Saturday, January 3, 2009

5 years on Mars and still going strong

On January 3, 2003, the Mars Exploration Rover (MER-A), a.k.a. "Spirit," landed on Mars, bouncing across Gusev crater in its airbag cocoon. The airbags retracted, and the tetrahedral lander opened up to reveal the rover. After about two weeks of checkouts, Spirit left her nest and headed out to explore.

Original mission objectives were for Spirit to last for 90 Mars days (Sols, equal to about 24-2/3 Earth hours). So far, she has survived 1,423 Sols and is still limping along. She has sent back tens of thousands of pictures during her journey. I enjoy keeping track of her progress via and the Mars Rovers home page.

Pictured is a really nice 1/18 scale die-cast model of the MER that was released shortly after the landings. It features folding solar panels and other movable parts, which include the high-gain antenna, camera mast and camera head, wheels, instrument deployment device, and rocker-bogie suspension. Its display base is the lander, opened up to prepare the rover for rolling off.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Closing out a fun year of collecting

It has been a good year. It started with the birth of my first grandchild, Molly, on January 3. My son returned safely from Afghanistan in February. My friends and family have had more than their share of trials and tribulations, but everyone's spirits remain high. We won't talk about the economy!! I can't do anything about it, so there's no use worrying about it. I closed out the year being cited in the Planetary Society's blog!

I have enjoyed a fun year of treasure hunting. The occasional trinket reconnects me with my past, and I hope will help build a bridge from my past to the future of my kids and their children. I have met some new friends, online and in person, who share my dedication to preserving the memory of the Golden Years of space exploration.

For 2009, I'm looking forward first and foremost to Spacefest in February, and to any Astronaut Scholarship Foundation events I can attend later in the year. There should be some fun celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the "Year of Apollo," and I hope to take part in them, too.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Senator with an Action Pack

How many US Senators have their own Hot Wheels Action Pack? I'm guessing there aren't that many.

I'm only aware of four Senators who have been into space - John Glenn, Harrison Schmitt, Jake Garn, and Bill Nelson (who flew on Shuttle Columbia when he was a US Congressman). Jack Swigert ran for Senate but was defeated in the primaries; he later became a US Congressman.

I liked this Hot Wheels Action Pack because it tells John Glenn's story in such a cute way - with a Mercury capsule and Glenn in his Mercury space suite, with the Space Shuttle and Glenn in his Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES), and then Glenn in his Senator suit!

I suppose that if a NASCAR champion ever becomes a US Senator, he will certainly get his own Hot Wheels Action Pack.