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Hurray! You're back! I'm looking forward to trying to follow all you are saying again.

Neil Halelamien

Thanks for the update. I hadn't actually heard the specifics about the MSL instrument package before.


I don't know, I think an MER flight to the proposed Valles Marineris Mellas site could still be pretty damn cool...particularly since we now have a better idea of how robust the rovers are!


Or, even better I suppose, EOS chasm!

Oliver Morton

I suspect the crosswinds will kill you if you try for the canyons. That was certainly the case in the 04 site selection process. Admittedly, the 04 landings were at a bad time for winds generally (early afternoon). But I think in the canyons all the time is a bad time. Certainly the early mornings are bad, and the 2004 simulations showed the afternoons were bad. No idea if a night landing is feasible.


Ah, there you are... now, all I need is the Religious Policeman and I'm back up to bloggy strength (wonders about a joke about blog years, and gives up).

You going to the Huygens bash tomorrow? Deadlines permitting, I shall...



Glad to see you, and since you provide valuable stuff for free, I'm NEVER ungrateful for all the time you want to take for your personal stuff.

Charles Schmidt

Just a few hours to go now as Huygens nears Titan. The view from it fore and aft must be magnificent...

Has Opportunity discovered a meteoroid at Meridiani Planum? I'm an amateur, but even to me this looks like what I think they call tektites that have fallen to earth. You can pick them up in the deserts, especially Antarctica. The mini-TES shows it to be made of metal, (read iron). The pickins' for this type of thing on Mars, especially open places like in Meridiani, would be pretty good, if earth is any comparison. But still, if confirmed, it would be another amazing lucky coincidence for Opportunity.

But I still can't stop thinking about what "real" optical pictures I'll see within 24 hours of Titan. I hope it's not a smoggy day at the surface. Read Zubrin's book, the one after Mars Direct, about humans in space, where he talks about the habitability of Titan's surface which is not as bad as you would first think. The essentials: a very good suit heater, and an old Coke bottle of liquid oxygen with a regulator. Hang glide on Titan with wing slipcovers for your arms and flap away.......
See you on Titan.

Oliver we miss you. Won't you visit more often?

CS in Chicago

Charles Schmidt

Two links relevant to the prior post:




Great to hear from you again!

I got Mapping Mars for Christmas (pleasantly surprised to find it on the shelves at my local Waterstones) and loved reading it. It inspired me to try and track down a copy of the 1:5,000,000 Mars Atlas (based on Viking imagery) you talk about a lot. So far I have singularly unsuccesful. I don't suppose anyone out there knows of a site/store/individual who may have a copy for sale?

Bruce Moomaw

BBC reported about 2 minutes ago that Green Bank has picked up Huygens' post-entry signal. So far, so good.

Bruce Moomaw

As for Mars exploration, I'm back from attending the first 3-day meeting last week of the new Mars Human and Exploration Committee Strategic Roadmap Committee -- the very first of NASA's new 13 Strategic Roadmap Committees to meet in order to start preparing recommendations to NASA's new Architecture Integration Office to work out the overall guiding architecture for NASA's future annual budget requests. While this first meeting was devoted mostly to listening to presentations on the nature of the overall program and of individual projected missions, the Committee's conversations indicated pretty firmly that it has already reached at least one definite conclusion regarding a change in the nature of the upcoming Mars Exploration Program. There was also a fair amount of secondary news.

As a special torment, I will withhold all this from you until I finish pounding out my report on the subject -- a shorter verion of which will go to either the "Astronomy Magazine" website of to "Sky and Telescope", with a full version (around 15 pages long) then going to SpaceDaily. I will say that I think you'll find the new news mostly (though not entirely) pleasant.

Bruce Moomaw

It has now been confirmed that Hugyens survived its landing, and is still sending back a signal an hour after Doppler measurements indicated its landing (at 4:35 AM Pacific time). The only remaining question is how many of the experiments worked.

Joe Mansfield

The initial pictures are intriguing but ESA seems to be following their pattern of limiting release of the data - any idea if they are going to trickle feed only chosen snippets to the public in the same way that they are handling the Mars Express data?

Maybe I'm missing something but NASA seems to do a much better job of just simply making raw data available very quickly indeed.

Not that I begrudge the core teams on this the privilege of having it exclusively to themselves after a 25 or so year wait but I'm curious about ESA's plans for the data in the longer term.

And finally, Oliver - I really do hope you continue to post, however infrequently, this is a fantastic blog and I can't wait for your next book.



In all honesty, I have very little exposure or undersanding of which you blog -- but much interest!

Your insider perspective is presented with such clear thinking and writing has kept me returning for months, waiting for you to throw us another bone!

Like, hint-hint-hint, your take on the Huygens descent, lost data channel, etc.


Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey

To celebrate the (Earth) year of MER operations, JPL had a day of talks. You can catch them on streaming video at C-SPAN, see http://www.c-span.org/VideoArchives.asp?z1=&PopupMenu_Name=Science/Technology&CatCodePairs=Issue,ST; to watch it. Or search their archives for "NASA" or "Mars." (They only keep 'em in the archive for a few weeks, so look quickly.)

Anyway, the first hour was just what you'd expect: speeches by the lab director, project managers, Washington officials, et al.

But for the second hour, they lined up storytellers from all levels of the project, and did "Mars Stories We've Never Told," which was more fun. Oliver, I recommend to you the last speaker, Steve Collins, who starts about 1 hour and 40 minutes into the video. Steve's tale repeats a major theme of your book: the shift in perception as a set of scientific obeservations, "a bunch of numbers," becomes a real place.

Del Miller

Glad you're back Oliver, we've missed you.

And no, I don't have RSS notification...I just check the sight every few days thinking you'll have to come back sometime.

Now isn't that pathetic.

So, do you think the the surface of Titan is simply a big sheet of ice poking up through the organic deposits?

Leo Enright

Thanks to Bill Higgins for a fine recommendation ("Mars Stories We've Never Told"). I've been so caught up with Titan that I didn't catch the MER celebrations. Steve Collins is a real gent - he spent an hour briefing me on the role of quaternions in attitude control as part of a T.V. special on William Rowan Hamilton, the Irish mathematician who made it all possible!!!

Sarah Vermeersch

Sorry to be so non-scientific in my comment but I don't seem to be able to find an e-mail address for you! We went to the European School together for about 10 years (remember?!). Are you in the UK? Could we meet for a drink? Would love to catch up (20 years later!). I'd like to make a (very very short) film about you.
Hope to hear from you!

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