Thursday, December 15, 2011

After Curiosity Killed the Cat, She Got a Masters in Astrophysics

Yesterday I was at work. I was lying on the ramp on stage right, waiting for the bloody-long counting house scene to finish, and staring up through the grid at the ceiling--arched-brick vaulted ceilings are very cool. A bit of light bled from stage, but otherwise the only colours immediately visible to my eyes were various shades of black. I started imagining that I was not looking up, but instead looking down.

I kept looking down--down 25 feet with nothing to stop me from falling into the arched-brick trench, except for one lonely pipe sticking out from the grid. It was awesome. I love space--and not just outer space, but all kinds of space (another reason why the ocean is so magnificent).

This should help you understand why I am jealous of the Mars Rover. Curiosity not only gets to soar into the atmosphere and look down on Earth from way up in the sky, but she has blasted completely through the atmosphere into the great vacuum of space surrounding our little tiny planet, and has managed to already (in less than a month!) travel more than 31 million miles towards Mars. That said, she still has over 300 million miles left to traverse. To top it off, she gets to land on a completely different planet and explore miles and miles of countryside more or less untouched by humans.

While I may be a little jealous, I am also extremely excited. Curiosity has a lot of technologically advanced equipment on board. This is what she has planned for us here on Earth:
  • Information about rocks (you probably guessed that one)
  • What is all this methane from? A theory about whether life does or doesn't exist on Mars. (Finally! Evidence one way or the other!)
  • Pictures. IN COLOUR. Let me repeat that. COLOUR PICTURES. Panoramic ones, too! Not just pictures of the rocks, but of the landscape and terrain, and already they are planning to stitch them together. Somebody buy me a poster!
  • COLOUR VIDEO. Did you catch that one? COLOUR VIDEO. We get to WATCH the scenery of MARS, as well as the descent from outer space to the surface. Also, let me add this: it's HIGH DEF. I hope it comes out in theatres.
  • Best yet, it's going to EMAIL IT TO US FROM MARS. Okay, email might not be quite what is happening, but you get the drift. It's going to send it to us. We don't have to wait. Well, I might have to wait. But the scientists don't. And the sooner the scientists get it, the sooner they share!
Curiosity has three cameras, four spectrometers (which measure light), two radiation detectors, an environmental sensor, and an atmospheric sensor. The size of a small SUV, she has 6 wheel drive, can turn 360 degrees in place, and has the ability to climb steep hills. Basically, she's the coolest robot we've ever made.

Currently, the rover is on a steady, unhindered track towards Mars, and is already working to monitor the effects of radiation while protected by the spaceship, with the hope that this will help us understand how this sort of trip might affect a human.

One day I hope to travel to Mars, although I doubt the chances of that are particularly high. For now, I'll just stare up into the deep dark heights of the theatre, and imagine I'm looking down from a spaceship at the dark arched-brick vaulted side of Mars.

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