Saturday, December 29, 2007

Cell Phones Of Mars

Conner and FatSam are cuddling and watching Sagan's old "Cosmos" show ... they start showing images from Mars.

Connor said, "How do they know that? Mars is far away."

FatSam paused the video. "Well," FatSam said, "we sent robots to Mars and the robots took pictures."

"So the robots know it then. But how do they know it?"

"The robots sent the pictures home so people could see them."

"Home to Earth?"

"Yep."

"But how do they send pictures home?"

FaSam had to think about it. "By radio, I think with little satellite dishes."

"You don't know?"

"I don't actually know everything."

"I know, Richard told me. Maybe it's like your phone, your cell phone, like if it was cell phones on Mars. Do the robots come home when they're done?"

"No, they stay there and keep taking pictures."

"Oh." Connor paused. "It's sad they don't get to come home. You can start the show again now."

8 comments:

Dave said...

JPL has tours and a museum. It's cool for kids and space geeks. I think they even have a full scale model of the two robots currently roving Mars.

I believe you have to make reservations.

Steve Perry said...

Soon as you stop being delighted at what comes out of the mouths of babes, you probably should go find a cave in which to live ...

Dan Moran said...

Kids between 8 and 12 or so are actually kind of boring. They've lost the complete innocence of responding to things as they happen, haven't yet turned into people with complex opinions. My 12 year old son is making that transaction right now, and despite having seen it before, it's interesting to watch. The world gets bigger around them, and they get bigger in response ...

The other day Connor said, "There sure are a lot of people named 'Miss' at my school."

Dan Moran said...

Dave, thanks for the heads up on JPL. I bet my boys would love that.

Dan Moran said...

Connor is standing next to me -- we're posting a new version of this blog entry in the comments. He picked his name off the screen and asked who FatSam was -- I explained FatSam was a name I used in stories, and he said that Connor should be 'Rocket Boy' instead. So here ...

Cell Phones Of Mars

Rocket Boy and FatSam are cuddling and watching Sagan's old "Cosmos" show ... they start showing images from Mars.

Rocket Boy said, "How do they know that? Mars is far away."

FatSam paused the video. "Well," FatSam said, "we sent robots to Mars and the robots took pictures."

"So the robots know it then. But how do they know it?"

"The robots sent the pictures home so people could see them."

"Home to Earth?"

"Yep."

"But how do they send pictures home?"

FaSam had to think about it. "By radio, I think with little satellite dishes."

"You don't know?"

"I don't actually know everything."

"I know, Richard told me. Maybe it's like your phone, your cell phone, like if it was cell phones on Mars. Do the robots come home when they're done?"

"No, they stay there and keep taking pictures."

"Oh." Rocket Boy paused. "It's sad they don't get to come home. You can start the show again now."

~~~~~

The kid has chops. It does read better .... :-)

Brad said...

Dan,
I remember feeling the same way about the LEM.
I don't know if he's at the age where it'd make Connor feel better, or if he's even this type of kid, but you could point out that the robots are all there together, so they have company, and more importantly, we'll be going to get them some day.
I guess I woke up feeling optimistic this morning.

Dave said...

From Roving Mars, by Steve Squyres, Principle Investigator for the MER Mission:

"Above all, I simply hope that someone sees them again. A word like love is one to be used advisedly, especially when talking about pieces of metal. But I love Spirit and Opportunity. They were built by a loving family, and I wish more for their fate than eternal abandonment on a distant world.

Don't misunderstand: I wouldn't ever want them to be bought back to Earth. We built them for Mars, and on Mars they should stay. But Spirit and Opportunity have become more than just machines to me. The rovers are our surrogates, our robotic precursors to a world that, as humans, we're not quite ready to visit.

And that's what I really want to see change. There are many things I could wish for our rovers, but in the end, there's only one that matters. What I really want, more than anything, is bootprints in our wheel tracks at Eagle Crater."

J.D. Ray said...

It would make a nice movie scene: Close shot, watching one of the rovers inspect some piece of rock; a pan around, showing one gimped-up leg, its wheel pulled up out of the way so it doesn't drag. But its going about its business, despite its troubles.

Pan back, showing tracks leading off to the horizon, which isn't far away. Then a space-suit-booted foot steps on the tracks. The view switches to that of the astronaut. A radio mic toggles: "Hey, we found it."

Another voice: "Well, 'found it' is a little overstating things. We knew where it was."

"Have it your way. We're here and so is it." Another close shot of the rover wheel, a hand reaches out and pulls a stone free, then twists the wheel mount into the down position. "There you go little buddy." His voice is somewhat thick compared to the first time he spoke.

Other voice, in a teasing tone: "Hey, you're getting kind of emotional here, aren't you?"

"What of it? Do you know how long this little guy has been here? Ninety days it was supposed to run. How many years has it been? Most people have lost count. It's outlived its twin brother plus two rovers that came after it; there have been six re-uploads of operating system, plus one complete re-write. Almost everyone working on the Earth-side project has come on long after this guy landed. But he just keeps working. It takes guts."

Long pause. "It's a machine, it doesn't know any better. But yeah, it's a marvel of engineering. Who could've known? I wonder how many sunsets he's seen. They're really different here." Pause. "Okay, now you've got me doing it. Let's get back to the rover. It's cold out here."

--

Yeah, I know. Melodramatic. But formulas keep getting used because they work. Otherwise, who would know who Pythagoreas was?

On another subject, today's XKCD is cute. Dan, didn't you write a Star Wars short? http://xkcd.org/367/