Last night while I was ruminating on past New Year’s antics, the Mars Exploration Rover named Spirit bounce-landed in the Gusev Crater, a basin about the size of Connecticut lying southeast of the small Cerberus mountains, between the Elysium plain and the Utopia mountain range in the upper section of the southern hemisphere of the fourth planet in our solar system. Unlike the other landers which have hit Mars at high speed in the last few years, Spirit rolled to a stop and then called the folks, checking in after a trip of 302,600,000 miles from its home in Florida.
It’s spectacular news. When I was growing up we didn’t have a newfangled television thing, and we rented TV sets (in glorious black and white) for moon shots and post-assassination state funerals. I still get a thrill thinking that we left footprints in the Mare Tranquillitatis. Now there’s a new set of tire tracks on Martian soil. It makes me think that we might, for a few moments, actually matter. Just a bit. Enough for here, and for now. If we can survive long enough.
The news is so exciting that NASA can be forgiven its burst of exuberant post-ironic graphics. <– That’s not an ad poster for the newest motion picture action vehicle starring the Governor of a Large State Near You; it’s the new NASA web site front page, complete with CNN-style slogan – “Roaming the Red Planet” – and missing only a set of corporate endorsements. Nike, Coke, Xbox, what, are you people asleep on the job?
If I were ten years old today I think I would never stop leaping and shouting and shivering in the pull of dreams of frontier and future.
See that bit on the left, with the three rocks? That’s where we’re going to put the Starbucks.