Mars rover Curiosity with an astronaut bird (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
NASA should have made it mandatory for the key members of its Mars-Curiosity mission to not clip their fingers nails for at least two weeks before counting down to this weekend.
Something tells me that as its most advanced mission to the red planet prepares to land in less than two days many of the mission scientists will need quite a bit to chew on out of sheer nervous tension. For some two hours before the spacecraft lands, the mission control will stop communicating with it because that’s the time it will be operated by its onboard computers drawing on its over 500,000 lines of code.
As it enters Mars’ thin atmosphere the heat shield will go up to protect the payload, meaning Curiosity, from melting away in the close to 2000 degree C. heat generated by the entry. As the probe goes down along the precise trajectory calculated by NASA scientists it will have to decelerate from 13,000 miles an hour to zero as its touches the Martian surface in seven minutes. Since the Martian atmosphere is much thinner than Earth’s, the drag on the landing probe is much less and, as a result its descent, to use a highly scientific term, crazy fast.
Essentially from the time of its entry to the touchdown the mission control will have no clue whether their mission has made it or they have just blown up $2.5 billion on an audacious space adventure. Since it takes close to 14 minutes for the radio signal to travel to Earth from Mars, the mission control will have to wait that long chewing their nails. Hence my suggestion that not clipping nails two weeks prior to any major landing be made mandatory. Or the other option could be that they all be given industrial grade pacifiers or chewy chicken burgers. In case you do not realize I am only kidding.
Speaking of chewy chicken burgers, it strikes me as weird that in a week where Americans should be unreservedly cheering on NASA scientists, many of them instead chose to engage in something deliberately obscurantist. Hundreds of thousands of them lined up to eat fat-rich chicken burgers in an show of solidarity against gay marriage.
For those of you outside America unlikely to know or care about, here is a little background. Chick-fil-A is one of America’s most popular fast food chains famous for its lard laden chicken sandwiches and fries made in the famous Southern American style of cooking.
The chain’s president, Dan Cathy, an avowedly conservative Christian, told a radio show recently, “We’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage. And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude that thinks we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about.” He reaffirmed those comments saying “guilty as charged” in comments to The Baptist Press and asserted that he is “supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit.”
Cathy’s comments set off a firestorm of protest among liberal and gay rights groups. It is not as if Cathy’s observations should have come as a surprise to anyone because he is known to be deeply religious in his views about everything in life. But since the views were expressed in the politically charged atmosphere of presidential election they landed right into the theater of the absurd putting on several shows everyday across the country.
Not to be deterred by the liberal and gay protests conservative Christians responded to a hurriedly put together “Chick-fil-A appreciation day’ on Wednesday so that those opposing gay marriage can come out in force and eat in inordinately large numbers at various Chicken-fil-A restaurants as a mark of solidarity. Television news channels showed serpentine lines outside many restaurants of people waiting to get their hands and mouths greasy.
I find it odd that those who gorge on genetically modified chicken that is used in most such meals are upset that gay marriage “shakes a fist” at god. I hope they do realize that chickens “created” by the same god, if you believe in such things, have been more than genetically messed around with to make them meal worthy. However, despite the appearance, there is no contradiction here because many conservatives believe that life in the lower orders such as chicken is meant to serve the needs of humans. So it’s all good for them, including the genetically modified corn that looks so shiny ivory.
It would have been so much better if someone had also thought of Sunday as “NASA appreciation day” as it prepares for the seminal landing on early Monday morning. Let that someone be me. It is so declared. You are not required to do anything other than perhaps spending a minute or two to read about or watch the landing. As far as I can tell there is no Chick-fil-A on Mars. So bring your own food to the party.