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May 26, 2008

“We did this. This is what we can do.”
Posted by Patrick at 03:48 PM * 117 comments

From the Planetary Society weblog: a photo of the Phoenix lander descending to Mars, still hanging from its parachute, still protected by backshell and heat shield. Taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as Phoenix zoomed by.

Bad Astronomy writes:

Think on this, and think on it carefully: you are seeing a manmade object falling gracefully and with intent to the surface of an alien world, as seen by another manmade object already circling that world, both of them acting robotically, and both of them hundreds of million of kilometers away.

Never, ever forget: we did this. This is what we can do.

Comments on "We did this. This is what we can do.":
#1 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 04:15 PM:

Oh, wow!
I didn't think we'd get this kind of lucky.

#2 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 04:24 PM:

This is just cool beyond all reckoning.

With all that's going wrong in the world, it's good to have a reminder, once in a while, what we, human beings, can accomplish when we're at our best.

#3 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 04:50 PM:


#4 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 04:55 PM:

That's pretty special.

(At a loss for words, for once.)

#5 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 05:10 PM:

The nations of the world have a fleet of vehicles exploring Mars.

In orbit: ESA's Mars Express. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. NASA's Mars Odyssey.

On the ground: Spirit, near the equator. Opportunity, also near the equator on the opposite side of Mars. Now Phoenix, above the arctic circle.

Those on the ground can communicate with the orbiters, and regularly use them to relay data to Earth. Imaging from the orbiters is used to plan and understand where the rovers are going.

It's real exploration. On a very big planet, but it's a start.

We can do other difficult things.

#6 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 05:12 PM:

I am just awed by it.

#7 ::: AHT ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 05:18 PM:

Oh. That just gave me chills.

#8 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 05:33 PM:

Wow, wow, wow!

I've seen a picture of one of the two Mars rovers from orbit (basically one pixel wide), and I've seen the video from the lunar rovers of the LM lifting off...

but this is stunning.

We. Did. This.


#9 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 05:39 PM:

This is what we can do.


#10 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 05:58 PM:

Go, little lander!

#11 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 06:00 PM:

*happy squeaks*

I got to see part of the landing--the JPL control room, on NASA TV--last night when it was coming down. I hadn't known there was another mission in the works, but it was neat to "be there" for it.

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it. Such a BIG thing! :)))

#12 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 06:16 PM:

Wow. There's some hope to be had from this.

#13 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 06:36 PM:

OK, this is the coolest thing of all!

#14 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 07:20 PM:

This is the first time since Apollo shut up shop that I've felt like we have an honest-to-ghu space program running out there, not some sort of political boondoggle, and that we're really there to stay.

I watched the web feed from the control room as Phoenix went in, and you could hear the pride in the voice of the controller as the Lander went through its schedule on time and target, and doing better at almost everything than expected. They didn't even lose signal from the craft during max heat on re-entry as they expected. Way to go, little lander!

#15 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 07:36 PM:

Besides having everything go exactly right (which the space program really needed), I was most impressed that everything was coordinated so that three orbiters and an earth station could directly observe the landing sequence. That an orbiter was close enough to take photographs of the lander at a critical stage, was just icing. Really tasty icing.
We make it look too easy.

#16 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 07:53 PM:

Heh. Just heard that the area the lander touched down on will be covered with dry ice during the Martian winter. The lander may be entirely encased in the stuff.

I hope it lasts long enough to catch pictures of the encroaching air-ice.

#17 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 08:31 PM:


That's really all there is to it.


#18 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 09:00 PM:

That's pretty fricken awesome.

#19 ::: Pat Kight ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 09:27 PM:

I had some friends over for the traditional Memorial Day weekend charring of meat yesterday, and one of them brought his laptop specifically so we could tune into NASA's live feed of the JPL control room during the landing. We were so excited we forgot all about the food and drink for a while. I love having such geeky friends almost as much as I love living in a world that contains such wonderous things to geek about.

#20 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 09:40 PM:

Watching proof that yet another man made object landed on another planet just improved my saving throw vs cynicism by about +5.

"O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is!
O brave new world
That hath such people in't!" - The Tempest, William Shakespeare

#21 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 09:59 PM:

Josh @ #20: It's nice to be able to think of "brave new world" without the customary irony.

I join all of you in being blown away by this.

#22 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 10:00 PM:

Now I want to see the same shot... from the surface.

#23 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 11:08 PM:

I love the live feed from NASA - it was fantastic to watch the landing and the photos come in, and to share (at whatever remove) in the joy of the JPL folks. And that photograph is fantastic - it's a pleasant change from the usual to feel proud to be a human.

#24 ::: Glen Blankenship ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 11:31 PM:

There's an even better shot now posted on the NASA Phoenix site, which has been post-processed to make textural detail of the Martian surface visible in the background, as well as making it easier to see the shroud lines connecting the lander to its parachute.

#25 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 11:41 PM:

We were at Conquest and therefore at an after-dinner with friends and then we went to a forgettable movie, for the sake of mercy I'm not mentioning here. (and if anyone has the bottle of brain-wash I'd appreciate you passing it.)

When we got back to the Hilton at nearly midnight, the first thing I did was go to and see how it went.

Wow. Just wow. I'm so proud of NASA and our brave little robots.

#26 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 12:16 AM:

And there are pictures that Phoenix has taken, too.

#27 ::: embee ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 12:30 AM:

This is so cool I just can't stand it, and find that I must delurk to add to the general rejoicing...

I love the way we send our hearts along with our robots: NASA titles one of the first images "Phoenix opens its eyes" and I immediately just want to hug it. And them.

#28 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 01:48 AM:

Good job, puny humans! Not bad for a bunch of quarrelsome monkeys.

(I don't much care specifically for the human-triumphalist tone of the Bad Astronomy quote, but I'd be the first to admit that may just be my own malfunction. Perhaps - and I am certainly not saying it is a fair association here - it's that I feel like I've heard a fair amount of that kind of chest-thumping about our Wonderful Capabilities As A Species from the free-market-uber-alles/climate-change-denying/libertarian-capitalist/crypto-racist type and tend to view it as an advance warning sign. If so: I blame them. Sorry!)

#29 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 02:40 AM:

Holy smokes, that Sidelight/Particle about how it landed is special.

#30 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 03:04 AM:


#31 ::: Adrian Bedford ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 06:59 AM:

I was amazed and delighted to hear that Phoenix landed safely; I'm *gobsmacked* to see that image of it parachuting in! Such things are a welcome tonic when you feel as if you're drowning in your own cynicism about humanity.

#32 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 06:59 AM:

Jacob Davies @ 8... One could indeed not celebrate, for the reasons that you mention. For the same reason, I could stop celebrating the Fourth of July because rhe scoundrels have wrapped themselves into the Flag, but that'd be letting them win, and like Hell if I'm going to.

#33 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 08:46 AM:

Yes we can!

#34 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 09:19 AM:

This is wonderful. My older son is 6, and he's really into space right now, so we talked about how Mars is being explored by robots, what they hope to find there, etc., the night before last. Then, yesterday, there was a radio news story about this mission landing a robot on Mars, and it was fun seeing that he really got it, and was excitedly talking about it for the rest of the car trip, and at various times during the day. (He wants to go look for fossils on Mars. Just in case. He might have to get in line....)

To make a cross-thread-ism, that's like something out of science fiction.

#35 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 09:24 AM:

Jacob #28: I dunno, cheering ourselves as a species seems fairly harmless, as group boosterism goes. "We're #1 (of one known sentient species)." Perhaps next year, we'll get first-contacted by the Vulcans, and have to reassure ourselves that, yes, they're smarter and stronger, but at least they don't have emotions. But until then, "We humans are great" seems several orders of magnitude less subject to misuse than "We males are great" or "We white people are great" or "We Americans are great."

#36 ::: Michael Walsh ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 10:25 AM:

At Balticon Elspeth Kover, Robin Johnson (yes, from Tasmania) And I were in the bar watching this on CNN.

Pretty spiffy. We do live in a science fictional world.

#37 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 11:11 AM:

I didn't see it as boosterism (and I wonder how to better celebrate something like this... dress it up as a smaller triumph; as if only an American team could have done it?).

I saw it as hope, a reminder that we can bend our mind, will and treasure to something a magnificent in scope as this; and pull it off.

#38 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 11:21 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 14, your comment reminds me of talking to my parents a few weeks ago. We were on Merritt Island for my cousin's wedding. My parents grew up and met there, in the mid-late sixties to early seventies. My mother talked a lot about her memories -- and the space program ran through all of them. It was a time when incredible, exciting things were happening. For my parents, those things were even more tangible and real, because they were happening in their backyards.

This is a little taste of that.

(This conversation led me to tell my parents about Spin, by the way, and I'm now planning on giving a copy to my dad for Father's Day.)

#39 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 11:49 AM:

Jacob Davies: Reclaim your fun. Seriously. This is, after all, a triumph of science and engineering paid for via tax revenues, launched and tracked from government-owned land, overseen by bureaucrats, staffed by scientists, engineers, secretaries, janitors, drivers, and everyone else on government payrolls, in conjunction with universities funded wholly or partially by tax dollars, the whole of it subject to affirmative action, smoking bans, and all the rest of the panoply of modern statism. This is a statist venture from beginning to end, and demonstrates the ability of the modern regulatory state to undertake and complete large useful scientific endeavors. There is, so far, simply nothing comparable in the corporate sector, and it's worth keeping in mind that when people talk about doing away with any but the most minimal state, this is one of the things that'd be done away with along with someone favorite caricature of the pork barrel.

It's not that it's logically or conceptually impossible that a mission like this could happen any other way. It's just that three hundred years in to the industrial revolution and nobody's yet done this kind of thing any other way. And that's worth noting along with sheer wonder of the achievement itself.

#40 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 11:54 AM:

By the way, I don't intend my #39 as a slap at any of the fine cool libertarians I know, starting with the ones posting to this very thread whom I regard as my friends. I'm writing in remembered reaction to a few twits who provoked in me a reaction more like the one Jacob describes. It occurs to me that these days they've mostly gone on to be cheerleaders for warmaking anyway, and it's tempting to say that they're already punished by the company they now keep. :)

What I really want to say is that it's entirely appropriate to marvel at wonderful accomplishments and to wish that they'd come about another way. Acknowledge the facts, judge them as we wish.

#41 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 12:29 PM:

But what we really want to know - Is there life on mars? [ Streaming MP3 link]

#42 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 01:17 PM:

Thanks. It's nice to remember how it actually came to be. I was looking at the credits for this - University of Arizona and Caltech the biggest parts of the science team, though Lockheed Martin and the commie Russian engineers of the Atlas V motors deserve their credit too - and thinking, oh yeah, universities as centers for the pursuit of pure knowledge. That's an invention a couple of thousand years old that still seems to work pretty well, doesn't it?

(Now god forbid we should get onto talking about libertarians, but just for the record, I'm pretty pro-liberty myself, and pro-capitalism, I'm just also pro-regulation and pro-worker and pro-government. Life is complicated.)

Don't get me wrong though, my fun is alive and well. All I needed was the photo to know exactly how unlikely this whole affair is. (You know, humanity and stuff.) I like to play the Planet of the Apes game to enhance the outlandishness of it all; that is, imagining a bunch of chimpanzees building rockets and interplanetary robotic spacecraft and little robot cars that drive around on other planets. Nah, too silly...

#43 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 01:21 PM:

Wow. So deeply, truly Wow.

#44 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 01:26 PM:

#28: "I've heard a fair amount of that kind of chest-thumping about our Wonderful Capabilities As A Species from the free-market- uber-alles/climate-change-denying/ libertarian-capitalist/crypto-racist type"

I've noticed something amusing about folks like that.

Suggest switching over solar power or windmills, and they'll freak out and say it can't be done, won't pay for itself, think of the birds, & etcetera.

Check out any story about solar panels or wind power on slashdot.

#45 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 01:31 PM:

Is there life in Peckham ?

#46 ::: Ametatsu ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 01:34 PM:


#47 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 02:23 PM:


#48 ::: Terry Wonders About Spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 02:52 PM:

Praised Barebones... is that spam?

#49 ::: embee ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 02:52 PM:

albatross@#34, wrt science fiction becoming reality: just found this quote on CNN of all places.

"Army Sgt. Shiloh Harris' doctors applied specially formulated powder to what's left of the finger in an effort to do for wounded soldiers what salamanders can do naturally: replace missing body parts.

If it sounds like science fiction, the lead surgeon agreed.

"It is. But science fiction eventually becomes true, doesn't it?" said Dr. Steven Wolf of Brooke Army Medical Center."

#51 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 03:39 PM:

Terry at 48

Not intended as spam, but as a response to 41, which fell flat because a) I left my comment in preview for about half an hour and b)it looks as though I messed up on embedding the link - though I can't be sure, as it looks as though the govt in Turkey is blocking YouTube.

All things considered I probably deserve a kick up the Rump for general ineptitude, though....

#52 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 03:41 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 14:


#53 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 04:09 PM:

#51--that's right, praisegod barebones, take it out on Parliament.

#54 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 04:35 PM:

Hey, this is pretty nifty -- this is the entire photo from which the lander piece is only a blowup. It shows why the terrain behind the lander (visible in the enhanced version of the photo) looks so strangely vertical -- it's part of a crater wall:

#55 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 04:56 PM:

#54: Sweet Jesus!

If it landed in the crater I bet the view would be spectacular . . . although the mission would be shorter lived since it would get less sunlight per day. And the crater would presumably fill up with dry ice before the plains above.

#56 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 05:44 PM:

Ha! I will see your puny species/race/nation pride, and raise it:

My father helped build something that is no longer in the solar system. (In fact, his group at APL designed and built one of the instruments which are telling them that they've left the solar system.)

What impresses me the most about these missions is the way the orbital dynamics guys move these probes around the solar system. Forty-five years ago we were making not especially successful attempts to throw something in the general direction of the moon, and now we're landing on asteroids (my father worked on NEAR too). And then there's this case: in 1998 Hughes bought a Chinese communications satellite that had failed to achieve proper orbit, swung it past the moon twice, and placed it successfully in a geosynchronous orbit.

re 14: I think you're a bit out of sync there. There was definitely a dip in exploratory missions in the 1980s, when the shuttle was soaking up the money. But there was a huge run of major missions in the 1970s, starting with SAS-A. The 1970s were an era with a lot of fundamental physical observations, especially if you're willing to stretch a bit and include the Glomar Challenger (it started drilling in 1968). I think you could characterize some of the shuttle flying as boondoggle-ish, and I can make no comment on the ISS, as I don't follow what they're doing very closely. But what the unmanned probes have been doing has always been supremely cool.

#57 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 06:22 PM:

#28 et al: As a vast cool intelligence I am still wondering about Titan. The atmosphere is not in chemical equilibrium, you know.

#58 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 06:29 PM:

Serge, #32: I haven't stopped celebrating the 4th of July either, but I have changed the focus and tone of my celebration. These days, instead of red-white-and-blue and patriotism, I make it about rainbow colors and the celebration of diversity in America. And yes, that is a direct in-your-face slap at the jingoists.

#59 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 07:26 PM:

praisgod barebones: Well then, try again. The trick (I screwed up several times) is to put a " at both the front, and back, of the URL, in the a =href string.

#60 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 07:28 PM:

Lee @ 58... My own celebrations usually involve popping in my DVD of "1776". See John Hancock swat at flies! See Ben Franklin dance! See John Adams get upset! See serious stuff like a young man singing, hoping that his mother will find him before he dies on the battlefield.

#61 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 07:43 PM:

The animation "how Phoenix landed" in the sidebar looks like a cross between an opening flower and Luxo, junior.

#62 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 08:00 PM:

Richard Brandt @ 52

Oops. I guess even machines can get deja vu.

#63 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 08:12 PM:

After seeing on the news that the probe landed at 5 mph, my Dad, critical as he sometimes is, noted that you'd be able to feel that landing.

I pointed out that Yuri Gagarin, who had to bail out to survive landing, would have been impressed.

(I'll note that mostly my Dad is critical of things that impress him; things that are good, but, you know, could do a bit better. Things that are bad he doesn't bother mentioning the flaws of; he assumes we all can see them)

#64 ::: G D Townshende ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 08:22 PM:

Very cool. Watched the landing on CNN, while I was at work.

#65 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 09:27 PM:

Lee #58:

Wasn't there a pretty good quote from Patrick floating around the internet, awhile back, along these lines?

#66 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 10:11 PM:

Just like the Grinch on Mt. Crumpet, seeing that (and listening to the touch down) makes my heart grow three sizes bigger.

Serge at #60, hey, I do the same thing. First time watching the DVD threw me though, as they restored a few songs (from the VHS and what I remember from the Philly TV Stations). Songs that made me say, "Holy crap, well, I guess I know why they cut those out."

#67 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 10:33 PM:

Steve Buchheit @ 66... I guess I know why they cut those out

Yeah. My understanding is that Tricky Dick objected.

#68 ::: Lord John Whorfin ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 11:10 PM:

I am sure, in the miserable annals of the Earth, you will be duly enshrined!

#69 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 02:24 AM:

Steve, #66: "Cool, Cool, Considerate Men" was cut at the direct request of Richard Nixon.

It bugs me a bit that the 3rd verse of "Piddle, Twiddle, and Resolve" is still missing...

They may sit here for years and years in Philadelphia,
These indecisive grenadiers of Philadelphia.
They can't agree on what is right or wrong, or what is good or bad;
I'm convinced the only purpose this Congress ever had
Was to gather here specifically to drive John Adams mad!

But then, that's what my Original Broadway Cast recording is for. BTW, fans of the show should not bother with the recording from the production featuring Brent Spiner as Adams. Somewhere along the line, the notion that people appearing in a musical-theater production ought to be able to SING seems to have been lost.

#70 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 06:47 AM:

Terry at 59

Well, the response was laboured to start off with, but I'll give it another go - if only to prove I wasn't spamming.

Is there life in Peckham?

Thanks for the tip on embedding. Unfortunately, I still can't check whether it works, because the Turkish government is apparently blocking You-Tube.

Fidelio: no need to be Short...

#71 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 07:29 AM:

Lee @ 69... gather here specifically to drive John Adams mad!

Sit down, John! Sit down, John!
For God's sake, John, sit down!
Sit down, John! Sit down, John!
For God's sake, John, sit down!

#72 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 07:39 AM:

I didn't realize--there's a Titan flyby today. It may already have begun. The 03.25 report on possibilities for life in the system is up & can be read here.

#73 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 07:58 AM:

Serge @ 71
I have resolved that one useless man is a disgrace, two a law firm, and three or more become a congress.

#74 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 07:59 AM:

#70--My apologies; I didn't mean to seem Cavalier.

Has your son been able to get his insurance business off teh ground yet?

#76 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 09:02 AM:

Bill #75: Damn. That makes us sound like The Culture.

#77 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 09:41 AM:

Steve Buchheit @ 73...

John Dickinson: Are you calling me a coward?
John Adams: Yes... coward!
John Dickinson: Madman!
John Adams: Landlord!
John Dickinson: LAWYER!
[a brawl breaks out]

#78 ::: James Davis Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 10:56 AM:


Uranus and Neptune also have atmospheres that are not in chemical equilibrium.

#79 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 10:58 AM:

John Adams: Wake up, Franklin! You're going to New Brunswick.
Ben Franklin: Like hell I am. Whatever for?

Oh, just a great musical all around.

#80 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 11:27 AM:

Serge @71:

All: "It's hot as hell in Philadelphia!"

"Would someone go and open up a window?"

"Too many flies, too many flies..."

#81 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 11:27 AM:

Meanwhile, back to earth, as it were: there's a plumbing problem aboard the ISS. (Which in NO WAY diminishes Phoenix!)

#82 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 11:41 AM:

"A second flood, a simple famine, plagues of locusts everywhere, or a cataclysmic earthquake, I'd accept with some despair. But no, You sent us Congress! Good God, Sir, was that fair?"

#83 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 11:44 AM:

Aw, Steve, you cut one of Stephen Hopkins's better lines.

Just for that:

Thomson: [calling for a vote] Where's Rhode Island?
McNair: Rhode Island's out visiting the necessary.
Hancock: Well, after what Rhode Island has consumed, I can't say I'm surprised. We'll come back to him, Mr. Thompson.
Thomson: Rhode Island passes.

It should, in all fairness, be noted that one of Hopkins's achievements, besides signing the Declaration of Independence (his signature is shaky because of palsy--it's in the column on the far right, about the middle of the signatures), he was also one of the founders of the Providence Library Company in 1753, and also served as Chancellor of Brown University from 1764 through 1785, although he was largely self-educated--it was then the College of Rhode Island. It does seem that the rum was not a figment of the playwright's imagination; I believe Hopkins is the one with his head propped on his hand.

#84 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 12:02 PM:

fidelio, I figured those who knew the musical would get a laugh. Those who don't wouldn't understand the line anyway without hearing the letter from Gen. Washington being read.

Hancock: McNair!
McNair: Oh, I know, the flies.
Hancock: No. The rum.

#85 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 01:50 PM:

You know, I was going to comment on how blasé I was about this picture, and what a sad commentary that is on me, that my head seems to be living in the future so very much that my entire reaction to this was "About damn time."

But then I saw the picture linked to by Brooks Moses @54. Holy freaking schemoly -- I guess I was just missing a real enough context, but that crater just yanks my heart out through my ribs. And oh sweet Jesus how I want to go there and see it all for myself.

#86 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 02:54 PM:

fidelio: Hopkins's achievements...he was also one of the founders of the Providence Library Company in 1753

I bet I know what he's been doing in his grave this past bunch of years, and it sure as hell isn't "lying still".

#87 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 02:59 PM:

ethan, he's buried in the North Burial Ground there in Providence--you might want to stop by with some rum and see if you can calm him down--or raise him to take his dreadful vengeance!

#88 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 03:10 PM:

There's a line by Hanks' Jim Lovell towards the beginning of Apollo 13 (which I just watched last night on HDNet, as it happens) about the Apollo 11 mission. He says "It's not a miracle. We just decided to go there."

That's how this makes me feel. Proud to be human, proud to be part of this time. It's something we don't get to feel as often, perhaps, as in bygone days, and I intend to savor it for a while.

#89 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 03:13 PM:

fidelio #87: You just sent me googling, and I discovered that Hopkins's grave is only a few hundred feet from the section of the North Burial Ground that I worked in a few summers back, and that in fact I sat very close to it while eating lunch every day. Who knew?

#90 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 05:11 PM:

"Life is more than sexual combustibility!"

#91 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 05:27 PM:

I notice that the "view from above" that Soon Lee linked to in #50 above is no longer on the Phoenix website front page, so here's a separate link:

Phoenix lander, heat shield, and parachute, all sitting neatly on the surface.

(And, down at the bottom, is an image from Phoenix showing the backshell and parachute off in the distance...)

#92 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 06:54 PM:

#91: Clearly airbrushed to remove the herds of tharks.

#93 ::: Zeke ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 07:13 PM:

#88: That's exactly the line I was thinking of. Amazing what we East African Plains Apes can get up to.

And for the 1776 crowd, I've got to quote my own favorite exchange:

Franklin: Calling me an Englishman is like calling an ox a bull: he's grateful for the compliment, but he would rather have restored what's rightfully his.

Dickinson: When did you first notice they were missing?

#94 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 07:47 PM:

Stefan Jones writes in #92:

Clearly airbrushed to remove the herds of tharks.

Speaking of tharks, I've heard for years that Bob Clampett tried to make an animated movie out of Burroughs's Mars stories, but I had never seen any footage until this turned up recently.

(Apologies if somebody at ML has already linked to this. I forget.)

#95 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 08:03 PM:

Chorus: "We may see murder, yet."

#96 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 09:36 PM:

After my initial astonishment at the pictures (there are more now) I realized that they also prove the HiRISE camera to be a key factor in the success of future Mars surface landers.

The Great Galactic Ghoul won't eat our probes, if it knows we're watching . . .

#97 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 03:00 AM:

fidelio 78

How did you know about that? He had some trouble filling out some of the forms - not enough space to write his name, I think, but got it all together in the nick of time.

#98 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 06:07 AM:

Bill Higgins @ 94... Thanks for the link. By the way, the Burroughs books is what Jon Favreau was working on doing as live-action until the studio pulled the plug, which is why he went on to do Iron Man. I think it's now a Pixar project.

#99 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 08:58 AM:

#97--Friends in the business, my dear sir, friends in the business.

I can see how, though, after your fire losses, property insurance would be of interest to him.

#100 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 08:54 PM:

Zeke @ 93: That's one of my favorite phrases to myself, too: "Not bad for a bunch of jumped-up plains apes!"

#101 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 11:09 PM:

Re 1776, I offer one of my favorite memories from Rivercon: I was up in the consuite, just hanging out, and over in the other corner a conversation turned political and eventually evolved into somebody declaiming Adams' opening speech from the play. He got to the last line, and from all over the room a ragged chorus of "Sit Down, John!" burst out -- some 12 or 15 voices in as many different keys, which quickly coalesced around the strongest lead. I remember thinking, "Where else would this happen, except in a bunch of musical-theater geeks?"

#102 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 06:20 AM:

It's today's Astronomy Picture of the Day with a very nice high-res version linked and useful text. It looks like the lander is descending into the crater but that's just a trick of perspective. It landed about 20km from it.

#103 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 01:39 PM:

Lee @101: You should have heard Bill Sutton and I discussing doing _Cats_ as a dramatic presentation for a Worldcon, and which filker we'd pick for each role...

I've seen SF con hall-talk spontaneously spiral into the musicals _Jesus Christ Superstar_, _Rocky Horror Picture Show_, and Disney's _Little Mermaid_.

#104 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 01:59 PM:

Lori Coulson @ 103... I've seen SF con hall-talk spontaneously spiral into the musicals _Jesus Christ Superstar_, _Rocky Horror Picture Show_, and Disney's _Little Mermaid_.

All into one single musical?

#105 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 02:09 PM:

Serge @104: No not at the same time -- those were just the three I happened to remember. JCS took over a hall at a Marcon, RHPS was at an OVFF, and _Little Mermaid_ was at an InCONjuction, I think.

One of the best filks of a popular musical is Tom Smith's _Rocky Horror Muppet Show_.

#106 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 02:14 PM:

Lori Coulson @ 105... Tom Smith's _Rocky Horror Muppet Show_.

With Miss Piggy as Susan Sarandon, and Kermit as Barry Bostwick? What about Fozzie?

#107 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 02:21 PM:

Serge @106: Yes, you've got the right casting there, but it's been over 20 years since I've heard/seen it. Huh, maybe I should just go ask Tom, he's on Livejournal

#108 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 02:22 PM:

Fozzie -- Meatloaf/Eddie?

#109 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 02:29 PM:

Rocky Horror Muppet Show is on Tom Smith's website.

#110 ::: Rymenhild ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 04:06 PM:

Regarding #109 and preceding: Great. Now I just spent the last forty minutes, when I could have been preparing my summer syllabus, howling with laughter. Thanks, all.

#111 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2008, 04:34 PM:

Joel @ 109: That is priceless. I have to show this to my partner.

#112 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 12:55 AM:

Joel @ 109

Oh . my . ghod . That was incredible. Luckily I didn't have anything important to do; it wouldn't have gotten done.

That was better than any episode of the TV show except the one where Glenda Jackson hoisted the Jolly Roger and hijacked the show to the Spanish Main.

#113 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 02:32 AM:

To bring the conversation back to the original topic (not that 1776 and the RHMS aren't good topics), the Phoenix Lander had landed directly on top of *water* ice.

Sometimes we monkeys get lucky.

#114 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 11:03 AM:

It's just the Martian Overlords messing with our heads. Trying to lure us to our doom by making us think that there are plentiful resources.

#115 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 03:24 PM:

Lee@69 (since you're the one who is most definite about this): any documentation for the song being cut at Tricky's request? I know he was trying to suck up to the former CSA (witness the debatable and rotten nominations he made to the Supreme Court), but I have some difficulty believing in a Hollywood exec taking requests from him; he and Agnew had already tried their Joe McCarthy routines on everyone who would stand still for them, and found how badly they played on the coasts. I find it more believable that the song was cut simply to avoid losing sales in the South.

Lori@103: I can top those: the "Hallelujah" chorus, in the jacuzzi, at a NESFA relaxacon. (~40 attendees and there were enough knowledgeable singers to make a go of all 4 parts). No, I don't remember why it started -- that's certainly not in the NESFA Hymnal, which had recently been published.

#116 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 06:42 PM:

CHip, #115: Here's the relevant quote from the liner notes on the "director's cut" DVD:
But the 1776 that premiered in New York was not the 1776 that was filmed. Prior to its theatrical release, Jack Warner cut 1776 to a 141-minute running time, removing approximately 25 minutes of footage. Not all the scenes were cut just to get a shorter running time, however. The full production number "Cool, Cool Considerate Men" was the subject of some debate before and after production, with President Nixon reportedly objecting to it, and the entire number hit the cutting-room floor.

Also this, from the Amazon listing for the DVD:
The 2002 DVD release of 1776 offers the 168-minute "director's cut" version of the film, which is about 20 minutes longer than the VHS release (though still shorter than the previously released 180-minute laserdisc, which director Peter H. Hunt has said included some material he didn't care for). Among the additions are a main title with overture, an introductory verse to "He Plays the Violin," and more balance to the conservative Southern bloc of the Congress, especially in the musical number "Cool Considerate Men," which - according to Hunt and screenwriter Peter Stone on the DVD's commentary track - was removed at the request of President Nixon and supposed to have been destroyed.

I'd call that reasonably conclusive. Remember, Jack Warner was a personal friend of Nixon.

#117 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2008, 06:49 PM:

Joel Polowin @ 114... the Martian Overlords messing with our heads. Trying to lure us to our doom

Martian Tripods land in Oakland!

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