Daily Archives: April 10, 2015

You Truly Belong with Us Here Among the Clouds

Speaking of Mars, I’m sure my Loyal Readers are aware of all the chatter about the possibility of sending human beings to the Red Planet. Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin has been an indefatigable advocate for a Mars mission, speaking before Congress on the subject only last month, selling t-shirts that say “Get Your Ass to Mars” from his online store (I have one myself! Lots of fun in conservative Salt Lake City!), and wearing one of those shirts alongside Stonehenge in a photograph that became a viral sensation. Billionaire Elon MuskĀ  has said flat-out that the ultimate goal of his SpaceX company is to put people on Mars within a decade. And the Mars One foundation is currently winnowing thousands of applications for a one-way colonization mission.

It’s all been very exciting for an old space nerd like myself, but just recently, it seems as if the voices of the naysayers have been getting louder. They point out, quite correctly, that there are a lot of technical problems with a flight to Mars that make the Apollo missions look like a stroll in the park, and that we now know the fourth planet of our system to be far less hospitable than all those golden-age sci-fi novelists like Robert Heinlein imagined. The Mars One mission, according to these wet blankets, is nothing less than a very expensive way to commit suicide. There is an argument forming that Mars is simply no place for human beings.

But what if there is an alternative destination to consider? Another world that is, relatively speaking, more hospitable? But not at the surface… rather… someplace higher up in the atmosphere…

A fascinating idea, no? Cloud City was always my favorite location in the original trilogy… wouldn’t it be something to create an analog of that? Aside from the drifting clouds of sulfuric acid, of course, but hey, that’s better than heavy radiation. It amazes me that so much of what filled my imagination as a child is turning out to be… well, at least plausible.

Via Boing Boing, of course.


It Just Won’t Die!

One of the great success stories of interplanetary exploration, the Mars Opportunity rover is still chugging away up there on the Red Planet, snapping photos and making discoveries eleven years after the start of what was only supposed to be a 90-day mission. The little guy has begun showing his age in almost human-like ways — just recently, Opportunity has been experiencing some memory problems — but generally speaking, the rover is in good shape and could keep going indefinitely. So naturally NASA is considering shutting it down so its budget can be redirected to other programs. I can see the cold-blooded logic behind the proposal, but it strikes me as a downright tragic way to end such an incredible adventure.

Of course, that’s assuming that Opportunity doesn’t already have plans of its own…