Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 18/08/2012

In Absentia, Day Nine

Cheetah, originally uploaded by

Cor Blimey Guv’nor, I’ve only gorn and dun it, ain’t I?  Ten blogs writing in one day despite all the shiny objects distracting me away from my primary goal, though quality may have slipped in the process (“HA!  Quality, there was never any in the first place”, Ed.).  All I have to do now is to transfer all these words across to the server, schedule them correctly and attach photos to each posting (if you’re reading this of course, Dear Reader, I’ll have achieved that, if you’re not… erm…. oops!).

I was listening to a Radio 4 program broadcast by the BBC today as I drove to pick up my Reading Festival tickets from a delivery firm (another shiny object!) about the Mars expedition detailing the process and numbers involved in landing Curiosity, the mobile science lab, on the planet surface.  The craft travelled a staggering 352 million miles in just over eight-and-a-half months, a figure that just blew my mind as I toddled along the country roads at 60mph (honest, that was all I was doing!). Such is the distance to Mars that any signal sent to or from it takes 14 minutes which would mean if the team controlling it needed to react there would be a 28 minute delay as the signal was received, responded too and sent back; as such the landing, referred to by the team as “seven minutes of terror” had to be totally autonomous – the terror being knowing whether it had landed correctly or whether the billions of dollars spent in getting there, along with the years of planning had just gone up in smoke… Martian Smoke.  We wouldn’t be affected by the fire from it though as “the chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, they said”*

*Yes, you are allowed to groan at the punchline (if you weren’t aware it was a punchline, and I suspect most won’t even care, it’s of course taken from Jeff Waynes musical take on the famous book “War of the Worlds”).


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