QUOTE (SFJCody @ May 27 2008, 02:20 PM)
Mars really is a human place now isn't it? Three surface outposts, three orbiters, orbiters imaging each other, orbiters imaging landers both in descent and on the surface. Seems like it's an extension of Earth, our rust red world next door. So different in feeling from the long empty gap before Pathfinder and all that followed.
Edit: That said, the Heimdall crater + Phoenix image still gives a startling sense of perspective- huge, alien crater and a tiny fragile human machine heading into the unknown... we've barely begun to explore this place.
I have to say that I really really appreciate this site and all of you.
Your words are right on SFJCody. The dance that the teams must choreograph with these orbiters and landers takes a lot of dedicated people, spread out in many locations (Pasadena, Tucson, Denver, Germany, San Deigo and even DC ... ) who take their work seriously and work long hours. But what makes it seem so amazing to those of us who do this, is that this work gives us a sense that these are not machines that are doing our bidding, but rather they are actual extensions of our being. Like a stunt pilot who becomes one with her aircraft, or a jazz musician who blends seamlessly into the horn and the band, these complex machines become a part of us and part of our spirit.
Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. When my LMA friends, Wayne, Tim P and Tim G suggested that I seriously look into taking the Phoenix descent image, I had to push it. They were right on many levels. I am embarrassed to say that I never once looked into what we might see in the background as MRO/HiRISE scanned over the landing ellipse. We had the viewing geometry at our figure tips but we did not look. In fact we did not look at the wide shot with Heimdall in the background until late on Sol 1. I saw the image late yesterday and, like many people who see it the first time, I though it was a fake. A couple of minutes later I had it on my laptop in an email attachment from the HiRISE team. I had been so focused on whether the image would reveal sufficient parachute fault data (and earlier on whether it would result in a risk to MRO's UHF data collection during entry) that I failed to imagine the big picture. Maybe I couldn't.
SFJCody, your point about this image reminding us of the great scale of what is out there to explore is true. This image reminds me of the humility (and audacity) of what we are doing and how small we really are and how lucky I am to be able to do this work. These images take us places that may even be as poetic as scientific.
-Rob Manning (still Mars Program Chief Engineer)