Saturday, January 24, 2004


by Wayne Robins

Spirit, the Mars rover, has been sending back weird messages the last few days, and NASA's experts say they are confused.

"For two days it transmitted only gibberish or sporadic beeps to acknowledge commands from Earth," according to the Associated Press. On Friday controllers said they had begun to hear from it again, but it still wasn't working properly. Project manager Pete Theisinger at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory worried that "the chances that it will be perfect again are not good and the chances that it will not work again are also low."

The consensus here at Wayne's Words is that Spirit, the first of two $820 million rovers sent to Mars, is working just fine.

The rover has been seized by Martian dudes. The signals sent by Spirit aren't gibberish; they are in Martian, which no one at NASA, apparently, knows how to speak.

This is standard procedure for U.S. ventures to faraway lands. When we sent troops to Vietnam, none of our soldiers, spies, diplomats or politicians could speak Vietnamese. The single greatest hazard faced by our troops currently in Iraq is that they are unable to communicate with the Iraqis, since almost no American soldiers even know the proper hand gestures or facial expressions for communicating in the Middle East, much less speak even a smidgen of Arabic.

Why the U.S. would send nearly a billion dollars worth of sophisticated paramilitary equipment and cameras and stuff to Mars without sufficient military power to maintain their safety is shocking, and totally not awesome. Would you take your new digital camera/cell phone and just leave it on a street corner, or on the floor in a mall, or in a booth in a diner? Duh! Of course you wouldn't. Someone would take it. With so much of our military tied up in Iraq, there weren't enough troops to send to Mars to take care of our valuable and cool rover, and protect it from the very people we sent it to free, the Martians.

Martian dudes no doubt spotted the rover, said, "cool!," and are no doubt attempting to download "Spongebob and Squarepants" episodes from the same communications satellites that bring us so many of our TV shows. The messages they are sending to mission control in Pasadena go something like: "What channel is Nick At Nite?" But our rocket scientists, unschooled in Martian lingo, just don't understand.

The rover, according to AP, "began to malfunction on Wednesday, nearly three weeks after landing on the planet's Gusev Crater." Gusev (or Gus, to those who knew him) is the Martian translation of "Joseph". Joseph (Gusev) Crater was better known as Judge Crater, the New York City judge who disappeared on August 6, 1930. He told people he was going to the theater, and hasn't been seen since. So maybe the Martians aren't using the rover to watch TV. We believe that Judge Crater has been the supreme ruler of Mars since October 31, 1930. He has sent his minions to capture the rover, and has silenced it in order to continue to protect his privacy.

(c) 2004. Wayne Robins. All interplanetary rights reserved.

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