Wednesday, January 28, 2004  [!]
T. L. James of the Louisiana Mars Society recalls where he was 18 years ago (was it 18 years ago?) when the Challenger exploded just after launch, 28 January, 1986.

Rand Simberg ruminates A Haunting Past --the "grim and fatal" late January events with NASA. He also points to an earlier remembrance of the Challenger accident.

I remember Challenger A whole bunch of remembrances.

As for what I was up to 18 years ago... I was working at one of my earliest freelance graphics jobs, and showed up that morning for work. One of the co-workers said, "The Challenger blew up this morning." What? no, you're no serious, are you? I think I'd been aware of the upcoming launch, and the teacher in space, but it wasn't front and center in my consciousness. I think later I tried to wrap my head around it from news reports on radio, newspaper and magazine. I went to church with a couple that worked/studied at CalTech; they were the closest people I knew to any space program doings; the wife mentioned a widespread depression among her colleagues following this accident.

1/28/04; 11:51:45 PM | Space | Discuss | # | |

I was expecting this. At Opportunity's post-landing news conference, someone referred to the Gusev site being named for Columbia astronauts, and would there be something for this new site? O'Keefe said that he had nothing to say about that now. (hint, hint, soon, soon). So now it was announced: Challenger Memorial Station. Will we see an image on the backside of Opportunity's High Gain Antenna remembering the crew?

Tomorrow, 29 January, is designated Remembrance Day for all those lost in the Apollo, Challenger, and Columbia accidents. Flags to fly at half-mast through February 2. Those who lost their lives--who gave them in the pursuit of space exploration-- are remembered on our neighbor planet Mars, with Columbia Memorial Station (Gusev landing site), Apollo 1 Hills (toward the horizon from Spirit's location) and now Challenger Memorial Station at Meridiani Planum.

1/28/04; 5:52:34 PM | Space | Discuss | # | |

Daniel Weintraub of California Insider points to a study (commissioned by Wal-Mart, so consume with salt grains, please) on the economic impact of new supercenters (Walmart grocery stores). Money saved on groceries (at both Walmart and forced-to-compete Grocery Chains) would lead to the creation of jobs--lots of jobs. LA Times puts the report in a larger context, and adds detail of the study's sponsorship by Wal-Mart.

[from California Insider's recap] And all that money that people save at least $668 million annually in the city of Los Angeles and more than $3 billion in the seven-county region would be spent on other items, including housing, health, entertainment and transportation. Those redirected savings, which far exceed the wages lost by grocery workers, will create new jobs, at least 6,500 in the city alone, the study says. Regionwide, the change could cost 3,500 to 5,100 jobs because of the reduced purchasing power of lower-paid grocery workers while creating 36,400 new jobs outside the grocery business, according to the report.

Wow. What an economic powerhouse. Brings to mind one of the recent Wal-Mart articles that stated that Wal-Mart is responsible for keeping inflation rates low. And a term: The Wal-Mart effect

1/28/04; 4:18:08 PM | Economics | Discuss | # | |

Robby Stephenson is keeping track of Spirit wake up songs (what about Opportunity's wake up songs?)

The most recent ones are amusing: S.O.S., Baby Talk to Me, We Can Work It Out. He's gotten more info from Mark Adler (the man himself) on the songs, according to his latest post.

1/28/04; 12:33:41 PM | Space | Discuss | # | |

A few highlights for today.

Meridiani in color:

sol3 outcropping color:

They processed the image from yesterday into color. (BTW, if you have red-blue stereo glasses, there's a nice 3D anaglyph of the site with depth perception)

Today's news, near as I can tell: Opportunity's standing up, partway. (Asa's doesn't have the press briefing notes are now up yet.)

UPDATE: AP story: Opportunity could egress by this weekend (if it rolls on Feb 2, will it see its shadow on Mars and if so what would that mean?); Spirit's restoration to functionality continues; its science work could resume by next week.

Engineers expect to soon begin reusing Spirit's high-gain antenna, which would speed the transmission of data to debug the rover's problems. They planned to selectively pluck files from Spirit's overloaded flash memory or, if that fails, simply wipe it clean.

But yesterday I discovered that the C-SPAN Science and Technology section is the place to go to see the press briefs (they totally skipped Opportunity's Landing for New Hampshire primaries, though). As of noon Pacific, they don't have today's, but it ought to show up later. I poked around the CSPAN site; I don't see it on the schedule, tho I do see it as a listed event. So. Maybe it will show up there. has a feature on the computer that operates the rovers. Only one computer. No redundancy there. But it's proved its ability on previous missions (pathfinder, Odyssey) [via Martian Soil]

RAD6000 microprocessors are radiation-hardened versions of the PowerPC chips that powered Macintosh computers in the early 1990s, with 128 megabytes of random access memory (RAM) and capable of carrying out about 20 million instructions per second. A critical feature of the spaceworthy chips -- developed jointly by BAE systems, JPL and the Air Force Research Laboratory -- is the radiation shielding, which uses a series of resistors and capacitors to ground harmful radiation before it can damage onboard electronics.

Astrobiology Magazine traces the events surrounding Spirit's Flash Memory problem from Sol 18.

Speaking of Sol, I hadn't looked at the Student Astronaut Journals for a while. I went back and read them from Sol 19 to get a glimpse of what it was like for those who were there. 'Yestersol' is what they call, well, the previous sols. They're good for an eyewitness report from Mars Rover mission control. The journals from Sol 19 and later cover Spirit's problems, and Opportunity's Landing from those wide-eyed glimpses of those who can be there.

Speaking of eyewitness accounts, musician Tony Levin (plays with Peter Gabriel) has connections, and was invited onsite for the first landing. He tells about it in his road diary. (No permalinks; it's a January 24 entry). Lucky Buzzard.

1/28/04; 12:19:51 PM | Space | Discuss | # | |

Oh, the number of newsworthy items posted on the JPL home page.

gusev horizon hills:
The horizon of Gusev, where Spirit is, named for the Apollo 1 astronauts lost in the capsule fire.

sol3 mosiac 380:
And then there are more images and discussion of those intriguing rock outcroppings in the little crater on Meridiani. (factoid: the crater's size is about the same as the room where the press briefings take place).

And, earthside, from the release of two datasets Eurasia and Pacific Islands topography maps created by the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (which was Doc M's baby). They were released at the end of last week.

1/28/04; 1:20:59 AM | Space | Discuss | # | |