Wednesday, August 29, 2012

AI (part 2) - How Curiosity got our groove back

Mars and Syrtis Major

Free  - Free
A trip 
To Mars
For 900 
Empty jars


This ditty is a bit of nostalgia.

Burma-Shave was a brush-less shaving cream company, started in 1925.  Eventually, the company was sold to Philip Morris in 1963 and faded from our consciousness.  But Burma-Shave has left its mark in Americana for its clever advertising jingles displayed on highway signs.
(reference:  Feeling nostalgic? Now you'll rave! Here's the story of Burma Shave)

Yes, back in 1955 Burma-Shave did offer a free trip to Mars as a promotional gimmick as shown in the ditty above.  (reference:  Burma-Shave jingles 1955)  

But the company did not count on one determined man, Arliss French, from Appleton, Wisconsin to take them up on it.  Mr. French gathered those 900 empty jars.  And Burma-Shave did keep their word and sent Mr. French and his wife to Mars.  Only it was spelled - Moers (pronounced "mars") and it was in Germany, that is.
(reference: Snopes - True)

Burma-Shave's jingles and sending a customer to Mars (though in Germany) in 1955, two years before Sputnik, attest to American Ingenuity (AI).

This humorous story also shows the fascination we have had with the Red Planet. Just google "Mars."  (Speaking of Google, as we have Google Earth, we have Google Mars.  Enough said.)   But according to the Science Fiction of the 1950s, we are long overdue in sending men to the Mars - check out:  Mars Science Fiction.
The future isn't what it used to be ...
Neil Armstrong in 1969

On the topic of space travel, one of the heroes of American Ingenuity and Exceptionalism is Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, who passed away recently (August 25, 2012).

Though quiet many years after the moon walk, Neil Armstrong emerged in 2010 to speak out against the changing direction of NASA as its budget was being slashed and the Space Shuttle mothballed.
(reference: PICKET: Flashback - Neil Armstrong criticized Obama's space plan - Washington Times)

These cuts coincide with last few years when belief in American Exceptionalism and American Ingenuity has been shaken. The $16 trillion debt, high unemployment, deep recession, diminishing world influence lead to the conclusion that America is in decline.
(reference: Is America A Nation In Decline? - Forbes)

One columnist, Craig Shirley, laments the death of Neil Armstrong with the death of American exceptionalism as political elites seem to question that notion. Our clear sense of right/wrong and good/evil have been replaced by "moral equivalency."  Shirley writes that as a young boy, John F. Kennedy inspired him, but as a middle-aged man, Barack Obama dispirits him.
(reference:  Armstrong and the Death of American Exceptionalism)

American Ingenuity and Exceptionalism dead?

As Americans mourn the passing of Neil Armstrong, earlier in the month of August, NASA has breathed new life in the American spirit by the success of the Mars mission  - Curiosity.

SciFi icon William Shatner -  "Captain Kirk" -  narrates the sophisticated technical maneuvering to navigate this rover successfully to the Martian surface.  Below, he details the "Grand Entrance" as it was planned to happen when touching down on Mars - 

And here is what really happened,  August 5, 2012 -


White House Science Adviser John Holdren said in a post-landing briefing:

"If anybody has been harboring any doubts about the status of US leadership in space, there is a one-ton automobile sized piece of American ingenuity, and it is sitting on the surface of Mars right now."
(reference:  New York Times - Curiosity Rover Lands Safely on Mars )

Maybe the Mayans were wrong, and 2012 is not the end of the world (only kidding, but check out this link:  2012 End-of-the-World Countdown Based on Mayan Calendar Starts Today - ABC News)
.... but a turning point.

Curiosity is the boost we need 
* to get our groove back *
 and this video below gives a well-deserved victory dance.

What a magnificent tribute to the men and women who pioneered the space program ...

especially a tribute to Neil Armstrong, who personifies 
the spirit of American Ingenuity!


Some (of numerous links) to Curiosity:

Neil Armstrong, Curiosity And The Challenge Of The Endless Frontier (August 26, 2012)

The Coolest Thing on Earth: Looking Around Mars on Your Phone - Robinson Meyer - The Atlantic (August 15, 2012)

Mars | Seeing Red: 40 Years of Exploration on Mars | Science and Space |    (August 2012)


Previous post in his series:

AI (part 1) - American Ingenuity  (2012)


Previous posts on this subject:

For want of a thermistor the Moon was lost .... 41 years ago  (2011)

October Sky 2010  (2010)

Moon Walk - 40 years ago (2009)


Photo from WikipediaMars, Neil Armstrong

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