January 04, 2004

Spirit Is Down!

The Mars Rover Spirit appears to have successfully landed:

Mars Exploration Rover Mission: The Mission: About 8:29 pm PST, one of the most challenging aspects of the mission begins. In only six minutes, the spacecraft will slow down from 12,000 to 0 miles per hour...

Just think of what we could have done and would now know if we had had the Space Shuttle's budget to spend on something worthwhile for the past three decades. Everyone working for NASA has a lot of apologizing to do to Galileo Galilee and Isaac Newton. ("You spent how much money? On what!?!?")

Posted by DeLong at January 4, 2004 07:51 AM | TrackBack

Comments

Hear hear! Who knows what a few billion dollars per year could have done for the exploration of Mars and the outer planets? But I have another question - when the construction of a space elevator becomes feasible and would cost below, say, $100 billion, who should build it? Should it be NASA (or some other government agency) or private enterprise, or both?

Posted by: Adrian on January 4, 2004 09:09 AM

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Hear hear! Who knows what a few billion dollars per year could have done for the exploration of Mars and the outer planets? But I have another question - when the construction of a space elevator becomes feasible and would cost below, say, $100 billion, who should build it? Should it be NASA (or some other government agency) or private enterprise, or both?

Posted by: Adrian on January 4, 2004 09:11 AM

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Right on. The shuttle/international space station is a classic big business/big government boondoggle that looks to continue until the last Space Shuttle blows up: putting the US out of the manned space business.

Posted by: Robert Monical on January 4, 2004 10:06 AM

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I have a hunch that space shuttle prog is military motivated. During a brief period I concerned myself with military things, I read some place that an important item of US military doctrine was something like this: Be the first to get there!

On a related but separate issue (I may have posted something along these lines before but don't mind repeating it -- as you know! :)) I think it is remarkable that the 28 bn budget of NIH National Institute of Health is now nearly twice as large as that of NASA's 15 bn budget; this result thanks to a Clinton policy of increasing NIH budget by 15 percent every year until doubling the budget.

Posted by: bulent on January 4, 2004 10:21 AM

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I was critical of the NASA shuttle program at its inception because I never believed they would meet their payload cost estimates. And of course they didn’t. I became even more critical when NASA started promoting the shuttle as though it were a bus to space instead of a dangerous test vehicle. Finally when I saw NASA putting passengers in the shuttle for political purposes (the first woman in space, the first teacher in space, etc), I knew the program had reached an advanced stage of irrelevance. Another problem is that the science output of the shuttle program and manned space flight is general has been anemic. Even the promised industrial applications of micro gravity have come up short. The robot programs, on the other hand, have provided tremendous scientific bang for the buck. As far back as 1976 we were able to see ground pictures from Mars.

I doubt very much whether there is any military motivation for the shuttle program. Why do we need the shuttle when we have spy satellites and ballistic missiles? Nor does the shuttle provide any communications or navigation spin-offs useful to the military. The shuttle is mostly early 1970s technology—a white elephant in today’s world. For example modern materials outmode the heat shielding material the shuttle uses. The cost of qualifying new heating shields for space is prohibitive, that’s why they’re still in use.

Posted by: A. Zarkov on January 4, 2004 11:41 AM

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A. Zarkov wrote:

> Finally when I saw NASA putting passengers in the shuttle
> for political purposes (the first woman in space, the first
> teacher in space, etc),

The first woman in space was Russian Valentina Tereshkova in 1963, of course.

Posted by: Arnold Bocklin on January 4, 2004 11:55 AM

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A. Zarkov wrote:

> Finally when I saw NASA putting passengers in the shuttle
> for political purposes (the first woman in space, the first
> teacher in space, etc),

The first woman in space was Russian Valentina Tereshkova in 1963, of course.

Posted by: Arnold Bocklin on January 4, 2004 11:57 AM

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Correct, first "American woman" in space. I don't know if Tereshkova was a test pilot. I believe that the shuttle crew should be restricted to test pilots because of the high risks involved.

Posted by: A. Zarkov on January 4, 2004 12:54 PM

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"The robot programs, on the other hand, have provided tremendous scientific bang for the buck. "

Je suis genius! I have always thought so!

As to military motivations; I thought the shuttle would give the US quiet an edge in terms of any "possible" intervention with other nation's satellites in space; you never know, for example, US could use the shuttle to "occupy" ISS, though I have no specific idea as to what good that would do security wise.

Having thought about military matters now and then, I have this general conclusion that final military victory is at the tip of the bayonet, held by infantry with two feet firmly on the "ground". And I have always thought that the Shuttle gave a unique advantage to US from that point of view. I may be wrong, of course -- I'm no military or space expert.

At any rate,I too have been having my reservations about the Shuttle concept, having thought about it upon the latest accident last year. I mean I thought a Lear jet imitation of a space vehicle was not necessarily the best means for having manned presence in space. But then, the Shuttle might have produced considerable accumulation of knowledge vis-a-vis a possible "spaceplane" programs.

Posted by: Bulent Sayin on January 4, 2004 01:05 PM

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If memory serves, during the Reagan years the military built an enitre facility for launching space shuttles at Vandenberg AFB, duplicating those at the Kennedy Space Center, but entirely under military control. No space shuttles were ever actually launched from Vandenberg, leading one to conclude that the military thought the shuttle was important, but they weren't quite sure why.

Also, if memory continues to serve, my recollection is that the decision to shift space dollars from a manned mission to Mars to something more useful like the space shuttle was made by a commission headed by reknowned space scientist Spiro Agnew.

Posted by: Charles Kinbote on January 4, 2004 02:35 PM

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"...reknowned space scientist Spiro Agnew."

LOL!

I imagine, however, the renowned space scientist took his signal from lesser known but better informed space scientists.

(Manned mission to Mars!?)

Posted by: bulent on January 4, 2004 03:00 PM

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Re: NIH budget

Last summer NIH was going around to different universities to promote its research concerns. I know someone who works at a third tier university, and they were kind of surprised about it, and I was as well. I found it also a little scary. Can't they find enough researchers at the first and second tier schools? What's happened, say, to research in immunology and pharmacology over the last 10 years? An area of special concern to NIH was the continuing problem of MRSA, methylene resistant staph aureus.

I think one thing that happened in early nineties was that the NIH budget was smaller, plus a lot of the resoures were going to the human genome project. When there is a limited budget devoted to one area, and resources are scarce, other research areas suffer as researchers move into other areas or take on duties that do not involve research. New students don't get brought in to continue research in that area. Now we may be seeing the results as fewer drugs in the pipeline and more concern with microbe resistance to drugs.

Posted by: northernLights on January 4, 2004 03:24 PM

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It seems to me that one important political function of the Space Shuttle/ISS program is that it helps to employ otherwise unemployed Russian rocket scientists.

Posted by: n. on January 4, 2004 03:27 PM

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Re: Agnew.

Please. There have been plenty enough political idiots of both parties to blame for denying us Boomers the universe.

We had the known-universe's absolute best, more roomy, most-versatile space station, built of eco-friendly RECYCLED components. And it was left to burn by Jimmy Carter in favor of the spending money on the shuttle...

We had an initiative to "privatise and de-regulate" space, but that initiative was confined to a half-page hand-written memo that directed the Department of Transportation draft up the safety rules. Eight years later that half-page memo was up to about an 8 meter long shelf of requirement to meet before any private party could attempt a space enterprise. Gee, thanks for that memo, Ronald Reagan.

The manned Mars mission was considered in the 1990's and the job of selling to the voters was given the only living public figure who approached GWB in eloquence, the "Honorable" Dan Quayle ...

A pox on politicians of all factions!

Posted by: Pouncer on January 4, 2004 03:34 PM

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(Department of Transportation!?)

---

Here is the page that describes the funds allocation process at NIH -- I'd like to repeat again: That process at NIH strikes me as beautiful example of direct democracy.


http://www.nih.gov/about/researchpriorities.htm


And I'd like to mention two aspects of that process:

1- The process is researcher driven; that is, driven by unsolicited proposals from researchers themselves. About one third of the proposals get funded.

My interpretation of NIH going to third tier universities: They wanted to further democratize the process and broaden the base of proposals -- you just never know from where a good idea might come.

2- Only about 25 percent (or some fraction like that) of the budget is available for committment to new research; the rest goes to funding of ongoing research activity.

Posted by: bulent on January 4, 2004 04:00 PM

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BTW, a contributor to this blog Stephen Fromm, I believe, should know much more than I on NIH -- I recall from his biography on his web site that he was once involved with or worked for NIH.

Posted by: bulent on January 4, 2004 04:14 PM

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I was in Sinop, Turkey, when we landed on the moon, listening to the BBC on a radio that belonged somewhere else, and looking at a huge moon map that a friend had carried all the way from DC.

I want my children and grandchildren to have this thrill, and we won't get it with the shuttle and the space station. The administration is talking about going to the moon. What pikers. Lets go to Mars, and Alpha Centauri.

Posted by: masaccio on January 4, 2004 04:37 PM

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I don’t think the shuttle is of any use for ASAT (anti-satellite) warfare. It’s easier and cheaper to wage ASAT with disposable rockets.

We might really have done better by continuing the XS-1, X-2, X-15 and X-20 rocket plane series. The X-2 (Bell Aircraft) hit Mach 3.2 and 126,000 feet (the edge of space) in 1956. The X-15 hit Mach 6 and 350,000 feet in 1959, and many consider this to be the first manned space flight by the US. Finally the X-20 (never built) under USAF project Dyna-Soar would have given us a manned reusable space-plane in 1965 had the whole program not been cancelled. The original intent of Dyna-Soar was to provide a hypersonic manned bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. It was to have been more accurate than an ICBM and capable of low enough flight to underfly radar thus cutting the warning time down to 3 minutes instead of the 20 minutes for an ICBM. This rocket plane designed for a war mission could also have served the functions of the current space shuttle.

Posted by: A. Zarkov on January 4, 2004 05:01 PM

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For a while back then a few months ago or maybe a year ago I felt sort of romantic about space programs and wrote this thing here:

http://home.tr.net/bulentsayin/space/index.htm#theme

Then I found out that NASA already covered the idea.

Posted by: bulent on January 4, 2004 05:11 PM

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"I don’t think the shuttle is of any use for ASAT (anti-satellite) warfare. It’s easier and cheaper to wage ASAT with disposable rockets."

I guess so. I vaguely remember reading someplace at a time when I was about to fall asleep that even Iran could nuke the satellites up there -- I recall something about an altitude of 400 km being good enough to generate enough rads to zap the satellites.

And here is an interesting discussion about that perhaps Europe should have develeoped the spaceplane instead of Concorde -- interesting, of course, to yours truly the modestly interested layman:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1070555,00.html

Posted by: bulent on January 4, 2004 05:27 PM

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The Concorde was a technical success, but an economic failure. There are very few people who need to cross the Atlantic in three hours, so there is a problem on the demand side. The supply side has problems too as the Concorde ran at a loss and was dependent on government subsidies to stay in operation. To fly at supersonic speeds you must consume more fuel per passenger per mile than a subsonic plane. With today’s technology that might no longer be true, but who will take the risk given the failure of the Concorde?

We can have a human presence on the moon or in space stations. The rest is speculative. I think human travel to Mars and some of the larger moons in the solar system might be possible if we can cope with the long-term health effects of micro-gravity. Round trip travel elsewhere in the universe is strictly science fiction.

How much do you think people would pay in today’s dollars to take a trip to a space station for the view? I think a person with a $100k income per year might pay up to $10,000. Below $50,000 per year I think the demand would be nearly zero.

Posted by: A. Zarkov on January 4, 2004 08:31 PM

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I noticed on Bulent's web site there was also something about a Japanese space program. I hadn't heard of that before.

But never underestimate the Japanese ability to go into new territory. My very own brother-in-law, who is half Japanese, won our state's pickle contest a few years back, the first man, and the first half-Japanese, to do so. His pickles, which are sweet pickles, are very good, because I say so, and because it also says so on the pickle jar. The company that markets them, I suppose I will have to leave you in the dark about, because that would constitute shameless product promotion.

Anyway, that is just a brief update about new Japanese involvement in space and pickles.

Posted by: northernLights on January 4, 2004 08:55 PM

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"I noticed on Bulent's web site there was also something about a Japanese space program. I hadn't heard of that before."

I was looking for a lesser known space program to cover on my web page and I was surfing internet looking for India space program, as I had vaguely heard about it. Then I came across Japanese program -- never had even had heard of -- so I began following it....

I guess I thought NASA and ESA etc were well covered any way.

So I gather ALL pickle marketing firms in your state are engaged in shameless product promotion -- since your brother-in-law makes the best pickles in your state?

Posted by: bulent on January 4, 2004 11:11 PM

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"I was critical of the NASA shuttle program at its inception because I never believed they would meet their payload cost estimates."

You guys are forgetting some real important spin-offs such as Clint Eastwoods "Space Cowboys". I think good old Clint is more attractive movie stuff than a robot.

Posted by: gerhard on January 5, 2004 04:55 AM

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The major problem with the Shuttle is that it is the classic result of a committee. It was designed to accomplish multiple missions using slide rulers...seriously. In the Space Shuttle fleet NASA abandoned the practice of incremental advances. They blew multiple decades of budget on a system that was experimental which prevented them from advancing because of having a _fleet_. The fact is that we now have the ability to redesign the Space Shuttle using computers and new material technology. They would be safer and more efficient. However, we are now looking at SSTO. Sheesh.

To put it in context, it would be like the early New England merchants going straight from ships little better than the Mayflower to the Clipper in one leap. They are _still_ committed to this "Gigantic Leap" philosophy despite objection from engineers like Homer Hickam to Buzz Aldrin.

OTOH, the unmanned exploration folks have had to get their job done one small step at a time. Only spending on improvements they _knew_ would work. Given less money than they ask for and asked to do more than they think they can.

The thing that amuses me the most about the Space Debate is those on the Left who miss the powerful effect of incrementalism--in this instance--and despair a gigantic governmental bureaucracy that is bloated and wastes money.

What seems to be the socio-political lesson we can draw by comparing Manned Exploration against Unmanned Exploration in the context of governmental size and expenditure?

QM

Posted by: Jody Dorsett on January 5, 2004 06:01 AM

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Here's the URL for a page about the X-20 Dynosoar, which someone mentioned earlier:

http://www.astronautix.com/craft/dynasoar.htm

Posted by: kurzbein on January 5, 2004 06:30 AM

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Here's the URL for a page about the X-20 Dynosoar, which someone mentioned earlier:

http://www.astronautix.com/craft/dynasoar.htm

Posted by: kurzbein on January 5, 2004 06:35 AM

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I should add that the X-20 Dynosaur concept seems to be the basis for the later shuttle. The Dynosaur appears to have been a glide plane launched into orbit by Titan rockets, which is what the shuttle is.

Posted by: kurzbein on January 5, 2004 06:40 AM

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Uh, that should be "Dynosoar".

Posted by: kurzbein on January 5, 2004 06:49 AM

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Hi:

What drives the shuttle program is what drives so much of what Congress does: "Pork-barrell politics." The Shuttle has hundreds of sub-contractors located in over hundred different Congressional districts. Its really not much different then the farm subsidies, and only a bit more immoral. Because I don't want see any more good people get killed for this senseless PORK, I am writing my Congressman (Adam Putnam of Florida) that I have no objection to him voting more money for the Shuttle program, but please attach a rider prohibiting NASA from launching any more. Just pretend to launch them.

Another former space enthusiast.

Posted by: Rick Kane on January 5, 2004 09:36 AM

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Astronomy could be a good alternative, you know, I mean to being a space enthusiast.

Posted by: bulent on January 5, 2004 10:14 AM

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This is popycock!

I believe the understanding of zero-G ant colony dynamics we have gained over the past two decades will prove to be invaluable.

Posted by: Michael Malkin on January 5, 2004 03:42 PM

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bulent

RE: pickles. Your comment was "So I gather ALL pickle marketing firms in your state are engaged in shameless product promotion--- since your brother-in-law makes the best pickles in your state?"

My answer: That's affirmative. (I learned to say that from the space program.)

At least, in regards to sweet pickles. For others I cannot speak.

I really do believe this, but you must understand, it is also my duty to uphold the family honor. If I don't, my brother-in-law could become very upset with my family disloyalty, and take it out on my poor sister by saying something like this to her "Honey, prove that you love me and make me my lunch!"

Posted by: northernLights on January 5, 2004 09:22 PM

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Hoo no, hoo no! You don't want to cause that kind of catastrophic circumstances upon your sister! Actually being asked by the hubby to make him lunch!? My God what is this world coming to!?

Posted by: bulent on January 5, 2004 10:40 PM

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Go on ya', Brad, for speaking up! We could all have free dental care ... or the Space Shuttle.
Now they've got us hook-line-and-sinkered into probing Mars, Saturn, and Ouranus.

General, and then President Eisenhower, the last honest cop, warned about the military:industrial complex before 'space' even existed. I doubt he could've imagined today's cyclopsian aerospace welfare program, or foreseen the incredible sense of entitlement and outrage these overpaid lab rats muster, until they get their annual 8%.

This, when the best American corporations are content to raise their ROE a mere 5% per year.

Here, $5B for Cray time and some 3D video games for the NASP, 'hypersonic space plane', over a *decade*. Then Congress forces them to test it, and it shears off a control fin before it even goes supersonic? What part of our gross gray anatomy allows us to propagate these science- fictional lies, subterfuges and incompetences?

$10s of Bs for the space-based laser charade at LLL, Reagan's gift to California universities, so they can punch a hole in a steel plate, when the sheer physics make it impossible to work in low-earth orbit? !!But, gosh, it's so *COOL*!!

$50B+ spent over *forty years* for the various permutations of Star Wars, yet those brilliant pebbles in Huntsville *still* can't hit the birdie?! While the Israeli's have Arrow II'd in less than five years, ready to deploy theirs!?

Yet they're only too happy to cut back on human services, maybe cause they feel superior to us? You know, Starmaster PhDs as demi-god Apollo's?

Nearly a *trillion* tax dollars *every biennium* poured down that "rathole of space:war", and DoD can't even afford to outfit our Iraq troops with body armor!? !?What the **hell** is going on?!

Is it like, our economists worldwide have a pact among themselves never to diss defense spending? Can't they visualize DoD is one of the greatest illegal transfers of public monies into a very few corporate coffers in the history of mankind?

Unscoped publicly-funded IDIQ is patently fraud!

Posted by: J. Bloe on January 5, 2004 11:22 PM

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From

http://www.nasawatch.com/

a link to a news item about NASA bonusus:

http://www.dailypress.com/news/dp-bonusjan05,0,6975161.story?coll=dp-headlines-topnews

"NASA Langley staff gets bonuses for Columbia (investigation) work - FOIA request prompts agency to release details of August awards ///The bonuses were given in August, but NASA did not release details until recently in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Daily Press. One employee received a top bonus of $10,000, but NASA officials would not name the employee. Langley's Freedom of Information Act officer said NASA's legal department would challenge whether employee bonuses are public information."


Maybe there would be some good in increasing the number of xyz_watch.com web sites -- there is for example

http://www.ombwatch.org/

OMB being White House Office of Management and Budget.

Isn't the World Bank preaching "Monitoring and Evaluation" to US Government and NGOs as well?

Posted by: Bulent Sayin on January 5, 2004 11:52 PM

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Disregard this comment if you are looking for something about space program.

Bulent:

Re: Hubby Lunches

OK, you forced me to come up with the truth. Really, when they were first married the deal was hubby cooks super fine, my sister would do laundry. Since he is a big time professor, his shirts would have to be ironed and starched. Actually, she is big time professor too but she doesn't need starched shirts.

It didn't take too much ironing and starching for her to begin thinking "Enough of this noise" and begin to look for a way to shirt cheat on her husband. Solution? Take them to the cleaners with her dry cleaning. She would sneak them out, then hang them up in the closet without all the laundry tags. Unfortunately, her shirt cheating was discovered one day when he caught her taking shirts out to the car, when she thought he was at the antique store buying his 100th or so antique copper pot!

You don't love me any more, he said. You don't want to iron my shirts! Just for that, the only thing we'll eat from now on is Lean Cuisine! I'm not going to cook any more! No special Japanese food for you honey!

Well, that did not happen. She still takes his shirts to the dry cleaners, and he still cooks, but not super fancy every night, and lots of times they just have leftovers. Because what the heck anyway, not every day can be super fantastic, it's just too much work.

Posted by: northernLights on January 6, 2004 05:52 PM

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Mars in color!!!: Camera team leader Jim Bell describes some of the details


http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-mars7jan07,1,582977.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Rover's First Postcard Home from Mars Is 'Spectacular'

The image "is spectacular, but this is not the best this camera can do," said James Bell of Cornell University, who was in charge of the camera's development.

The panoramic camera will provide high-definition pictures equivalent to those seen now on high-priced television sets, and also will provide 3-D images.

"If you were a human with 20/20 vision standing on Mars, this is what you would see," he said

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/06/science/space/06CND-MARS.html?ex=1074056400&en=32f343303527ce1e&ei=5062&partner=GOOGLE

Dr. Jim Bell of Cornell, who directed the panorama camera operations, said that the 360-degree picture of the landing site on Gusev Crater should be completed in about four days. The mosaic of pictures shown at the news conference was one-eighth of a complete panorama, taking in the view south of the rover.

http://www.thehawaiichannel.com/technology/2745136/detail.html

Jim Bell, who is in charge of the panoramic camera, told News.com that the image is actually a composite of several shots, but that the 12 million megapixel image is three to four times better than anything taken before.

http://www.reallegal.com/eBriefAnnouncement

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-mars7jan07,1,582977.story?coll=la-home-headlines


http://msnbc.msn.com/ID/3855168/

Mars in color
Jan. 6: Camera team leader Jim Bell describes some of the details within the high-resolution color image from the Spirit rover.

Posted by: Faith Witryol on January 6, 2004 08:34 PM

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"...Because what the heck anyway, not every day can be super fantastic, it's just too much work...."

...and it could get boring too, even if you had three maids and a cook (not that I've ever had any of that)... (but then one could always send away the maids and the cook on paid leave, no?) (got carried away again!!)

Posted by: bulent on January 7, 2004 09:43 AM

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"...and it could get boring too..."

That's why we have recreational opportunities like camping- just so when we come back, we can appreciate how wonderful indoor plumbing really is!

Posted by: northernLights on January 7, 2004 10:44 AM

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Wonder how all that would work out on Mars...

Posted by: bulent on January 7, 2004 11:56 PM

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