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Three Months on a Red Planet
Jamais Cascio, 18 May 04

What's it like to spend three months on another world? Ask the Mars rovers. NASA has created movies of the activities of both Spirit and Opportunity entitled "90 Sols in 90 Seconds' -- a "sol' being a planet's rotation period (planetary scientists use this term to distinguish another planet's rotation period from a "day," which is the 24 hour Earth rotation period). The movies -- each a 5 megabyte .mov -- are frantic black & white recaps from the main rover cameras.

I know I won't be getting to Mars any time soon, so clips like this give a fun "you are there" sensation. Some WC readers disagree with me on this, but I strongly believe that extra-planetary exploration is a useful part of a greater understanding of planetary evolution, and ultimately helps us figure out how to prevent human activities from kicking off unrecoverable non-linear environmental changes. Mars may be red, but the study of it is a nice subtle shade of green.

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