Stuff I Wrote Elsewhere: A Great View of Mars

From the morning paper, an epitaph to NASA’s Mars rover Spirit (sub/ad req).

I’ve been writing about Spirit with some regulatory since before the mission, thanks to the presence of mission scientist and geologist Larry Crumpler in our midst here in Albuquerque. Larry is a delight in part because he really gets how cool it is to do field geology by driving a rover around Mars:

It’s easy to anthropomorphize the plucky little robots wandering the surface of Mars, to imbue them in our minds with human characteristics. But to listen to Crumpler and his colleagues talk, something more interesting and subtle has happened.

Listen, for example, to how Crumpler described Spirit’s demise: “We just ran out of power.”

Not “it.” “We.”

A visiting scholar spent time with the team, Crumpler said, and concluded that its day-to-day language suggested that the rover was not so much a thing apart as an extension of the team — almost like the team members were there on the planet, riding a bus around together, stopping and hopping off to look at the rocks just like an earthbound geology field trip.

“You really feel like you’ve been walking around on Mars,” he said.