5 August 2012

Sol -1: Planetfest, and ChemCam team rocks the house

Posted by Ryan Anderson


Today I managed to start off getting a bit of work done, then headed down to Planetfest, where I helped out with the Google Mars station for a while, giving tours of Gale crater and answering questions. In the afternoon, I was on a panel moderated by Emily Lakdawalla with a bunch of other young scientists and engineers, talking about how we got involved in space exploration. The panel was really short so other than my intro I just got to spout some platitudes about learning as much as you can and seizing opportunities.

In the evening, I met up with the ChemCam team for a lovely pre-landing dinner. After dinner, Roger Wiens and Sylvestre Maurice, the two leaders of the instrument gave short speeches. I don’t have the exact quotes, but they touched on the ten years it has taken from when they first proposed the instrument to now, when MSL is literally falling toward the martian surface carrying ChemCam. They both encouraged us to have fun with the mission, and not to rush things at first. And they said, in case landing is not successful, to remember that exploring mars is fun and exciting as it is because it is very hard to do. If it was easy, it would already have been done. And they reminded us that JPL has the best people in the world at landing on other worlds.

Roger and Sylvestre give short speeches to the ChemCam team.

After the big group dispersed, some of us headed over to a nearby bar for karaoke. Nina did a great version of “Sweet Child of Mine” and Tony knocked “Hungry Like a Wolf” out of the park. When Jen encouraged me to sing something, I got her to promise to sing with me, and then put my name in for “Rocket Man”.

Tony rocks "Hungry Like a Wolf".

Jen and Nina singing and dancing along to someone else's song.

There was a long queue ahead of me, and the place got more and more raucous and enthusiastic as time went on, so by the time my name was called, there was hardly any room to stand up and be able to read the words. I tried to call the ChemCam folks up, but the whole place went nuts when they saw that I was doing Rocket Man, and everyone singing along pretty much drowned me out so I didn’t need backup. It’s a really fun song, and was especially fitting tonight. I even happened to be wearing my Yuri’s Night t-shirt, with a picture of ┬áthe original rocket man Yuri Gagarin on it. In the lull at the end of the song, I shouted into the microphone. I doubt most of the drunk people there heard me, or understood if they did, but my friends on ChemCam certainly heard and understood:

“We land on Mars tomorrow!”