Whenever I look back at the beginning of the MER mission and the first years @ UMSF, I smile.
It was the first time in my life I really felt part of something.
That something was like a dream come true. I did not have the luck to be raised in a family where
education was stressed to be of vital importance, and by the time I realised this for myself, it had
become hard to catch up on anything, especially maths.
This frustrated me to hell. I was forced to start working at the age of 13 and in my spare time I read
Ciel et Espace, Astronomy and Sky & Telescope. I tried to catch up on math, at my own pace.
It was as if was two persons in one, a moaning & frustrated working class young man, and a kid that
kept 'dreaming' about graduating in astronomy.
In the years I worked I managed to educate myself a bit for the problems that
had arised at school I could not seem to make up for.
I bought myself a big telescope, learned photography, and combined the two for some basic astrophotography.
At the age of twenty, I bought myself a big fat computer my mother had kept promising me for over 5
years, and a high-class internet account. I learned everything I needed to learn about computers to work
with image data in general.
Then came Pathfinder and very soon I found myself downloading, archiving and processing colors and mosaics.
I remember the extreme joy of local contrast enhancement to isolate giant dust-devils in some of Pathfinder's
I could not share the images though since I lacked knowledge on html so I started learning about that.
But then I started working more, as it was needed, and then came children...
I began to accept I had become a 'viewer' and I could still enjoy astronomy and Mars in general and just be
happy being a hobby photographer and 'armchair'-amateur-astronomer.
But then, finally, one night, I watched Spirit's descent being broadcasted. As I write this I still shiver just
as back then... as I enjoy watching the people behind any mission today when a milestone is reached.
I started making time to download and processing 'pretty pictures' again, and I stumbled upon the 'MER'
Doug introduced me to PTgui, and then the fun began! I started sharing mosaics and panoramas and
this time I was not alone, there were others and I wasn't any longer the 'lone' geek playing around with
Photoshop. I explored other software, started reading technical articles, and cooperated with other
'Spaced out maniacs'. I got to meet Steven Squyres himself and Emily Lakdawalla thanks to Doug,
and got splendid source material for my panoramas thanks to 'slinted', who wrote software to create true
color calibrated data, and who sparked my interest for coding and automating some tasks.
After some years, my kids started needing more and more attention, and to keep this part as short as
possible, since 'nature' or 'god' or whatever you call it was the only reason for this; my wife got cancer.
I found myself frustrated again not having time to pursue my involvement on the forum, and tried to
stay optimistic. I missed out on a lot of things in the last months of her life, including the big change in
Doug's life, and many more exciting events and stories here on UMSF and elsewhere.
In my darkest hour, a few years back, I even wrote Doug to 'take me off the list', as I felt awkward
not having time nor the right set of mind to be of any value here.... but he would not accept. I'm forever
very thankful for that!
Last year I started to feel better again, my 'purple pills' started working (
) and, all joking aside now,
I'm slowly succeeding to get back at 'living' again... I started promoting my photography work and I hope
for this 10th anniversary, to dig up some stuff from Spirit and Opportunity too, in these coming months.
I'm not telling this because I feel pitty for myself though, instead, I've learned to be proud of myself for
the things I've managed to achieve despite my childhood and happenstance, and to encourage others,
that whatever happens, you can learn from it and often, even use it to your advantage, if one accepts
'time', and effort.
My biggest achievement I cherish, is to witness the wisdom and knowledge I seem to pass on to my kids.
They have dreams just like I had; one of my daughters says she wants to visit the ISS one day. I will help
her with that, or for any dream they will have in the future, just by keep repeating that life is all about
learning, and practising what we've learned in a wise manner, with the future in mind, yet making sure to
enjoy each split-second of life today. Cause split-seconds are all we can call present, all the rest is past, or
unknown. I hope they have more luck than me, but it's still up to them of course...
This guy sums it up, really, in a letter to his daughters; http://blogs.esa.int/luca-parmitano/
Thanks to all of you, for your understanding, your involvement and dedication, to one of the coolest
hangouts on the net!
And thank you, the MER team and Spirit & Opportunity, to be there, and share.