Opportunity Mars Rover Still Working After Thirteen Years

The Opportunity rover landed on Mars thirteen Earth calendar years ago today, and it still works fine after driving ~44 km! This is the farthest any off-planet vehicle has gone so far. Oppy’s mate Spirit was mobile on the Red Planet for over five years and then functioned as a stationary science platform for another year before getting killed off by a Martian winter it couldn’t avoid. Amazing engineering that keeps working year after year without a technician so much as touching it.

At the moment Oppy continues to explore the western rim of Endeavour crater, where it’s spent several years. Check out the project’s web site and the Red Planet Report for news!

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Opportunity Mars Rover Still Working After Twelve Years

The Opportunity rover landed on Mars twelve Earth calendar years ago today, and it still works fine after driving ~43 km! This is the farthest any off-planet vehicle has gone so far. Oppy’s mate Spirit was mobile on the Red Planet for over five years and then functioned as a stationary science platform for another year before getting killed off by a Martian winter it couldn’t avoid. Amazing engineering that keeps working year after year without a technician so much as touching it.

At the moment Oppy is still exploring the rim of Endeavour crater, where it’s spent several years. It’s in Marathon Valley, getting ready to do some rock abrasion. Check out the project’s web site and the Red Planet Report for news!

Opportunity Mars Rover Still Working After Eleven Years

The Opportunity rover landed on Mars eleven Earth calendar years ago today, and it still works fine after driving ~42 km! This is the farthest any off-planet vehicle has gone so far. Oppy’s mate Spirit was mobile on the Red Planet for over five years and then functioned as a stationary science platform for another year before getting killed off by a Martian winter it couldn’t avoid. Amazing engineering that keeps working year after year without a technician so much as touching it.

At the moment Oppy is still exploring the rim of Endeavour crater, where it’s spent several years. The rover recently broke its altitude record when scaling the high part of the rim known as Cape Tribulation. It is now headed towards a promising geological site known as “Marathon Valley” — because Oppy has almost run a marathon by now. Check out the project’s web site for news!

Jules Verne at Disneyland

Though I really enjoyed my late 70s childhood visits to Disneyland and Disneyworld, I am no friend of disnification, and I’ve always seen the Paris Disneyland as a bit of a joke. But my mom wanted to treat my kids to a visit last week, and so I came along too.

The Paris Disneyland has five sections. The US small-town nostalgia section full of Disney memorabilia shops, the faux-16th century fairytale section, the adventure movie section and the wild west section didn’t do very much for me – though the Pirates of the Caribbean ride is admittedly hugely atmospheric, and the Small World ride provided a strongly hallucinogenic (though not altogether pleasurable) experience.

The Nautilus and the moon cannon

The Nautilus and the moon cannon

The best part of Paris Disneyland is instead the retro-futuristic section, because it’s the least disnified one, and because its design largely builds upon the characteristic settings and illustrations of sometime Parisian Jules Verne’s novels. We went on board the Nautilus and we got shot out of the moon cannon onto the Space Mountain 2 roller coaster – where the security seat couldn’t quite accommodate me, so I hurt my shoulders pretty badly in addition to being scared witless.

The kids though, 15 and 10, were very happy with it all.

See also Jules Verne’s awesome grave monument.

Parked Vernian dirigible

Parked Vernian dirigible

Opportunity Mars Rover Still Working After Nine Years

The wonderful Curiosity rover on Mars has been much in the news lately, but let’s not forget about the previous rover generation! Opportunity landed on Mars nine Earth calendar years ago today on 25 January, and it still works fine. Its mate Spirit was mobile on the Red Planet for over five years and then functioned as a stationary science platform for another year before getting killed off by a Martian winter it couldn’t avoid. Amazing engineering that keeps working year after year without a technician so much as touching it.

Oppy is still on the rim of Endeavour crater, the area where it’s spent the past year, and is currently taking measurements at a spot called Copper Cliff. Check out the project’s web site for news! And meanwhile, elsewhere on Mars, Curiosity’s hammer drill is being prepared for its first outing…

Scifi, Rocketry and Occult Silliness

Jack Parsons (1914-52) was a rocketry pioneer, a science fiction fan and a deeply committed occult follower of the aged Aleister Crowley. I recently read the 2004 edition of John Carter’s biography of the man, Sex and Rockets. The Occult World of Jack Parsons.

Despite such promising material, it’s not a very engaging or well-written book. It’s largely about rocketry and occultism, but neither field is contextualised very well. There’s lots of detail but not much in the way of a bigger picture. And Carter equivocates in his attitude to occultism. Sometimes he seems to believe in it, sometimes he makes fun of it, but he misses no opportunity to reproduce swaths of ceremonial babblings dreamed up by Crowley and Parsons. I’m not interested in what spells they chanted or whom they buggered (“strictly for magical reasons, my dear, I promise”). I want to know what they thought it would accomplish and what other people thought about them for it.

Occultism is exceptionally silly. Picture a robed Jack Parsons chanting Crowleyan invocations and masturbating onto a piece of parchment for several days while L. Ron Hubbard (as occult secretary) watches, takes notes and occasionally fakes cryptic messages From Beyond.

Hubbard was a con man. Eight months into his acquaintance with Parsons, the future founder of Scientology tired of humouring Parsons’s supernatural beliefs and disappeared with his host’s considerable savings and young girlfriend, the future Mrs. Hubbard.

This phrase from Parsons’s account of a vision he had in 1948 shows that he’d been reading Lovecraft: ”… went into the sunset … and into the night past accursed and desolate places and cyclopean ruins, and so came at last to the City of Chorazin. And there a great tower of Black Basalt was raised, that was part of a castle whose further battlements ruled over the gulf of stars.”

All in all Parsons comes across as a sad figure who bloomed early as a brilliant engineer and then got mired in occult confusion and deception.

Curiosity Rover Landed OK On Mars

The Curiosity rover / Mars Science Laboratory has landed safely on Mars and is returning data! So now we have two rovers on Mars again, Opportunity and a new one of unprecendented size and instrument sophistication. Curiosity has a laser gun that allows it to measure emission spectra at a distance, an instrument that allows it to identify minerals directly without inference via their elemental composition, and more. Looking forward to new discoveries!

Oldest Human-Made Object in Space

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The recent launch of the Curiosity Mars rover has quietly broken the record for oldest human-made object in space, and instantly pulled numismatics, the study of coinage, into the Space Age.

Prior to the launch, the oldest human-made object in space was the Vanguard 1 satellite, which was launched in 1958 and operated until 1964. Now it is a coin!

American geologists have long used copper Lincoln pennies as scale indicators in photographs. All the Mars rover missions are geology projects conducted at a distance. And so, as a homage to professional geology tradition, a 1909 one-cent coin is attached to Curiosity’s camera calibration target.

Being over a hundred years old, the coin is from a time sufficiently far from the present that industrial and conflict archaeologists already routinely excavate and document its remains. As far as I know, this is the first time that an antique is launched into space (disregarding stuff astronauts have brought into orbit and then back home again).

Update 15 Feb: Long-time Aard regular Lassi Hippeläinen points out that in 1999, some cremated remains of planetary geologist Eugene Shoemaker were sent to the Moon, and he was born in 1928. In my opinion, burnt human bones do qualify as artefacts, but they were made at cremation, not when Shoemaker’s original baby skeleton formed.

Opportunity Mars Rover Still Working After Eight Years

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Dear Reader, remember the remote-controlled Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity? How long is it since the last time you thought of them? Opportunity landed on Mars eight Earth calendar years ago today, and it still works fine! Its mate Spirit was mobile on the Red Planet for over five years and then functioned as a stationary science platform for another year before getting killed off by a Martian winter it couldn’t avoid. Amazing engineering that keeps working year after year without a technician so much as touching it.

Oppy is now at Endeavour crater and will spend the Martian winter in a sunny spot (good for battery charging), studying an interesting outcrop (image above) named Greeley Haven after planetary geologist Ronald Greeley (1939-2011). Check out the project’s web site for news! And meanwhile, the Curiosity rover is cruising on towards Mars…

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Curiosity Rover’s Message To Finders

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The Curiosity rover, a science robot the size of a car, is on its way to Mars where it will use a new landing system and hopefully spend several fruitful years trundling about. One of the coolest instruments on it is a laser gun coupled with a spectrometer: Curiosity can zap a rock from a distance and determine its chemical composition by looking at the colours of the light emitted by the heated material. I’m going to watch this mission closely.

On the rover is the above sundial cum camera calibration target, designed by Jon Lomberg (who already has three pieces of art on Mars). Note the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth (blue disc) and Mars (red disc). Around the dial are the planet’s name in various scripts and languages, including Sumerian cuneiform, Mayan glyphs, Inuktitut, Hebrew, Chinese and Hawaiian (I miss Arabic). The edges of the dial bear the following inscription, written by Jim Bell.

“For millennia, Mars has stimulated our imaginations. First we saw Mars as a wandering red star, a bringer of war from the abode of the gods. In recent centuries, the planet’s changing appearance in telescopes caused us to think that Mars had a climate like the Earth’s. Our first space age views revealed only a cratered, Moon-like world but later missions showed that Mars once had abundant liquid water. Through it all, we have wondered: Has there been life on Mars? To those taking the next steps to find out, we wish a safe journey and the joy of discovery.”

A fine piece, in my opinion! But it may contain the first copy-editing glitch on Mars. There’s a double space between “but” and “later” in the fourth sentence. A double space in space!

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