Sagan Saga and the Mars Rover Mystery

Mars, 1997: NASA's Mars Pathfinder mission in the summer of 1997 trilled the world as an inexpensive "faster-cheaper-better" satellite deposited a lander, dubbed Sagan Station in deferance to the late astronomer Carl Sagan, on the surface of Mars. Then the Sagan Station lander, guided by a Power-based computer, directed the Mars Rover, dubbed Sojourner, on trips across the Martian landscape. Extreme cold eventually brought this amazing saga to a close.

And through it all, silence from IBM and Apple. IBM, which made the Power chip at the heart of Sagan Station, and Apple, the largest user of Power-derived chips, such as the PowerPC 601, 603, 604, and "G3" chips used by Power Macintosh computers, said nothing. Not a word was spoken by either company about the thrilling adventures of their digital kin on a distant planet.

Lost marketing questions aside, there is also the mystery of the Mars Pathfinder mission's eventual end. The Sagan lander and Sojourner rover did better than expected, but the sudden loss of contact was, just the same, a blow. Some have suspected Martians (NASA's previous Mars mission came to a sudden end just before the satellite reached the planet; a victim of Martian defense forces?), while NASA has claimed extreme cold and violent weather.

But there is another possibility: bad taste in music. Carrying on a tradition dating back to the Mercury and Gemini flights, NASA Pathfinder engineers "woke up" Sagan Station and the Rover every day with "appropriate" music. And after looking at the list of songs played, you, too, may conclude that Sagan Station and Sojourner just got tired of listening to this...

Mars Pathfinder-Sojourner Rover Wake-up Song List

Sol Song
4 "The Final Frontier"
Paul Reiser, Don Was (Theme from "Mad About You")
5 "Three Little Birds"
Bob Marley
6 "In The Mood"
Glenn Miller (with live accompaniment by Chief Engineer Rob Manning)
8 "Coisinha Do Pai"
Brazilian Samba
12 "You've Got a Friend"
Randy Newman
13 "Follow You, Follow Me"
Genesis
14 "Also Sprach Zarathustra"
Richard Strauss (Theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey")
17 "Roll to Me"
Del Amitri
18 "Let the Good Times Roll"
Ray Charles
19 "So Far Away"
Dire Straits
20 "Life in the Fast Lane"
Eagles
21 "Ride of the Valkyries"
Richard Wagner
22 "Wild, Wild Life"
Talking Heads
23 "Theme from Rawhide"
Blues Brothers
24 "Radar Love"
Golden Earring
25 "Wise Up"
Bim Skala Bim
26 "Dreams"
Van Halen
27 "I'll Be There For You"
Rembrandts (Theme from "Friends")
28 "Long Distance"
Kinks
29 "Learning to Fly"
Pink Floyd
30

"The Way You Look Tonight"
Frank Sinatra

"Fantastic, That's You"
Louis Armstrong

[Two songs for the 30th day]


32 "Love Me Like a Rock"
Paul Simon
33 "You've Made Me So Very Happy"
Blood, Sweat and Tears
34 "Let Your Fingers Do the Walking"
Sort Sol
35 "The World is Waiting for the Sunrise"
Gene Lockhart (father of June Lockhart of "Lost in Space")
36 "Obscured By Clouds"
Pink Floyd
37 "Where the Streets Have No Name"
U2
39 "Mars Rovin'"
Tempus Fugit and the Time Travellers


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lic Sunday, January 11, 1998