Tag Archives: Jupiter

Opportunity declared dead; mission more than accomplished

That had to be the longest 90 days in human history.

A machine that landed on Mars 15 years ago was intended to be on duty for three months. Then the rover named “Opportunity” just kept on collecting data.

Yes, for 15 years the rover traipsed across the Martian surface sending data back to NASA scientists who had launched the ship.

Opportunity went silent eight months ago. NASA tried for most of the past year trying to awaken the rover. It was unable to do so.

This week, NASA “called it,” declaring Opportunity officially dead. The space agency won’t try any more to resuscitate the machine.

Mission accomplished, Opportunity

I have to say that as much as I love the notion of human beings traveling into space, I am mighty impressed with the work being done these unmanned probes that NASA launches.

They fly into the sun, they orbit Venus and Mercury, they fly to the farthest reaches of our solar system, probing Jupiter and Saturn, the asteroid belt. They send back amazing data and make incredible discoveries — such as evidence of water on Mars!

Opportunity performed its mission . . . and then some!

All that said, I hope I am still around to watch the first human beings thrown off from Earth and toward Mars.

That, I believe, would be a seriously “giant leap for mankind.”

Waiting for mission to Mars

My late father looked forward to welcoming the 21st century.

He didn’t make it, falling about 20 years short of his goal.

Accordingly, I have my own life goal. It is to welcome the launch of the first manned mission to Mars — or to wherever the Orion spacecraft is going to take human beings.

NASA launched an unmanned Orion craft from FloridaĀ the other day. It flew two orbits around Earth and then splashed down successfully in the Pacific Ocean. I found myself holding my breath as the Delta rocket lifted off in that agonizingly slow climb off the launch pad — reminiscent of the Saturn V rockets that took Apollo astronauts to the moon.

So, the first launch was a success.

What now? NASA will continue its research and will eventually send humans into Earth orbit aboard the Orion, perhaps within the next three years or so.

They’ll perform various tests on Orion to ensure that its gadgets work correctly. Once they’ve made that determination, they’ll prepare to send astronauts into deep space.

I’m not talking a mere quarter-million miles, the distance to the moon.

Oh no. I’m talking several tens of millions of miles to Mars, or perhaps to Jupiter to explore one of the giant planet’s moons. The missions will last many months.

I so badly want to be around to watch those missions blast off. I want to relive the thrill that the Mercury and Gemini missions would bring to my mother and me as we’d awake in the wee hours and wait through interminable delays and mission “scrubs.” Technical glitches would develop. Then it would be the weather. Then more glitches. But they’d launch eventually and Mom and I would cheer theĀ astronautsĀ as they soared into orbit.

The Orion launch the other morning whetted my appetite.

After all, exploration is what human beings do.


Thrill returns at rocket launch

A curious feeling came over me this morning as I watched the television screen.

A rocket took off from a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Fla. It was carrying — on its maiden flight — the Orion spacecraft. The Delta rocket roared to life, spewing flame and roaring like a thousand freight trains, and then it lifted off slowwwwly into the sky.

I began muttering under my breath: Come on, come one, come on.

Then I realized something. I was smiling broadly, ear to ear. I was feeling a thrill similar to what I had watching astronauts blasting into space aboard their Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and space shuttle craft.


Hey, this was a big launch today.

Orion is being developed as the United States’s long-range vehicle that eventually will carry astronauts into deep space. I’m talking about Mars. Or perhaps to one of Jupiter’s moons. Or maybe to an asteroid.

It flew two orbits around Earth this morning, then splashed safely and on target into the Pacific Ocean.

Mission accomplished.

I’ll admit to being a sap when it comes to space flight. I’ve wept at the sight of rockets launching and at the sight of spacecraft re-entering the atmosphere. Heck, I’ve watched the film “Apollo 13” about, oh, 20 or 30 times and I still get misty when Jim Lovell tells NASA ground controllers that the spacecraft is coming home safely after that harrowing rescue mission in April 1970.

Orion’s first manned flight is years away. Its maiden voyage to the great beyond is even farther into the future.

I hope to be around to watch it take humans into our solar system. Yes, I’ll be crying.