Thursday, July 9, 2009

Martian version of "Were's Waldo" (where did the lander splatter in 1999?)

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRISE site has a challenge posted to ask for help in solving a mystery of the lost spacecraft. Back in December 1999, the Mars Polar lander vanished when it was making it's final approach for landing on Mars. I remember it well, I was watching streaming video at work that day anxiously watching coverage to hear that he lander made it. A totally clueless coworker walked by and asked what I was looking at. "I'm watching the Mars landing, we almost have another lander on the surface!" I replied. He then said, "Are there people landing on Mars?". I bit my tongue, and gently said "No." Afterwards, I think I had to leave the building, go in the back alley and scream and kick stuff in my frustration with stupidity that I had just witnessed. Hopefully, as a Solar System Ambassador now, I can clear up some of this cluelessness - or at least I'm trying!
Anyway, JPL is asking for help. Download the photos and search for anything that looks like a pile of wreckage on the surface. Probably has ice on it, and maybe a parachute could be seen somewhere but this is still a mystery. The lander most likely had a problem where it though it was near the surface, but wasn't there yet, and dropped from the chute too soon and splattered all over the ground. I don't know if there is a reward for who finds it, maybe you get the crater named after you? If that is the case, someone needs to find it before Steven Colbert!

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