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May 26, 2008

Favorite Analogy of the Night

Posted: 01:06 AM ET

I am always striving to find analogies to explain the challenge of navigating a spacecraft more than 400 million miles and landing in an ellipse 40 long and 15 miles wide.

Well the head of space science for NASA – Ed Weiler came through for me (as he often does) with this one: It is like hitting a tee shot in Washington and making a hole-in-one in Sydney.

Thanks Ed. Helps history majors like me understand what rocket science is all about.

- Miles

Filed under: Mars • NASA • Space

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Ijaz   May 26th, 2008 1:27 am ET

I am an Indian. I am proud of everyone at NASA for this monumental achievement.

We all learn from this and hopefully find our true place in this universe

Bob   May 26th, 2008 2:00 am ET

Wow! I haven't heard that one since the MER landings and Pathfinder before that and Viking before that. Way to go guys. You picked another parking lot. Using Weiler's analogy, people will now think Mars has the most boring golf course in the Universe. Instead of blowing money on new toys, why don't you take the money and buy some more like you already have and take some real risks as to where you put one of these things. Thanks to MER and now Phoenix, we've all seen flat, dull and boring.

michel whissell   May 26th, 2008 2:39 am ET

lol i find it interesting that CNN dosen't mention that the cargo on the phoenix is $30 millions of canadian cargo ๐Ÿ˜‰ lol

give us a little credit CNN ๐Ÿ˜‰

neecy   May 26th, 2008 3:13 am ET

My Dad said he heard somebody give another great analogy, that it was akin to an archer shooting a needle up in the air, and having it come down to earth and in the process be threaded by someone holding a thread 90 miles away!

Charles   May 26th, 2008 3:27 am ET

Hope you find evidence of life on Mars. Congrats on your success. Perhaps we can engineer our offspring, as well as that of other species, fauna and sustanance, to be able to adapt to the Martian environment and migrate. Our sustainability on this planet is in a perilous downward spiral.

henderson aka txtj   May 26th, 2008 5:04 am ET

meanwhile back on earth it still sucks ,.how bout sending bush to mars n his evil price goughing imps with him.,jmo im sure
repubs pave the road to hell ,.they never had good intentions

Kyle B. Peterson   May 26th, 2008 7:03 am ET

Wow. It is either very late or in the celebrating you've started to get drunk: either way, I've never seen so many grammatical and spelling errors in a professional article (however unprofessional blogs are). Don't take that as an insult though. Whichever it is (exhaustion or inebriation), you and all the folks that made this happen deserve it. Thanks so much for this glimpse into an incredible day.


Pete   May 26th, 2008 11:02 am ET

Look at all the money wasted in times like these on space exploration.
how much would it help the economy if that was injected into the economy. its not like anyone will be packing up and moving to the moon or mars anytime soon...and the planets will be there in another century to explore.

Jeff Belliveau   May 26th, 2008 11:45 am ET

"It is like hitting a tee shot in Washington and making a hole-in-one in Sydney" – except, well, it's not a golf ball it's a spacecraft. So, I guess it's like hitting a golfball from Washington, with an onboard propulsion system that can correct its trajectory, and making a hole-in one in Sydney. So, come to think of it, it's not like making a hole-in-one at all, but more like....

Gene   May 26th, 2008 12:01 pm ET

While these analogies sound impressive, they miss one key point: these people get to steer their golf ball during most of the flight. To me, it's more like putting the golf ball in a box, taking that box to the airport, flying it to Sydney, taking the ball out of the box and rolling it towards the hole from the edge of the green and just catching the lip of the hole (it was, after all, at the very edge of the area where they wanted to land it).

If only golfers had the luxury of steering the ball after they've struck it from the tee...

Boyu   May 26th, 2008 12:10 pm ET

We don't need an analogy. What NASA has done is more than anything we can compare to on earth.

Dave   May 26th, 2008 12:37 pm ET


Apparently you don't understand the intent of the mission. The intent is to find water. As for risky landing sites, it doesn't make a lot of sense to spend a lot of money and time to send a vehicle to Mars and lose the mission by landing on a boulder. If you don't land successfully, you might as well stay home.


What a great life you must lead.

gypsycam   May 26th, 2008 1:07 pm ET

I've heard many people talk about wasting money on this mars trip especially at a time when the world has so many people starving and there's so much turmoil... I tell them to shut the **** up because without someone taking charge and helping us to understand the next generation of science then this world will be like we're always stuck in 2nd gear.
half a billion dollars is a small price to pay for quantum advances in knowledge.

JocularJohn   May 26th, 2008 1:21 pm ET

It is an amazing feat, and in the grand scheme of the federal budget .5 billion I guess isn't that much. Still NASA could do a better job relating the significance of the mission to citizens' everyday lives. Cute analogies and statements like "I'm surprised it was just what we expected" invite different interpretations, such as handing out $10 to 50 million people and having them rip them simultaneously, just to see if it could be done.

Jeff Belliveau   May 26th, 2008 5:06 pm ET

I can't believe that the "head of space science for NASA " came up with such a faulty analogy. This is nothing like hitting a golf ball at all, and you wouldn't want it to be. You absolutely need to be able to make corrections during the flight out. I guess all the good people are going to private industry.

Beaver   May 27th, 2008 12:28 pm ET

You miss the point of the analogy folks...

Getting this spacecraft to where it is now is as difficult as making that golf shot.

It wasn't intended to mean NASA didn't steer the craft. Even with propulsion to make course corrections, this was a very difficult feat. Way to go NASA!

Jeff Belliveau   May 27th, 2008 3:52 pm ET

Well, yes, the point of the analogy is obviously that the flight was difficult. It's just a poor and misleading anology. You could say it's like making a thousand dollars in an afternoon at a neighborhood lemonade stand – that wouldn't be a very insightful analogy either.

I love the science and exploration part and think NASA did a great job – PR people saying dopey things annoy me though.

Dave   May 27th, 2008 5:35 pm ET

Missions like this fuel innovation and discoveries that do affect our every day lives. You have space missions to thank for cordless tools, ear thermometers, smoke detectors, cardiac pacemakers, and scratch resistant glasses just to name a few. We should all be proud and grateful for the things NASA programs have given us. There are very few places that our taxdollars can be better spent.

paramjitsangha   May 28th, 2008 12:19 am ET

I am proud of NASA & Phoenix Science Team for this achievment successfully.

Beaver   May 28th, 2008 2:44 pm ET

Jeff, I agree that your analogy of the lemonade stand is a poor one as it has nothing to do with what NASA accomplished. I don't think the golf shot analogy was poor and misleading. It is ultimately about taking an object and moving it a very long distance against incredible difficulties.

Perhaps you have a better analogy...

Jeff Belliveau   May 28th, 2008 3:51 pm ET

It's like riding a bike from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge and ending up at exactly the Golden Gate Bridge. The hard part is making it at all – not that you made it to the exact spot you intended. Accuracy is only a relevant measure of success on an unguided trajectory.

By the way, I'd say kudos go to to Lockheed Martin and the subs more than NASA

Beaver   May 28th, 2008 4:12 pm ET

Not bad...

It would probably be even better if the bike was remotely controlled with limited visibility and perhaps the same amount of communication lag that the controllers of the spacecraft had to deal with. (On second thought, that might start getting too technical for a good analogy.)

And I agree, kudos to everyone who had a hand in making this happen.

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