A significant anniversary just passed, and chances are you heard nothing. A monumental, and hard-fought achievement in space history. And yet, zip.
I’ve been posting about the new Mars rover a lot, without putting that much in context. The MSL rover is a greatly-improved version of JPL’s prior MER (Mars Exploration Rover) mission, which itself was a huge progression from the prior Mars Pathfinder mission. And that was from JPL’s prior “Rocky” series of ground prototypes.
How’s this for context: the very first successful interplanetary probe, Mariner 2, launched fifty years ago. August 27, 1962, the rocket was lit, and we then got the first scientific experiments accomplished at another planet, Venus. A complete craft, Mariner 2 had multiple instruments, 2-way telemetry, sustained power, and needless to say, thermal and structural systems that met requirements over the months of the mission.
Oh, you never heard? If it bleeds, it leads, and broadly, the public doesn’t cares about a probe. No one might blow up, get maimed or fried, get run through by equipment, or at the minimum, get cancer. And thus, no one gets news coverage.
And that’s the problem. People don’t want results, they want thrills and scares (at someone else’s expense, literally and figuratively). Spacecraft are working steadily over your head as we speak; ATMs won’t work without checking satellites first, let alone your cable TV… YES, cable TV too. But these technologies don’t bleed, and chances are you don’t give a **** unless you work in the business, and I’m telling you stuff you already know. People want to use that cable TV to watch “reality shows,” and actual reality can crash and burn (uncovered by those same networks).
If you’re reading this blog, you’re at least somewhat interested in tech. And this blog, then, doesn’t compete with TV.