Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country
of West Texas
Tuesday, December 7, 1999
By Smokey Briggs
I'm betting on
Well, I think the official score is Mars 3, Earthlings 0.
It looks like our latest attempt to explore Mars went the way of Murphy's
Law, low-bid government contracts and/or little green men.
In any case, the Polar Lander and both of it's Deep Space 2 microprobes
went "poof" a couple of days ago as they started flying around pretty close
to whatever Mars has for an atmosphere.
The boys at NASA are still listening,waiting for their super-expensive
radio-controlled gizmos to call home, but it looks like E.T. will be dialing
before the Lander calls.
Oh well, it's just 330 million dollars.
The General Accounting Office can loose more than that with the slip
of a finger on the old adding machine.
Considering the many spinoff technologies the space program has handed
us, the money is well spent even if we just miscalculated and shot the
Lander into the man on the moon's nose.
Of course, it does give a person a minute of pause to think about the
technology $330 million might buy - and our nation's love of technology
just for the sake of technology.
Sometimes we go a little overboard.
For example - in the early days of the space race between us and the
Russians, the engineers at NASA decided we needed a pen that would write
reliably in the zero gravity of space. According to reliable sources, we
spent about $1 million on developing this cool pen. And it worked great.
The Russians used a pencil.
But back to the lost Lander mission. I don't think all the hoopla is
about loosing the Lander and it's two probes. I think NASA is worried about
why it lost them.
Down at the coffee shop there are two leading theories: 1) the martians
shot them down , or 2) we goofed.
The spread is about 50-50.
The "we-goofed" crowd just points to the theory behind the two probes.
Both soft-ball size probes were supposed to slam into the surface of Mars
at 400 mph to test a new descent technique.
That was really the plan.
Softball, 400 mph, desert floor with rocks all over it. Blam.
Guess we know now how well that descent technique works.
Personally, I think it was the martians. They probably didn't mind the
Polar Lander whooshing around in their atmosphere but when we tossed those
softballs out the door we crossed the line. Proably started a war.
Our softballs exploded all over the Martian desert and then they zapped
the lander with a ray gun.
Sounds plausible to me.
Until the war starts and they have to reopen the airbase here in Pecos,
maybe we can send some economic development people to Houston to attract
some descent technique test contracts.
NASA can bring a sack full of these softball probes and chuck them out
the door at 15,000 feet.
I'll start a company and employ ten or twelve close friends to ride
around the desert on four-wheelers for $800 a day to find them and bring
the pieces back. NASA won't even blink at a measly eight grand a day and
think of the money they'll save on rocket fuel.
Not to mention getting the test results back within days rather than
having to wait till the rocket gets to Mars.
EDITOR'S NOTE:Smokey Briggs is the Editor and Publisher of the
Pecos Enterprise whose column appears each Tuesday. He can be e-mailed
Return to top
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Peggy McCracken, Webmaster
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
Associated Press text, photo, graphic, audio and/or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium.
We support Newspapers in Education
Copyright 1999 by Pecos Enterprise