30 May 2008

Phoenix Rock Names and Arm Animation

Posted by Ryan Anderson

Seems like all I do these days is link to the Planetary Society blog, but I’ve come to accept that. Check out these animated gifs that Emily put together of the Phoenix arm and bucket being unstowed!

Also, the science team has apparently named some of the rocks at the landing site. I never cease to be amused by the names that scientists come up with for rocks on Mars. At the rover meetings, every day there is a powerpoint slide with the list of names to choose from, based on some general theme. For a while the theme was “things you can eat in a bowl”. Seriously. As weird and whimsical as the names often sound, it’s important to name the rocks you’re studying. Otherwise you have to say “let’s take a closer look at that small rock next to the big rock at about 3 o’clock. Yeah. Right there by that dune. Wait, no, the other one.” And that’s not very efficient.

Anyway, here is an annotated image from Phoenix with some named rocks. The theme is fantasy and folktale names, and I’m happy to see that Humpty Dumpty, Alice, and Ichabod Crane are already represented.

Of course, while we’re on the topic of Alice in Wonderland, and naming things, it only seems fitting to end with this conversation between Alice and Humpty Dumpty. I think Humpty would have been all in favor of naming the rocks on Mars whatever we please.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean–neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master–that’s all.”