Saturday, January 17, 2004

Mars stuff

Maas Digital created the almost life-like animations of the Mars rover Spirit for the NOVA special Mars, Dead or Alive. You can watch the entire show here, or you can see (or even download) just the animated bits here.

For years after the Pathfinder mission, I tried to find realistic models of the Sojourner rover. I wrote to most of the engineers who worked on the project, and though they weren't able to direct me to the data I wanted, they were kind enough to share more information about how the rover worked than I was getting from the media. I finally found out that the reason I couldn't get detailed specs on the rover was that NASA had sold all of the design representation rights to Mattel. Mattel decided to release a fucking Hot Wheels version of the thing that wasn't at all representative of the actual rover, then they sat on the design. (Their propaganda said that the toy "recreates the real robot's distinctive, six-wheeled, 'rocker- bogie' locomotion system"... which it does, in much the same way a cardboard box recreates the experience of a space ship for a small child.) I've written back and forth between Mattel and a number of model manufacturers, to see if some sort of deal could be worked out, to no avail. Score another one for the gray and faceless men.