Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Beep Boop, Mars Bars

If you visit New York for a week, you're not a New Yorker. But if you live there for thirty years, most people would agree that you have some claim to that title, even if you weren't born there. So here's a question: if people go to Mars, and stay there long enough to change their mailing address, do they become Martians? Most of the difficulties that plague a manned mission to Mars have nothing to do with getting there -- the problem is getting back to Earth. Think about it: to escape Martian gravity, you'd need a launch vehicle of considerable size, only slightly smaller than the ones we need to exit Earth's gravity field. How the hell are we going to get a rocket that big out to Mars? Build it there? Order it on Amazon? Yeah right. The truth is, Mars' first human visitors will probably be there for the rest of their lives. NASA has proposed the idea themselves, but a new (albeit slightly unsettling) idea has just cropped up you should know about. It's called Mars One, and the proposal revolves around making the lives of the Martians into an - ahem - giant reality TV show. Gone are the days when sovereign nations would point to the stars in a giant pissing contest of industrial might. Here are the days when the advertising dollars of our media-crazed culture can fling people far into the cosmos solely for our entertainment. It's like the Truman Show, only on a planetary scale.

Read about the idea here, and watch this video if you don't believe me. 



But before we get carried away with science fiction, let's get excited about some science fact. Right now, sailing through space, there's a friggin huge Mars rover! It's hurtling towards the red planet at ~13,000 miles per hour. It's been en route since November, and it's expected to land on August 6th. The thing needs to enter the Martian atmosphere, deploy the largest parachute ever used for atmospheric entry, ditch its heat shield, ignite a shitload of landing rockets, activate the sky-crane, carefully lower the rover to the ground, and finally detach the crane so it can fly away, leaving the badass rover exactly where it's supposed to be. It's a technological balancing act unlike anything we've seen in space exploration, and if it works, I'll buy the next NASA employee I see a beer. Or hell, I'll buy NASA a whole round of beers. That's right NASA -- I'm offering to buy all 18,800 of you, a beer. Just find me in the bar next time you're in Boise, tell me a story about space travel, and I'll be happy to purchase you a nice PBR for your trouble. Only, not all at once guys; I'm kinda broke right now.


Anyway.


Watch this video about how effing crazy the landing of the rover will be. And don't forget to cross your fingers on August 6th.


1 comment:

Tad said...

That is pretty nuts. I'm gonna be crossing everything that's crossable. Especially my t's.
Best Wishes,
lad...i mean tad :)