PBS Documentary: Ultimate Mars Challenge

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http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/ultimate-mars-challenge.html

This documentary shows the amazing amount of innovative work that has gone in to the Mars Rover Curiosity. The most amazing thing to me in this documentary is the way the photos this rover is taking create the sense that Mars is a planet. Okay, that doesn’t make sense, right? What I mean is that the photos from the Curiosity could have been taken in Phoenix, Arizona, but I KNOW they weren’t. This paradox, knowing that something intrinsically un-earthly is in fact so earth-like creates eerie dissonance in my mind.

On the lighter side, the Sky Crane landing system is a favorite of mine. I love the way it provides a totally stable platform for the rover to land, then rockets away from the landing site as soon as its job is done.

The Sky Crane system reminds me of the way the Jedi Starfighters disengage from their jump rings when they get near their destination. This type of transport is a hallmark of space travel. It  harkens back to the first rockets that left earth. Many of them would (and still do) shed fuel tanks or even body sections to achieve their goals.

Additionally, a lot about the body configuration of the Curiosity Rover itself reminds me of Wal-E, who, in turn, reminds me of Johnny 5 from Short Circut.

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I often wonder which came first, the fiction or the fact? In many cases, it’s hard to tell. Fiction inspires fact and vice-versa. And so much of our innovation originates in nature! Let’s keep all keep observing, working, and dreaming!

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