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Last night, early this morning, I sat before two computer monitors, watching Curiosity mission control at the California Institute of Technology. I watched the final three hours of that eight-month journey, a journey spanning a distance of 350 million miles, begun last November. I watched the flight simulator on one screen, and the scene at mission control on the other. I literally held my breath when the MSL spacecraft plunged into the thin Martian atmosphere. But everything went as planned, and the sky-crane assembly gently set Curiosity down in the dust of Aeolis Palus, at the northwestern corner of Gale Crater, in the shadow of Aeolis Mons. And now we will see still more wonders from that wondrous world. Because of, you know, science. I watched as the first thumbnail test photographs were received, including this one:



But this is the photograph, taken by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, that I can't stop looking at, the rover and its parachute gliding above a Martian landscape during the final moments of the descent (enlarged on the right):



On July 21, 1969, when I was five, my mother made me watch Neil Armstrong's first walk on the lunar surface. "You'll always remember this," she said. I saw that, and forty-three years later, last night, I saw an even greater step. We fight wars, and we murder, and we squabble over bullshit, and we despoil, when humanity is capable of such marvels. This is the paradox and tragedy of mankind. But, for now, I'm only going to consider the marvels.

---

Yesterday, the house became so hot that neither Kathryn or I could get anything done. We were both becoming ill from the heat, and never mind all that shit I'd just written about not getting anything done. It was in the low nineties in my office. With two air conditioners and several fans running throughout the house (wasting electricity). So, we left for Conanicut Island. As we headed south, the sky around us filled with huge thunderheads. But fuck it. The air was cool and clean. By the time we reached Beavertail, the sky was an angry purple black, but the wind was heavenly. People were flying fantastically designed and colorful kites. The surf was dashing itself violently against the shore as the tide began to rise. It wasn't the smartest thing we've ever done, true, but Kathryn and I climbed down into our cove and swam in the rough, incoming tide, below those darkening skies.

In the gathering gloom, we saw something that had, previously, always escaped our attention, a seemingly phosphorescent species of seaweed. Red-brown stalks ending in glowing blue bulbs, clinging to the submerged phyllite boulders. I swam down to about five feet, where the glow was brighter. Turns out, it was – apparently, maybe, possibly – Irish moss (Chrondrus crispus). Unless it was something else. I suck at seaweed identification, and we didn't take a specimen. Anyway, the cove's geography was spectacularly different than what I am used to seeing. The rocks that are usually only just barely exposed were towering spires. The sea cave connecting that cove to the next north was traversable (to one more intrepid than am I). I let the icy water wash me about for an hour or so.

Then, climbing out, Spooky smacked her left foot on the rocks and appears to have broken two toes. They're swollen and greenish blue.

We left Beavertail about 7:30 p.m. An early evening was coming on. But, even after that cold water, the wind felt good on my wet skin. There was a fog rolling in from the south, and Point Judith, thirteen miles to the southwest, which is normally visible, was lost to view.

And now I'm going to read over Chapter One of Fay Grimmer, because tomorrow I begin Chapter Two. I have a doctor's appointment at six this evening, so I should hustle.

Snail Hustling,
Aunt Beast

Comments

( 11 comments — Have your say! )
ashlyme
Aug. 6th, 2012 06:16 pm (UTC)
Photos like this - and the phosphorescence of seaweed - they're worth calling "awesome". Science gives us so much more than gods ever will.

I'm glad the sea helped. Rather less so about Spooky's toes. Take care, both.
sovay
Aug. 6th, 2012 06:46 pm (UTC)
I let the icy water wash me about for an hour or so.

I am glad you had Mars and the sea. I could not watch all the descent, but I saw the first photographs come in. I hope Spooky's toes heal quickly.
(Deleted comment)
witchchild
Aug. 6th, 2012 07:01 pm (UTC)
Owwww, sympathies to Spooky.
Marc D. Goldfinger
Aug. 6th, 2012 07:07 pm (UTC)
Imagine if we
Just imagine if humanity put all the energy we use for war and transformed it into space travel. We squabble over the ruins when we could fly to the stars instead. Warren Ellis--his Ministry of Space, Ignition City & Orbiter--to name a few--reminds me of my childhood--I thought we would be on Mars by now--building cities to launch ourselves further--.Hope Spooky's toes recover quickly--Sounds like a nice day in the water.
aarongp
Aug. 6th, 2012 08:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the Curiosity photos. They are breathtaking. I am hoping I will some time tomorrow to go through the NASA website more thoroughly.

We fight wars, and we murder, and we squabble over bullshit, and we despoil, when humanity is capable of such marvels. This is the paradox and tragedy of mankind.
I can't say it better myself, so I won't even try.

but Kathryn and I climbed down into our cove and swam in the rough, incoming tide, below those darkening skies.
Sounds wonderfully apocalyptic.

Hope your return to FG goes well and that it hasn't gone too cold on you.
dipsomaniac
Aug. 6th, 2012 08:44 pm (UTC)
Spooky smacked her left foot on the rocks and appears to have broken two toes.

Ouch. Sorry to hear this and hope she isn't in too much pain. Sounds like a good day otherwise. No photos yesterday? I looked up the strange seaweed, pretty neat.

With record high temps all across the country I wonder about how dependent we've become on air conditioners, and worry what will happen when they all give out. Mine runs constantly and never reaches the temperature I have it set at during the day.
corucia
Aug. 7th, 2012 01:20 am (UTC)

'Confessions' showed up today - it looks a beauty, and the chapbook is equally wonderful!
Kathie Leavis
Aug. 7th, 2012 02:45 am (UTC)
We fight wars, and we murder, and we squabble over bullshit, and we despoil, when humanity is capable of such marvels. This is the paradox and tragedy of mankind. But, for now, I'm only going to consider the marvels.

So sad, but no truer words have been spoken about us.I hope that Spooky recovers quickly.
esanko
Aug. 7th, 2012 04:35 am (UTC)
See, this post exemplifies why I pray we don't lose your LJ blog- people DO read it- not as many, apparently, but damn, girlfriend- photos of Curiosity landing, glowing seaweed, storm clouds, poor Spooky's toes, rebooting Fay Grimmer- life could be worse! Thank you so much for sharing with us- been with you since the Red Tree, my cyberfriend. Trust me, supercool hot authors whose work is- odd... and who are brilliant and scathingly insightful and share themselves with us, the readers, AND who love dinosaurs are far and few between. Trust me.

Have you seen the new sabertooth herbivore Tiarajudens eccentricus in the new Nat Geo?

mataar
Aug. 7th, 2012 05:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you for posting those photos! I especially loved the one of the rover and parachute, descending.

The box from Sub Press reached Denver with the morning mail. The Yellow Book is lovely, and Confessions is gorgeous! Looking forward to curling up with the latter this evening.

New kitten looks precious, of course. Hope Spooky's toes heal speedily!
( 11 comments — Have your say! )