I was probably about 7 years old when I first got acquainted with the Red Planet, the God of War, Mars. I still remember molding the surface of Mars with clay on my science project at school, including biospheres later and humans in spacesuits (I assumed someday, I would be one). The project was for an interschool competition (I wondered why there were other students with Moon’s surface when clearly there was an even more intriguing Mars). Many years later, when I was still in school, we had a quiz questionnaire about Spirit and Opportunity, which if we got right, could get us a chance to be one of few going to Mars, we had to be students then, as by the time research caught up, we’d be the right age to be the first to land on Mars (I was so certain, it had to be me, that I inked “Land on Mars” on my study table that very day). Many years later, during my undergrad, it was time for Curiosity, and I was fascinated by the rover construction, its special parachute design, and oh the countless documentaries I watched! Learning what failed and how the scientists got to redesigning again, resilience and solution finding was probably inherent to scientists, I wondered. I knew little about the spectral imaging tools then (of which, I now know better, can’t still imagine how they managed to fit a mini version of an entire lab into a rover). I was probably as anxious for the “7 minutes of terror” of Curiosity’s landing as the scientists then. And naturally, the topic I chose for Science Presentation, was on “Mars and questions on the presence of lifeforms”. The permafrost, tributaries, mountains, the mini-magnetospheres, interesting features that made me wonder if Earth might become Mars one day too.
Little did I know, that someday I would work with spectrometers too, different materials, different planets, but with the same Curiosity to know more.
I didn’t know I’d encounter Mars again, until only last year, when I was dazzled by the life-size model of InSight Lander at Focus Terra, ETH, Zurich. We can actually detect Marsquakes now! And yes, probably our probe is stuck only inches deep instead of several feet, it for sure enlightens us on what we didn’t know. And we’re still slowly inching our way in.
And in the passage of time, I probably missed out on this as I got caught up analyzing materials on Earth synthesized in labs, but yesterday was just such a wonder! It brought back all the fond memories of Mars, of what got hooked me into Science to even begin with. After listening to Victor Luo’s talk on Walking on Mars, organized by Worldwebforum and ETH, I actually did, Land on Mars (at least virtually through HoloLens)! Thanks to the wonderful work done by Victor Luo and his team, on rendering 200,000 images into a 3D model you can actually walkthrough in, check out more information here: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/take-a-walk-on-mars-in-your-own-living-room and feel free to walk through Martian surface here: https://accessmars.withgoogle.com/
Paradigm shifts and merging of technologies in the field of science continues to amaze me, and I wonder how many other Mars encounters I would probably have in the future. I certainly do wish for more! But for now, I can at least strikeout, “Land on Mars” that was inked on my study table more than a decade ago. And will go looking for morse code spelling out JPL on Curiosity’s rover tracks as I immerse myself into Martian lands.
Curiosity Selfie (stitched together from 57 individual images), Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS