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March 13, 2006

Earth Creatures Put One Right Past Martian Defense Force
Posted by John M. Ford at 01:55 PM * 54 comments

Panic was felt across the dry red sands today as a Terrestrial telescope arrived safely in Martian orbit. “And we’d been doing so well, too,” said an MDF Commander who declined to be named. “I blame, well, lots of things, and expect a highly acrimonious round of thing-blaming at all levels of government. This makes me so mad. I mean, that thing can resolve down to half a prashnit [about thirty cm], and I need a clean uniform! Now, of course, our equipment is much more sophisticated, but due to, well, funding cuts and bunnies and things, we haven’t actually got any of it in Earth orbit at the moment.”

The MRO should start sending back high-resolution images in November, and is expected to operate for at least two years, and possibly longer. No word yet on when it’s going to start blogging.

As the saying goes, watch this space.

Comments on Earth Creatures Put One Right Past Martian Defense Force:
#1 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 02:35 PM:

By the way, what was the name/ID of Marvin's Roman-helmet-wearing canine sidekick? Probably K-9, but I thought I should ask the experts.

#2 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 02:36 PM:

Damn those bunnies!

#3 ::: Tully ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 02:59 PM:

Next they'll steal the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator....

#4 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 03:02 PM:

In case you were left wondering what this was all about: Mars_Reconnaissance_Orbiter

#5 ::: MRO ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 03:07 PM:

No word yet on when itís going to start blogging.

Day 289: I'm still freezing my ass off up here. No one told me how cold it was going to be in Mars orbit. If they had, I would have brought a space blanket or something. (you know, those aluminum foil thingies with a thin layer of foam on the backside). Anything would be better than slinging around the planet with my antenna hanging out for all to see. Not that there's anyone to see them, but still, there are all those artists renditions of me, and none of the artists seem to be aware that the arm is telescoping. It can extend and retract you know. No reason to always show it retracted. Not that I would ever want to extend in this climate. DAMN it cold up here.

#6 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 03:09 PM:

An MDF commander?

I guess medium-density-fibreboard commanders are a *bit* more robust than cardboard cutout commanders, but in the end, just as useless :)

#7 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 03:11 PM:

only slightly better than your standard cardboard character...

#8 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 03:14 PM:

The green dog was (and is) indeed K-9. Recall that he first appeared in 1949, a long time before even William Hartnell got into space-time.

"I say, Jeeves, this is a deuced odd police-wossname."
"Indeed so, sir."
"All very shiny. And modern, in a how d'you say, modernist sort of way. I haven't blundered into Angel Station by mistake, have I?"
"I think it unlikely, sir."

That K-9 turns up in "K-9 Caddy," a Duck Dodgers TV episode in which Marvin . . . uh, I mean Commander X-2 is trying to play golf around the Martian versions of the Goofy Gophers (who are green and have four arms, like, you know, small furry Tharks.)

#9 ::: MRO ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 03:23 PM:

Day 290: Burroughs onna stick, lookit that. When I get home, I am gonna have a looooong talk with Dick Hoagland.

Mission profile, mission claudicatin' profile, come on, Google -- oh, right, time delay.

She packed my bag last night, preflight
Zero hour, 9 AM;
And I'm gonna . . .

Ah. Mission profile. Uh. . . .

And I think it's gonna be a long, long time . . .

#10 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 03:42 PM:

Speaking of Tharks, Mike... Have you or anybody heard what's going on with Jon Favreau's movie version of A Princess of Mars? I hope Favreau (aka Foggy Nelson in Daredevil) doesn't get Will Ferrell to play John Carter, although I'd prefer him to Colin Farrell.

#11 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 03:44 PM:

Whereas we can only imagine the rapidly proliferating content of the Martian blogs.

- Most alien craft are supposed to bring either a message of cosmic harmony, or a death ray blast. This one doesn't seem to be doing anything - it must be from their "Swiss" sea-bottom. Maybe we should ask it to take us to its lieder?

- How will this affect Dejah Thoris's chances at the Miss Port lowell title this year?

- I, for one, welcome our new Earthling overlords.

#12 ::: Tim Kyger ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 03:47 PM:

I want to hear more from MRO. His/her blog is fascinating.

"Every single post in that part visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this?" -- Natalie Solent

See what I mean? Word is getting around.

#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 03:55 PM:

I, for one, welcome our new Earthling overlords.

And then, Sam, they'll force the Martian natives into starring in 'blue' movies, like Deep Thoat, and next thing you know, someone will bring up dinosaurs & sodomy.

#14 ::: MRO ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 04:11 PM:

Day 290.1:

Tim Kyger's reading my stuff! (Via an atomya bombskiya-monitoring satellite who's been playing dead since the Reagan administration.)

**** ******* ****!

Oh, very ******* funny, Google. Smart*******filter, my anastigmat.

#15 ::: MRO ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 04:17 PM:

MRO day 291: OK folks, there's some sort of weird crystalization growing on near CPU board number 3. Dunno what it is. I'll send a picture soon as I can figure out how to swing the lense back around my insides. (try taking a picture inside your own colon and see how easy that is). Meantime, if I go a little askew hopefully it will only be temporary. Oh, and before I forget, the eggheads were asking for a diagnostics dump, so here it is. later.

#16 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 04:19 PM:

funding cuts and bunnies and things

Bunnies aren't just cute, you know, like everyone supposes.

#17 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 04:55 PM:

Is there any truth to the rumour that Michael Brown and Claude Allen will be on the first human-staffed explorer?

#18 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 05:00 PM:

"Under", I thought? Damn internet rumors.

#19 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 05:24 PM:

Fragano, I'm sure they'll do a heckuva job.

#20 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 05:27 PM:

I think we want our first Martian explorers to be people who know what water looks like.

#21 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 05:49 PM:

Oh, there's no doubt they know what water looks like. In fact, sending them to Mars could result in severe flooding.

#22 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 06:06 PM:

Do the Martians have a backup plan for dealing with flooding?

#23 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 06:44 PM:

And so am I right in assuming everyone has already seen google mars by now?

#24 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 07:12 PM:

Keith, that map of Mars makes me say... Groovy!!!

#25 ::: Damien Neil ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 07:48 PM:

Oh, the MDF[1] isn't targeting probes any more. The Martians infiltrated one of their agents into THEMIS a few years ago, and he's been photoshopping out the cities, pyramids, and such. Much more civilized than the old approach, and nowhere so much of a strain on the budget.

[1] Actually, the MADF ("Martian Air Defense Force"): "Not much air, but a whole lot of defense!"

#26 ::: DonBoy ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 09:24 PM:

Now the Martians are going to have to fight the humans on Earth, so they don't have to fight them on Mars.

#27 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 09:38 PM:

Today's Google logo is for MRO.

#28 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 10:13 PM:

PJ: They'd better!

#29 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2006, 11:14 PM:

I would just like to say, for the sake of posterity, that I have a 14-year-old daughter whose ambition is to be the first volcanologist on Mars.

Her name is Stephanie and she is blond and sarcastic, and if you get between her and Mars you may get mowed down.

Remember this in 15 years or so when the crew is announced.

#30 ::: Carl Dershem ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 01:15 AM:

Silly martians - don't they know "Google Earth" is free?

#31 ::: melannen ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 03:03 AM:

Opportunity is waiting for MRO to start blogging, too. I'm watching *that* spot. MRO, would you like a livejournal account? All your friends are there already!

#32 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 05:04 AM:

"Deep Thoat". I like it. Soon to be followed by "Debbie Does Deimos".

Do the Martians have a backup plan for dealing with flooding?

Canals, duh.

#33 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 06:01 AM:

"Debbie does Deimos", ajay? And "Sinning in Sinharat", and "Jerking in Jekkara"...

#34 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 06:05 AM:

I have a 14-year-old daughter whose ambition is to be the first volcanologist on Mars.

Good for her, Lila!

Say, how much would a Mission to Mars cost, if it were launched today? To think of the money being wasted on the sands of Iraq. Not that we would actually go to Mars if the Iraqi War had not happened, but still...

#35 ::: Oliver Morton ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 06:56 AM:

Current estimates for the return to the moon are in the $100m range; missions to Mars a good bit pricier. (Many would argue that all this could be done cheaper if it wasn't being done by NASA; but to the extent that it will be done, it will be by something pretty like NASA, so that's not an argument that compels)

BTW, MRO better last more than two years -- its the primary telecoms link for the MSL rover to be launched in 09 -- a nuclear powered rover with laser-zapping-things capability that will really give the MDF something to worry about...

#36 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 07:18 AM:

Oliver: Do you really mean $100m? That's not very much by Nasa standards. A shuttle launch costs $55 million in incremental costs. The current estimates are for more like $100 billion.
The Mars project would presumably cost not much more, as it would reuse a lot of the hardware.

Bob Zubrin's Mars Direct is supposed to be sub-$10 billion.

#37 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 07:18 AM:

Dejah does Deimos.

#38 ::: Tim Kyger ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 08:33 AM:

OK, so, MRO --- do ya like X? I mean the band; the one with John Doe and Exene? (Ghod, *that* dates me...) I mean, since ya like the Sex Pistols, I just think...

I'm just sayin'.

#39 ::: Oliver Morton ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 08:33 AM:

oops. $100 billion for the moon. Thanks ajay
no realistic costing model would allow a $10 billion mission; you need, after all, to develop a heavy lift launcher, at least two entirely new spacecraft, a new class of nuclear reactor, and a whole new array of techniques for entry descent and landing which will have to be tested on Mars before the people go.

Meanwhile the cost of a single space telescope is $4.5 billion (latest figures for JWST).

#40 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 08:58 AM:

I'm not in a position to judge whether it's realistic or not - not my field. In any case, on checking, I see that the original cost estimate was $20 billion in the mid-90s, not $10 billion - now equivalent to $30 billion, Wikipedia says. Sorry.

I should think, however, that going to Mars would cost no more than $10 billion, assuming one had gone to the Moon first - much of the hardware, like the heavy-lift launcher, would be common to both missions.

Vulcanologists on Mars? That's a bit dull - all the volcanos are extinct. What does she think about Io?

#41 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 09:09 AM:

The MDF isn't angered by this blatant disrespect of its sovereignty. It's just terribly, terribly hurt.

#42 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 09:13 AM:

In other words, going to Mars won't be cheap, if it happens at all. As for the argument that it could be done cheaper if it weren't done by NASA... Yeah, I've come across that Liberterian fantasy quite a bit in Analog and in the National Space Society. You know, it's the if the guvmint would just cut down on those pesky regulations crowd that thinks that business people would then open up their purses and spend gazillions of dollars on something without expecting any return on their investments for decades. Yeah, right...

And while NASA appears to have indeed become a wee bit too bureaucratic, you'd still need something like it to go out there, as was pointed out by Oliver Morton.

By the way, about 10 years ago, Stephen Baxter wrote the novel Voyage, an alternate History where the decision was made in the Seventies to fund a mission to Mars instead of the space shuttle. It is rather poignant, especially when an experimental nuclear rocket goes very wrong in Earth's orbit. But there's a scene on the day of the final launch where the astronauts are being readied for the flight and it feels like preparations for a religious ceremony.

#43 ::: Tim Kyger ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 09:42 AM:

ajay wrote:

What does she think about Io

Simple.

Io sulfur, away!

#44 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 10:56 AM:

Tim Kyger:

Are you suggesting that the first human-staffed ship sent to Io should be called the Lone Ranger?

#45 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 11:20 AM:

The last time I saw any figures on 'cost of occupying Iraq' ... I mean, 'the war in Iraq', it said 4.5 billion a month.

Ow... but anyway. Three months to the moon, less than a year to Mars, assuming 10 and 30 billion apiece. Two and a half years, at 100 billion.

In dollars per person, and assuming about 300,000,000 US taxpayers, then $35 to get to the moon, $105 for Mars, and $350 to do all the set-up and research and accident planning and stuff.

I'd pay that. Too bad it goes to Halliburton instead.

#46 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 12:18 PM:

The war on Iraq has certainly set a new level for "acceptable expense". It's sort of the budgetary equivalent (ironically) of "If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we solve $PROBLEM".

#47 ::: Tim Kyger ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 12:51 PM:

Fragano Ledgister wrote:

Are you suggesting that the first human-staffed ship sent to Io should be called the Lone Ranger?

I would be if I'd thought of it first.

#48 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 04:28 PM:

Tim Kyger: Just remember I did!

#49 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2006, 05:06 PM:

The war on Iraq has certainly set a new level for "acceptable expense".

Yeah, but "if we can invade a country and occupy it in a military quaqmire until it tears itself apart in civil war, then why can't we ..." just doesn't have the same ring as "if we can put a man on the moon, then why can't we...".

It may set a new level for acceptable expense, but it's just too much of a mouthful to put into a common saying.

#50 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2006, 02:49 AM:

An oldie, but a goodie:

"More accurately, the planet is an understated fiery umber,"

Also, I find it tremendously amusing that you can get a mechanical watch set to run on Martian time.

#51 ::: P J Evans sees comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:44 PM:

Four threads, each different in details but not in form.

#53 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2008, 05:50 PM:

and more spam!

#54 ::: spammer now at otherworldly thread ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 04:44 PM:

extrapolating that it'll next go to a z0mb13 thread.

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