Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On Mars

Found in PC World magazine during research:
"Probably the most special day I've had as a rover [driver] was the day I built my first drive solo on Mars," [Ashley] Stroupe said. "We were on the plateau on Husband Hill, and we were driving along the edge to get imagery of the valley below. I parked us right on the edge and got a spectacular view."

"I remember looking at those tracks and realizing what they meant -- my first tracks on Mars, and the first tracks actually made by a woman driving on another planet," she said. "I am proud of it every time I see that panorama from the very top looking down at those tracks."
It's an especially powerful piece of empathy or projection because driving a rover is more like one of those ancient text-based computer games than Gran Turismo or Second Life.  The Mars rover team at JPL keep in contact with their machine viaNASA's Deep Space Network, and because their time on the network is limited and the round-trip for signals between Earth and Mars takes between 8 and 42 minutes, driving by direct law isn't possible. Instead, while the rover rests during the Martian night, its team of drivers and scientists plan out the next day's moves, code them, and test and retest them before uploading them. The rover then executes those moves the next day. Yet note how by the second sentence of Stroupe's description, the pronoun has changed from I to we.   Identification is complete. "We were on the plateau on Husband Hill..." We were on Mars...


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