3 August 2012
As we draw closer and closer to Curiosity’s landing, I can’t help but think that there are some important similarities between landing on Mars and having a baby. Before you ask: no, I don’t actually know what it is like to have a kid. For that matter, I also have never experienced the landing of a Mars mission that I have been involved with. But in both cases, I know enough people who have been through it before to have some inkling of what it must be like.
1. You can’t truly prepare
Of course, you try. You spend hours reading up on how to deal with your new arrival. Maybe you even take classes/training with others who are expecting. As you draw closer to the due date, you try to clear other obligations off of your calendar so that you can spend all of your time with the baby/rover once it arrives.
But if we’re being realistic, no amount of preparation can prepare you for the real thing. As the time left dwindles, the reality of what you have gotten yourself into sinks in. And then it happens. It is terrifying and emotionally draining, but if all goes well, in the end you have a brand new baby/rover, ready to experience a new world.
Of course, as the parent/team member, you feel completely unprepared for the responsibility that has suddenly been placed upon your shoulders, but somehow you learn as you go, and eventually you find your stride again. Depending on the child/rover, this can take a while.
2. Constant paranoia
Once the baby/rover has arrived, you as the parent/team member discover a new emotional state of being that is a balance between pure happiness at what you have created, and crippling paranoia at what might happen to your little angel at any minute. The most minor hiccups have you rushing to the phone to call the doctor/engineers. Your baby/rover seems so fragile and weak in a hostile world, but gradually you learn that they can do really amazing things if you give them the chance.
3. Lack of sleep
Your bouncing bundle of joy seems to function on a circadian rhythm unlike any normal earthling. You find yourself awake at hours you had almost forgotten existed. For the first few months, the days blur together as your sleep cycle becomes completely detached from the rest of the world. Gradually, you learn how to get normal amounts of sleep at normal times of the day while still tending to your baby’s/rover’s needs, but your ability to sleep soundly has been forever altered.
You can’t stop taking pictures and sharing them with your friends and family. They are genuinely happy to see the first three or four of these pictures, but they quickly lose interest. You, on the other hand are so overwhelmed by your love for the baby/rover, that you cannot imagine other people not being equally infatuated, so you continue sending pictures and posting them to facebook, long after everyone else has lost interest.
Along the same lines as the pictures, you also feel the need to share every “first” with the world. When your baby/rover learns to lift its head, you tell everyone. When it crawls for the first time, you tell everyone. Then it starts teething/drilling rocks, you tell everyone. Every little milestone is invested with such emotional baggage that you can’t not share it. Eventually your baby/rover runs out of “firsts” and really gets down to business being cute/roving mars, and everyone is happier.