Friday, February 10, 2012

Reason #130: Interplanetary Commerce

When geologists take photos in the field, a common practice is to add a well-known object into the image to retain a sense of scale - a rock hammer, perhaps, if it's a small area, or a person for large areas.

When NASA's new Mars rover Curiosity lands on Mars this August, after nine months in space, it will have on board a gen-u-wine 1909 "VDB" penny, one of the first Lincoln pennies, for the exact same reason. The penny will be part of a general calibration plaque, pictured above, to give scientists a sense of lighting conditions, relative shapes, etc.

While everything we send to Mars is obviously an Earthly object, I love the idea of such a mundane Earthly object being there as well. It will be cool to see how its appearance evolves after a couple years of Martian weather. Maybe oxidation works backwards over there, and we can send the Statue of Liberty next.

(Side Note: for the next four weeks, I am conducting a survey of visitors to this blog. Whether you're a regular reader or this is your first time, I'd love to hear from you - just follow this link. This notice will accompany every post this month, with Saturday, March 3rd being the final day to participate. Thanks for reading!)

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