Farewell, Neil – the adventure continues

I’m sure you’ve heard by now the very, very sad news that Neil Armstrong died last night. The word “hero” is over-used so often nowadays it’s lost some of its meaning, but Armstrong was exactly that, a hero, in every sense of the word. It’s very strange to think that we now live in a world where the first person to stand on the surface of another world is no longer with us. And very, very sad. I wrote more about this on my Cumbrian Sky blog, if you want to wander over there and have a read.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that many of us in the space exploration “community” are frustrated, and yes, angry, that the amazing journey and adventure which began with Neil Armstrong stepping onto the lunar surface didn’t continue, but stalled. As much as we love looking at the pictures sent back by Opportunity and Curiosity, that love is tinged with frustration. As fantastic as the rovers are, almost half a century after Armstrong stepped off the footpad of the Eagle lunar lander and pushed his boot down into the ashen lunar dust, surely we should be seeing images taken by the cameras of astronauts instead of robots. We really should be seeing video of people bounding across the surface of Mars today, bending down to gather rock samples, proudly holding stones up to the camera, and posing with Mt Sharp in the background. That we’re not is a result of many things, including a lack of money, a lack of politicians with vision and courage, and it’s very depressing to think that we might not see bootprints on Mars for another generation.

But today, as we mourn the passing of Neil Armstrong, let us remember how *amazing* the achievements of the Mars rovers – all of them, Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity and now Curiosity – have been and how they have transformed our knowledge of Mars. With no human beings due to even fly to Mars, let alone land on it, for many years, Opportunity and Curiosity are our “astronauts”, and they are continuing Armstrong’s work, and carrying out his wishes – that Mankind should expand out into space. They may not be made of flesh, and blood themselves, but they were made by people who were inspired by Armstrong. Through the missions of Opportunity and Curiosity, Neil Armstrong’s journey, and the incredible adventure that began with the landing of the Eagle on the Moon all those years ago, continues.

Farewell Neil, and thank you.

Now – onwards!

Curiosity has been busy with her laser again, that’s what it looks like from the latest images anyway. If you compare these “before” and “after” shots you’ll see five holes have appeared on the rock in question. Looks like Curiosity has been going all Han Solo up there!

So far today no new ‘landscape’ images have come back, but I have made some progress on coaxing detail out of those hideous dotty Bayered monstrosities. Turns out that the free software I use for sharpening up and boosting the images from Oppy – “Registax”, more usually used by amateur astronomers to process and enhance astronomical images taken through telescopes – has a “deBayer” function, allowing me to work on the Mastcam 100 images after all… Here’s what I got after my first clumsy, stumbling attempt…

Those awful green splashes are all over the hills, making it look as if the terraforming of mars is already well underway, and the surface around Curiosity appears to have been scattered with glittering emeralds or fragments of kryptonite by some kindly passing jewel thief. PLEASE will someone on the MSL team arrange for these beautifully detailed images to be released without the filtering? Cos seriously, if you don’t, you’ll be bombarded with tin foil hat-wearing NASA-hating conspiracy theory loving **nutters** emailing you insisting the pictures show lichen, moss or grass on Mars, and declaring you’ve been covering up the existence of life on Mars all along, as they’ve been saying…!

Until I can get to grips with the whole “colour” thing, I think I’m going to restrict myself to creating black and white images from these mutations, trying to pull geological detail out of them. Here’s what I managed to do last night -this, I like to think, is the picture Ansel Adams would take of Curiosity’s “Promised Land” if he was on Mars right now…

A lovely view, to be sure, but imagine you’re a geologist looking at that – how loudly will those layers, outcrops and ridges be calling out to you?!?!?!

Hopefully we’ll have *proper* colour views of this stunning terrain soon.


2 thoughts on “Farewell, Neil – the adventure continues

  1. Yasu says:

    It really is sad we haven’t went to Mars yet, when we were able to go to the moon just a decade after we went to space itself.
    I hope we’ll be going to the red planet soon, but I also really hope it’ll be from an international cooperation, like the ISS.
    It’s probably just a sentimental thing, but I don’t want countries going to Mars, I want mankind to go there. I also think the technological barriers won’t be broken with just one nation either.

    Also I just wanna say, thanks so much for processing all the photos from Mars!! I love looking at them on your blogs.

  2. After Magellan’s crew circumnavigated the globe for the first time, it took 80 years before the feat was duplicated by Francis Drake . . . representing a different nation.

    So if we figure that the 1969-1973 Apollo missions were analogous to Magellan . . . SO audacious, SO ahead of their time . . . then as long as we make it back to the moon by 2053, then our human space exploration program is keeping pace with our human ocean sailing program. (It’s worth noting that the first SOLO circumnavigation of the globe took place even as we were setting foot on the moon for the first time!)

    In the same way that Spain and Portugal yielded their pioneering exploration roles to England, I suspect that the United States and the Soviet Union will yield their space superiority to China, which will become the first great interplanetary power, just as England was the first great global power.

    Once Francis Drake made the second global circumnavigation, things took off rapidly toward commercializing what he had done and found. I am hopeful that the same thing will happen once the Chinese reach the moon. And until then . . . . I am VERY happy to walk alongside Oppy and Curiosity as they serve as our advance ambassadors!!

    Thanks, as always, for your great work on these blogs!

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