I was reading and thinking about the Mars Science Lab which launched today on an Atlas rocket. Specifically I was imaging the landing sequence, which will take place hopefully next August. I remember learning about the challenge of landing there on Nova. Testing the parachute in Earth’s largest wind tunnel and computer animation of touchdown with the rovers bubblelized by airbags. The new rover is five times bigger than those. After parachuting into thin Mars’ air, half the capsule will separate by rocket blast and sky crane the rover to a wheels down landing.
The first Mars rover was king of low cost space exploration. All the rocks it photographed were named. The scientists on these missions plucked names from historical record or just their neighbors’ cat. The teams were pressed to name all that they discovered. Some of the rocks and other geographical features were named Mayan words. Two of the six cradles of civilization were in the Americas. Those people came from those who crossed the land bridge in the height of the ice age. After the animals died off they bred corn from 1 to 5 cm to way over 10 cm. I see a natural pattern emerges from farming, the written word, the naming of all the rocks on Mars. To take it a step further- at the height of the next ice age we cross the land bridge between cold seas, bring the animals to life, and relearn the names of rocks.