Gone to heaven

I've been watching this video of Perseverance landing on repeat since it came out yesterday:

What to feel when watching something like that?

Mostly wonder—face rightupclose to the monitor, nothing but Mars in view, imagining the ride down, imagining the feeling of swaying under the parachute, imagining the wait for the thrusters to kick in, imagining the silence at the end of the ride.

Some curiosity—watching the beautiful mad crazy machine work. What was the design meeting like when the direct shot at Mars + parachute + rocket pack + skycrane concept was pitched? Was there an open bar or what? Each of those systems and subsystems and pieces and subpieces and sequences and interconnections and pyros and cutters and sensors and monitors and so on and so on have one job and they have to do it—or else. They're so light but robust, exquisitely designed and built for that one ride to the surface. I can imagine the pause I would feel as I packaged the rover up for its journey to the launch site at Cape Canaveral—a pause that says without saying, "I hope I thought of everything".

Some insane jealousy—because I'm at the point in my career now where, although I'm not a space cadet anymore, I know several people on programs like this. I would give some of my favorite body parts to slang one of them rovers at Mars, or at another planet or moon or whatever.

It's not really jealousy—it's more subtle than that. It's that inner self-memory that knows the reason for getting into aerospace in the first place, and the feeling of closeness and distance from the once-imagined ideal of what it would be like, what I would be like. I don't think that with real jealousy I could enjoy these landings and rovings as much as I do. Give me a VR headset and some terribly boring panoramas of the deserts of Mars, and leave me alone for a few hours. I just want to sit there for a while and think of nothing, look at the hills, and feel the old urge to go see what's on the other side.


(I've also been listening to a lot of Pixies this week, hence the title, etc. A trip to Mars would be loud (launch) quiet (cruise) loud (landing).)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.