O.K. I’ll admit it.
A piece on space travel is a little out there, even for a blog on adventure travel.
But as an ex-trekkie, I’ll sit there watching my TV with images of a room full of computer consoles and little sound as a crewless craft hurtles toward the north pole of Mars while nervous scientists and engineers hope this time they keep their centimeters straight from their inches.
As you may have heard, the Phoenix spacecraft landed on Mars today, which is a great accomplishment for a feat that has had only even odds on not crashing.
And based on the fist pumping into the air; the hugging and high fives; the clapping and cheering; and the hoots and hollering, they pulled it off.
This was not simply a hard landing in a big, padded ball or a free fall with a hopeful parachute deployment, but more reminiscent of a moon landing with retro jets firing.
They are already putting out pictures. So far, no reindeer or little Martian snowmen have been seen.
Prior to the successful landing report that came after a 10 minute delay as the radio signals crossed the vast Klingon-inhabited alpha beta quadrant, we heard an excellent explanation of what they were calling the “seven minutes of terror” to come by NASA’s JPL Fuk Li.
Finally, the voice of Cap-Com was heard to say, ”
“Phoenix has landed;
Phoenix has landed;
Welcome to the (north pole) of Mars”
And you had the love the fact that when the cardboard box of commemorative gifts came out, they didn’t hand out baseball caps with a Phoenix logo as you might expect, but rather ball point pens. (They are saving the pocket protectors until the next successful mission.)
But while in one area of our solar system things were going swimmingly, things were getting a little sh!tt% on the international space station as the Russian toilet was having a little problem that really sucked (or, more correctly–didn’t):
“Russian ASU Malfunction: While using the ASU toilet system in the SM, the crew heard a loud noise and the fan stopped working. After some troubleshooting the crew reported that the air/water Separator (MNR-RS) was not working. The crew then replaced the separator with a spare unit but reported afterwards that the ASU lacked suction. The crew next replaced the F-V filter insert, which provided good suction for a while but again exhibited weak suction. TsUP/Moscow instructed the crew to deactivate the ASU and use the toilet facility in the Soyuz spacecraft.
Stuck in space…with zero gravity…and the toilet “lacked suction.”
Now, that would really be seven minutes of terror while you finished the comics and then floated back into the main cabin.
The next time I might be inclined to hold it until we reach Vulcan.