Spirit & Opportunity

(Christmas on Mars: “True color” 360 image from Opportunity rover.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell)

NPR had an update on the Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, today while I was driving around for the day job.  Every time I hear about these adorable machines, I get choked up.

I know, I’ve admitted elsewhere that Iam’s dog food commercials make me cry, so my emotional triggers are suspect at best, but truly, the Mars rovers — at least as much as puppies — are worth every sniffle.  I think it’s because I relate so much.  Not just because they are weird little robots, but because their journey echoes that of the aspiring author.

1.  Some said they couldn’t (or shouldn’t) do it.
NASA takes so much shit, I’m surprised they haven’t blasted off for the stars and left us nonbelievers behind.  Some people think such exploration is a terrible waste when there is so much need here at home.  Some people say that about writing too.  Spirit and Opportunity are about pursuing a goal everybody else thinks is pointless or too hard.  So there.

2. They were supposed to be dead by now.
Originally on a few months mission, they’re into their sixth year now.   Did I mention so there?

3. The frozen, radioactive, dessicated landscape looks a lot like the publishing world.
I imagine it would be so easy to give up, whether you’re a trundling rover facing the Martian winter or the scientist watching the dust settle on the solar panels.  But you’re looking for those precious signs of water, of life, and so you do NOT give up.

4. Finding people who believe in and support you makes a difference. 
If they happen to have billions in the budget, that’d be cool too.  But cheering is every bit as wonderful.

5. It’s all about waiting.  And perseverance.
The rovers travel about 10 meters (about 30 feet) a day.  It takes them years to get to something that they can see on the horizon.  I don’t even have to explain that similarity to writing, do I?

6. In the end, you’re alone.
My writing desk might not be 36 million miles from Earth, but sometimes it feels like it.  And that’s not a bad thing.  I’m guessing there’s not a lot of laundry that needs to get done on Mars.

7. It’s enough just to inspire dreams.
Sure, maybe Spirit and Opportunity will learn something about the history of free-flowing water on the surface of Mars, but their real contribution is the excitement they conjure in my head and heart.  I hope my stories can do as much for someone else.

Sorry to get all maudlin, but those rovers just move me.


4 thoughts on “Spirit & Opportunity

  1. Have I told you yet how brilliant I think you are? It amazes me how you can take two seemingly unrelated items/events/whatever, draw an analogy, and make me go, “Yeah! She’s so right! And I totally get it!!!”

    And now I’m going to change my desktop image to Spirit. Or Rover. Or both, if I can find such a picture. 🙂

    • Sadly, Spirit is mired in quicksand salt at the moment. And doesn’t THAT just work for a writing analogy? They have high hopes of busting her out, though. Where’s a Martian when you need one?

  2. Okay, *you* choked *me* up. I’ve always been fascinated by those little guys. I’ve seen them as studious, determined and persevering, but I never realized I was so interested in them because of a feeling of kinship.

    So wonderful. So true.

    Process not product.

    • I’m glad the new Star Trek movie is doing so well. Rejuvenating our interest in space (basically, turning our focus upward and outward) can only be to the good, I think.


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