Last night I went to nasa.gov, hunting for information about the Genesis landing. Genesis is a cool project, designed to capture material from the solar winds, and embed it in all sorts of materials running the gamut from diamonds to jewels.
Yesterday, the Genesis sample-gatherer came down to earth. The plan featured a particularly Jonny Quest style of descent. A parachute deployment was supposed to slow the craft. Then stunt pilots were going to try to grasp the sample thing in mid-air, before it landed.
The plan went awry. The parachute never opened. The video is really fascinating. You see the spinning sample-collector, descending. It flivvers here, it flovvers there. Then THUNK! It thunks right into the Utah desert.
I read the statement from the mission control folks that they plan for this contingency, and they'll still try to salvage as much data as possible. I noted that the person who wrote the very consequence-savvy FAQ inadvertently left off "Q. What if Genesis flivvers and flovvers without the parachute opening, and then goes THUNK in the Utah desert?".
I know I should feel some sense of failure that the data-collector had a hard landing. But somehow I feel a little thrill anyway.
a. thrilled that the internet video reminds me of an out-take from Forbidden Planet;
b. thrilled that that Utah desert looks just like an alien planet from Lost in Space;
c. thrilled that the landed object looks pretty good for something that flivvered and flovverd and thunk at high speed;
d. thrilled that NASA posts less than perfect news on the internet for all to see;
e. thrilled that I finally figured out how to get the NASA website t take me to the Genesis portions, and stop Buzz Aldrin from talking (also, thrilled that I know that Buzz Aldrin did something irritating once in the media, but that I no longer remember what it was that he did).
f. thrilled that we explore space with little satellites; and
g. thrilled to live in this early chapter of the great science fiction novel of our civilization.
I wish the parachute had deployed, but maybe next mission.
I love being a lawyer--don't get me wrong. I'm good at being a lawyer, which suggests I should be one even if I did not love it.
But I see things like this, and I wish, a little, that I had been good at calculus and mechanics, and that I was in a lab or university even as we speak, unlocking secrets and making things flivver and flovver and thunk. It need not be space objects--ants or lasers or protozoa would do. My goodness--even teaching Astronomy 101 would probably do.
Because when it all shakes out, the flivver and flovver and thunk is part of a great thing, a wonderful search. I love watching every desert-thudding minute of it.
I have not been to Utah in years. Now I want to go again.