parachute is that it isn't. Mars' atmosphere is about 1%. If you just stayed on the parachute, it would not be good, So the rockets slow down... Rockets continue to fire (so the parachute doesn't drop on top of the lander), rockets take it away, somewhere else, which is where we want it. [rockets take from 200 mph to 0]

Q: How long did it bounce, and how far did it go?

A: How many bounces: reconstruction team is working on it right now. They'll be able to reconstruct it, maybe we can show an animation. 30 bounces, maybe, tho hasn't seen the data.

Q: Right now what do you make of the rocks at this point?

A: It would be foolish to speculate, so I'll go ahead and do it. It's not too different from what we'd predicted from the surveyor and other data we've got. Bread-box sized boulders. There is an enormous number of small rocks. Angular and pointy. We haven't seen any obvious evidence that the rocks we do see are sedimentary, metamorphic or igneous.

Color images just came down. Can announce: Mars is red. no big surprise, but it tells us that our color cameras are working correctly. Over days, when more data trickle in, you'll hear more speculation....

Q (very young voice): How many days did it take to make Spirit?

A: Not enough. 3.5 years. project started ~ May 5 2000. Worked on constantly. One of the suggested names in house for the rovers were "weekend" and "holiday"

. . . . close out this section. Student Astronauts have comments posted somewhere on a website; will have to look for that and post link here...

Planetary Society along with Lego, sent along a DVD onboard the spacecraft.. with names of millions of people on the planet's surface. Also the robots, Biff and Sandy.. decode messages

this is first privately-funded bit of hardware on planetary mission. Look on panorama on lower right... see the DVD. Also Bill Nye .. sundial, we'll hear more about it. To help calibrate the panorama camera. also sponsored by Planetary Society. Sundial images with hour marks... which will be applied after-the-fact since the rover moves around...

Bill Nye on rocket science. People say it's difficult. Their weight is changing all the time they're flying... fuel is coming out the back, getting lighter and lighter. In figuring things out the first time... happens on the back of a napkin...take that idea and make it spectacular.

By clerical error, I got into Cornell University. Had a professor there, Carl Sagan. I was in class when the Viking mission landed on Mars.. they cost *billions* of dollars (pun intended). Pathfinder mission in 1997 cost 320 million dollars. To you and me, a lot, but to the U.S. Government. Not a lot of money.

interviewing young girl: Kyla... to help with the demo. fragile: showing eggs... challenge is to land the egg on the surface of the Pasadena center. We need a space capsule. holds up a yellow notepad. Using these intricate instruments shown here. (a rule, a hole puncher, tape). Need to make a tetrahedron. (do you know what that is? -no. -Do you speak any Greek? -No. But I speak Spanish). tetra: triangle divided into more triangles. Pyramid.. pyramids in Egypt have 5 sides. 4 seen and bottom.

She's folding the triangle, and punching holes into it. Kyla, do you have a 1-meter long piece of string? No, I have that. It's just like a cooking show.... Tie up the triangle. put the egg inside the tied-up tetrahedron.

Parachute.. use fabulous newspaper (Pasadena star news), folded into square, cut corners off, and make into what kinda shape? Kyla: a stop sign.. but it doesn't have the word STOP on it.,

tie precision string to precision shaped parachute. Don't want the parachute to come off of the lander, else that would be a drag. (It wouldn't be enough of a drag.)

I encourage everyone to try this... This idea that rocket is really difficult, well, you have to try little tests just like this.

So you tie the payload (that's the thing you pay for. Pay for eggs, and a rover with a camera is something that you gotta pay for). Now is blowing up balloons... (she doesn't want to; he: you can hire people to do that) Blow up several balloons. Don't think that static electricity will keep them. taping them to the lander.

Stand on the table... holding it up. she does countown 5, 4, 3, 2, 1... you didn't drop it at one. (okay, so he dropped it at [the silent] zero).

recovered the lander... opened it up, and lo, the egg was there, intact!!!

1/4/04; 3:27:26 PM | Space | Discuss | # | |

A good sign. Back in the 7th row. Agenda for this afternoon:
  • Spirit update
  • The Bill Nye Show
  • Mars Express and Beagle 2 update
  • Planetary Society Cosmos 1 Solar shell
  • A reading from the works of Ray Bradbury
  • Panel Discussion: Future Human Exploration of Mars

1/4/04; 2:38:28 PM | Space | Discuss | # | |

Last night at the Planetary Society's Wild About Mars event: Mars in the Mind of Man. Re-convening a similarly-named panel from 1971. Anyway, here are the highlights...

Bruce Murray (Past director of JPL, co-fouder of Planetary Society, CalTech Professor) was on the 1971 panel, too. He compared now to 1971, said he was impressed by the changes in computing and information technology. We couldn't do mosaic imaging that quickly, and seeing all of this live on TV in realtime was unheard of. Computers and machines run by humans ae the thing for Mars exploration.

We aren't going to go to Mars and plant a flag, we'll have a symbiosis of humans and machine. We have an outdated view of human spaceflight that's a few decades old. For all the progress in human technology, we've made little progress in human spaceflight technology.

On the pace of space exploration, space technology: The 1960s was an aberration, brought about by the Cold War, driven by Kruschev, Kennedy and the race to get to the moon. We couldn't have possibly done it any faster than we did. Now we're on a more normal trajectory. [implication: Since we began the push to space at that extreme time, we tend to think "that's how it should be" and then ask "what's wrong" when ensuing progress is much slower. But that initial time was the anomoly, not the subsequent slower pace.]

David Brin, science fiction writer: We find many of the 20th century cliches and assumptions we've held aren't good for the 21st century. "We're giving up on our can-do spirit just when we're showing we can do." To those who'd accuse us of hubris in this endeavor, here's an answer from theology, from the Bible. Way back when, before the Bible became consumed with the story of redemption, what came before the fall? God requested Adam to please go forth and name all the beasts. So for the next 90 days [planned time of MER mission], we're doing lots of naming the beasts.

Greg Bear, science fiction writer: It's a disappointment that we're not (physically) on Mars, but it's obvious that we would've lost more astronauts to the journey there if we'd gone forward. We've been understanding our biology better, and psychology, to understand what it's like to live with a group of people in a tin can for two years with Space outside. The last 20 years has been drawing back before the leap. When we do it, we'll do it smart, not fast, do it well, and we're going to do it to stay.

Bill Nye, the Science Guy: We're going to Mars to look for signs of life, in what appear to be watery places on Mars. We've though that living things need sunlight, but looking at deep sea lightless conditions has changed that. The ramifications, if we find [the remains of past] life on Mars. It will make everyoen on our planet think abou this or her life in the universe.

And we're doing it for next to nothing-- the cost of a latte for every taxpaying citizen. We as taxpayers and voters should be proud because we are doing this well.

And then a hint on something to do with the sundial and calibrating the cameras an we'll find out about this tomorrow (today). So more to come from Bill Nye.

In Q & A...

Bruce Murray said that the Shuttle is fragile both technically and politically [re: technical fragility, here's a must-read: the LA Times (reg required) 6-part series, Butterfly in A Bullet] People say we need the shuttle to complete the space station. Yet is the Space Station worth killing a bunch of people? We're between a rock and a hard place.

Bill Nye (I think, mighta been another panelist) said we have to watch out for the enemies of progress, those who'd want to spend money writing reports. There are proposals for get up to orbit and get back means that are doable, recyclable (small capsule, Mercury-style heat shields, fall to ocean, pick up parachute and recycle), and get out of 1970-style Shuttle.

1/4/04; 1:28:49 PM | Space | Discuss | # | |

Turns out that the Planetary Society will be doing a webcast of today's doings, beginning at 3. So we may have wi-fi again. If so, live updates. If not, check out the webcast. (Pasadena Star News story on Wild About Mars event, where I've been blogging from)

Thrilled, pleased and proud: I learned that Feedster made this their "feed of the day." Very cool! Thanks!

(egosurf note: of all the times for Technorati to go down for a bit.....)

From the late night press conference (~midnight, Pacific Time). The big task for today is getting the high-gain antenna deployed, so as to provide better signal and faster bandwidth from Spirit back to earth.

Also today at Wild About Mars, more from the Planetary Society leadership (heavy-hitters retired from JPL), John Rhys-Davies, Buzz Aldrin, Bill Nye, and, later on, the leadership responsible for this mission, who'll come down off the lab and to the Pasadena Center to talk to us.

1/4/04; 12:48:28 PM | Space | Discuss | # | |

panoramic postcard from mars:

from the Mars landing press release. There are others, go. do not stop. view. That's our neighbor planet. And we are there.

update: another very cool pictures page

1/4/04; 5:14:28 AM | Space | Discuss (3 responses) | # | |

Here's a self-compiled, non-alphabetical reference of Mars terms that are thrown around in the Mars Rover Landing posts of these two days:

  • MER, Mars Exploration Rover, Spirit, Opportunity: This is the mission. MER for short, Spirit is the first one that just landed; Opportunity is the name of the one due to land January 25th.
  • Mars Odyssey : Satellite orbiting Mars. Has just been made part of brand new interplanetary communication system (Mars equivalent of earth communication satellites), acting as a go-between for signals sent to and from Mars Rover. Oh, and it's go a whole bunch of instruments on its own, has been orbiting Mars since
  • MGS, Mars Global Surveyor: Another spacecraft orbiting Mars.
  • Pathfinder: Previous roving robot mission to Mars (1997)
  • DSN, Deep Space Network: International network of antennas that support interplanetary missions, consisting of huge radio telescopes in Canberra, Australia, Goldstone in California's Mojave Desert, and near Madrid, Spain. These are the points where we listen for signal from spacecraft.
  • Nominal: NASA-scientist speak for "normal" or "optimum conditions". After this picture-perfect Spirit landing, things are sooooooo way nominal, so incredibly nominal.

(this is a list-in-progress. and so to bed.)

1/4/04; 5:09:33 AM | Space | Discuss | # | |

Just as I was talking to John Rhys-Davies (Gimli in LotR, as well as Galileo at the post-Galileo mission event), whoever had an open wi-fi point shut it down. Back home again. With pictures and other stuff to recount. Look for more here...

susan john rhys davies:
(Cool. I got an exclusive quote from him, his autograph, and a picture, too!)

We watched NASA TV at Mission Control after the press conference, as we awaited word from the rover. Earthset limited what could be sent directly, but when Mars Odyssey flew over, Spirit sent signal to Odyssey which then relayed it back to earth.

Lots of screen time viewing the control room waiting.

waiting donna shirley narrates:

It's very cool that we had a former Mars mission director (Donna Shirley) to explain what all was going on at the time.

Then came the word: 24 megabits. omigosh, that's great. That's the data rate, which, as it turned out, was half again as much as expected (16 megabit) in best outcome scenarios.

Then, a little later, Engineering: Good. Green across the board. No faults. This is soooooooo amazing; never has there been a mission where it's been green across the board.

and then.... pictures.

The first thumbnail, greeted with wild applause at Pasadena Civic Center, as camera honed in on a projection of an image on a computer screen:

spirit first image:

That image was joined by others, until the screen had overlapping windows of different images (wild applause)

first dark images:

Then new images came up.. the same ones, but this time adjusted for contrast so it was easier to see what was what. Mars!

This is the first glimpse of a new place on Mars, a space that later someone said was of "Spirit's new home." The mission team huddled in front of the projection screens, looking, pointing out features and discussing them (we couldn't hear that, just saw it)

first glimpse at mars pix:

mission control looks at mars pix:

Then there was discussion about how the image team was mosaicing all the images together. Next, we saw a panorama view:

first new panorama:

Incidentally, the nearly level horizon means that the lander ended up almost level, which will make later phases (kneeling up and rolling off of lander) easier to work.

After the images were received, we at the Pasadena Civic saw a reading from Ray Bradbury's The Leviathan, read by John Rhys-Davies, Robert Picardo, and Christopher David Gauntt.

ray bradbury:
Ray Bradbury, who addressed us all earlier but had to leave

Ishmael, read by Christopher David Gauntt

robert picardo:
Robert Picardo reading the part of a first lieutenant on the starship

rhys davies as ahab:
John Rhys-Davies reading Ahab, captain of the starship.

Have a few more pix and some other notes from a discussion panel, but it's 4:30 am, and I, like Spirit, need to sleep.

1/4/04; 2:52:02 AM | Space | Discuss | # | |

A quote from John Rhys-Davies, whom I'm sitting next to for a moment: "Tonight when there are evil people in caves plotting and scheming to destroy their fellow men, we have seen an astonishing display of man's creativity and ingenuity. Nothing that happenend on our planet today was more important than this. A tribute to the genius of the American spirit and all that is best in humankind."

Note: I talked to him just before the 9:30pm Mars Rover news conference, but wi-fi access disappeared before I could post this.

1/4/04; 2:40:26 AM | Space | Discuss | # | |