Mars is bleak and beautiful
In the last post, we admired the first images shared by Perseverance after landing on the 18th of February 2021. Since then, the rover has been busy up there sending us even more photos of the bleak and beautiful Mars landscape with its numerous cameras. I can’t help but reflect on our planet as I admire these images.
The Landing Video
While we couldn’t watch Perseverance land in real time, NASA released the video footage a few days later. I know Perseverance already landed safely, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit of adrenaline watching this!
You might have noticed in the video that the parachute has an interesting pattern. Apparently it was coded with some secret messages. For those of us that need a translation into English from binary, it says:
- “Dare Mighty Things” in the inner ring (the motto of the Jet Propulsion Lab that built Perseverance and is managing the project)
- The GPS coordinates of JPL in the outer ring
Interestingly, “Dare Mighty Things” comes from Teddy Roosevelt’s Strenuous Life speech:
“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure … than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
The 360 Panorama
Perseverance shared with us a 360 panorama view of Jezero crater, taken by the Mastcam-Z cameras. It’s an enormous file, and on NASA’s site, you can really zoom in and see all the detail. They’re excited about the wind-carved rocks and the rim of the crater. Not to diminish how cool these things are, but when I look at this photo I’m blown away by how genuinely bleak it looks. Mars is beautiful in its own way. However, I can’t help but feel lonely for Perseverance, and lonely for us on this seemingly unique planet that is host to the only life we’re aware of.
The detail we can see in these photos transmitted from a planet that is currently (according to The Sky Live as of the writing this post) 217.7 million kilometres away is absolutely incredible. However, as Perseverance searches for signs of ancient life on Mars, the photo of these rocks has me reflecting on how we need to begin taking better care of our own planet.
The Pale Blue Dot
A friend shared an article recently that referenced the Pale Blue Dot photo of Earth (from 1990) that inspired Carl Sagan’s book by the same title. I haven’t read the book, but I’m adding it to my reading list. The Planetary Society have posted a fairly long quote from the book on their Pale Blue Dot page, but the part that speaks to me most is this:
“Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint of help that will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”