Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ask the Curiosity Rover

The press release from Curiosity on Tuesday (yes, it is handling its own p.r.) that there was one last leg of the Yellowknife Bay traverse before the Holiday break got me thinking about what else the rover was up to.
I mean besides the whole "I'm so into myself" self-shot thing:
On the 84th and 85th Martian days of the NASA Mars rover Curiosity's mission on Mars (Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 2012), NASA's Curiosity rover used the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) to capture dozens of high-resolution images to be combined into self-portrait images of the rover.

Lo and behold it turns out the rover is filling its spare time in a constructive manner.
From the New Yorker:

Relationship advice from a doomed machine on a one-way trip to a (probably) lifeless planet.
Q: My boyfriend has been dropping hints about wanting a “more open relationship.” If I’m completely honest I have to admit this creeps me out a little, but I love him and don’t want to lose him. What should I do? —Allison F., Grand Rapids, Mich.

A: This is an excellent question, Allison, and it reminds me of something that happened the other day here on Mars. Maybe this will be of some use to you.

I was performing my usual sequence of boot diagnostics when suddenly, without warning, the solar wind blew in. I don’t know if you have any experience with solar wind, Allison—I’m guessing you don’t, because you’re back home on earth, safe and sound. Let me tell you about solar wind. Solar wind blows in at about six hundred kilometres per second, peeling chunks from the Martian atmosphere like you’d peel the skin from a tangerine, and if you’re not paying attention, if you’re performing a complicated matrix of computational chores or something, it can catch you unaware and really knock you back on your treads. When something like this happens your first thought is to look around, as if someone will be there and you can say, “Wow, did you feel that?” Or, “Hey, are you O.K.?” And then you realize that you’re all alone three hundred million miles from home and unless things take a very unexpected turn you’re going to remain that way until your plutonium core depletes and you slowly freeze to death in a sand pit.

Q: My wife and her mother talk on the phone at least three times a day, and sometimes I walk into the room and my wife will stop talking and wait for me to leave before she continues. I know they’re close, but it makes me uneasy to think my wife may have things to say about me that she doesn’t want me to hear. Should I bring this up with her? —Frank D., Philadelphia, Penn.

A: Boy, that’s a tough one. Women, huh? As the old saying goes, “Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.” But the thing is, Frank, that’s just an expression. It’s not literally true. To take just one example, I’m living quite without women, and also men, and if you really want to pull that thread, the fact is I’ll never again know the affectionate touch of the human hands that built me. I’ll just continue doing their work in a silent, diligent fashion until the tiny distant speck that is earth winks out of existence for the final time and I slowly freeze to death in a sand pit....MORE
I am a bit worried about the transcriber of this piece, Bill Barol.
Back in October he translated one of the funniest things I've ever seen on the web, "Le Blog de Jean-Paul Sartre".

I fear however that Barol has internalized Sartre's dictum "We are left alone, without excuse" and, combined with a too-close reading of Albert Edwards' recent output, is descending into the pit formerly occupied only by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, with writing that runs the gamut of emotions from despondent to suicidal, or, as some refer to it, in the style of the Rosenbergii.

Here's Curiosity's homepage.