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It Take A Village To Rescue A Rover

November 16, 2009

I’m starting to think the scientists at NASA could use a vacation.

Last time, I told you about the team responsible for the Ares I-X test flight and their embarrassing case of rocket inadequacy.  These scientists, when threatened with their program’s extinction, became entirely too preoccupied with the size of their rocket and its ability to satisfy the country’s exploratory desires, if you know what I mean.

Now I’m told that NASA has invested a huge amount of time and resources to rescue the plucky little space rover Spirit.  Spirit and it’s partner Opportunity, were dispatched in 2004 to roam the surface of Mars to take pictures and collect space samples.  Somewhere along the line, Spirit fell through a crack in the Martian dirt crust and got itself stuck in the mud, so to speak.

As a space geek and a patriotic citizen, at least when anyone is looking, it’s not that I don’t appreciate their efforts to rescue the heroic little space buggy.  I mean, look at it.  It’s adorable.  It looks a bit like WALL*E.

It’s the fact that they have gathered some of the greatest engineering and scientific minds at NASA to plot and plan and experiment with different dirt samples in order to figure out essentially how to get a car out of the mud.  We’re talking laboratory experiments and flow charts, people in white lab coats and advanced statistical computer programs.  These people were into the Spirit rescue.

And the team finally hit upon a plan.  Excited beyond belief, they joyously announced to the press today that, after months of experimentation and complex scientific and mathematical analysis, they had figured out how to rescue the little vehicle.

They decided to throw it into reverse.

Surprisingly, the NASA engineers were more than a bit put out when their announcement didn’t receive the elated cheers and Nobel Prizes they were expecting. Instead, accompanied by the sound of crickets, the press collectively looked at each other and said, “How much are we spending on this program again?”

Now, we’ve all gotten our cars stuck in the mud at some point, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (sorry) to figure out what to do in a case like that.  My own son, who as a toddler had already spent enough time in the sandbox with his Tonka trucks to understand the concept, witnessed a truck in a similar situation one day and asked, “Why doesn’t he just back it out?”

So I’m thinking we should spend some of our tax dollars to make sure these scientists get some time off.  Maybe we should send them to Mars to help push the Spirit out of the mud.  I hear you can get a lot of relaxing done when you have 35,000,000 miles to travel.

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