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Old 07-31-2012, 02:32 PM  
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With Mars mission and rover Curiosity, NASA hunts building blocks of life

http://www.washingtonpost.com/nation...ALX_story.html

The last time the United States landed a mission on Mars to look for extraterrestrial life or its building blocks, Gerald Ford was president and the nation had just finished celebrating its 1976 bicentennial.

Next week, the long-delayed second attempt will try to deposit a rover on the planet’s surface.

The descent and landing in the early hours of Aug. 6 will be the most complex and hair-raising in planetary history. The destination is a deep crater with a three-mile-tall mountain that NASA could only dream about using as a landing site until very recently.

It’s the most ambitious, the most costly ($2.5 billion) and the most high-stakes mission ever to another planet. It was also described last week by the agency’s top scientist, former astronaut John M. Grunsfeld, as “the most important NASA mission of the decade.”

“There is no doubt that this is a risky mission, and that is coming from a human-spacecraft guy,” Grunsfeld said. “It’s hard to get something this big and complex to the surface of Mars, and then to get it to start roving. Thousands of people around the world working on it will be feeling their lives are riding on the mission landing successfully. We’ll all know soon if the risk was worth it.”

What the Mars Science Laboratory mission and its rover named Curiosity bring to Mars is a capacity to analyze the planet with much more sophistication than before, and to do it over a sizable and scientifically rich expanse.

The goal is not to find Martian life per se but rather to ferret out carbon-based organic compounds that are building blocks of life, and then to determine whether the Gale Crater landing site was ever suitable for creatures. Both are integral parts of the science of astrobiology — the search for life beyond Earth.

A fully loaded SUV

At 10 feet long and seven feet high at the top of its camera mast, Curiosity is the size of an SUV and weighs almost a ton, about three times more than the Spirit and Opportunity rovers sent to Mars in 2003 on a primarily geological mission. Its robotic arm for digging soil and drilling rock is seven feet long, almost three times longer than previous rover arms. This tool will provide more and better samples for the lab’s instruments, which will do their analysis on Mars and send back the results to scientists here.

Curiosity will have numerous ovens to bake soil and rocks up to 1,800 degrees and analyze what comes out; it will have a laser zapper to free up potentially important targets in rocks; it will have cameras with unprecedented capabilities, including one that will take video of the last several minutes of the high-drama landing, now dubbed “seven minutes of terror” by NASA.

Getting to Mars, and especially landing on it, is difficult. Forty-four missions — flybys, orbits and landings — have been sent to the planet by NASA, the former Soviet Union, Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and China, and about one-third have made it. All six successful landings were flown by NASA. (A Soviet capsule made a soft landing in 1971 but then sent back only 14 seconds of data, so it is not considered to have succeeded.)

Curiosity’s descent — after a voyage that began last Nov. 25 and covered 354 million miles — will be particularly stressful because the weight of the spacecraft required a new landing technique. The capsule containing Curiosity will enter the atmosphere at 13,200 mph and have less than seven minutes to slow down enough to drop the rover gently onto the surface of the planet.

Much of the technology is new or being used in a novel way and, while the component parts have been tested and retested, the landing as a complete sequence has never been tried. “Actually, the landing will be our first test that the systems can work,” said the project’s chief engineer, Robert Manning.



But the risk goes beyond the difficulty of the landing and the complexity of Curiosity’s 10 major instruments. That’s because Curiosity will land just as Congress and the administration debate a plan to slash NASA’s Mars and planetary programs significantly. NASA officials and Mars aficionados hope the rover will make discoveries that will limit the cuts, while knowing that a crash landing or failed instruments could further curtail the programs.

“I think a major discovery by Curiosity, such as finding the building blocks of life or any other indication of life, would certainly lead us to reconsider our science approach at Mars,” said James Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Sciences Division. “Why? Because if there is, or was, life on Mars, then we’d have to assume life is everywhere in the galaxies. We would have to rethink our place in the universe.”

‘Our place in the universe’

One reason that NASA has not sent a life-detecting mission to Mars in so long is that the first one came back with very disappointing results. The twin Viking landers touched down in 1976 with great anticipation that not only the building blocks of life but also life itself would probably be found.

Instead, the Viking mission found a cold, desert planet that came to be seen as virtually incapable of supporting life. While one life-detection experiment using nutrients brought to Mars and tagged with radioactive carbon did show positive results several times, NASA officials and other scientists concluded that those findings were most likely in error. More disheartening, the instrument designed to identify organic molecules came back with a finding of “no organics.” Without organics, virtually all scientists say, there can be no life.

But in the past decade, NASA scientists and others have produced evidence that the planet was once much warmer and wetter. They know, for instance, that the Gale Crater site was once covered in water, and they know that it has minerals and clays that can be formed only in the presence of water.

In addition, NASA astrobiologist Michael Mumma reported in 2009 finding plumes of methane gas erupting at specific spots and at predictable times on Mars. More than 90 percent of methane on Earth is formed as a byproduct of biology, from cows’ digestive systems and rotting trees to the life cycle of tiny microbes. It remains unknown whether some of the methane on Mars also comes from biological sources.

And finally, a paper in May from Andrew Steele of the Carnegie Institution of Washington identified organic material in meteorites known to have fallen to Earth from Mars. An expert in the contamination of rocks that fall to Earth from space, Steele concluded that some of the organic material he found was clearly not from Earth, and so it either came from Mars or was picked up by the meteorite as it flew through space.

Climbing the mountain

Combining the promising new science about Mars with the capabilities of Curiosity, NASA science chief Grunsfeld said he considers it likely that organic materials will be found this time. Gale Crater is a much more promising site than the plains where the Viking landers did their work, and Curiosity has more than 35 years of improved technology and know-how.

The rover will also be the first to approach, analyze and then partially climb a Martian mountain. The layered outcrops of what has been named Mount Sharp will provide a geological history of the crater and perhaps the planet, and so are an integral part of the Curiosity mission.

Geologists will be looking at those layers to determine when water was present in the crater, whether it moved like a river or was like a lake, what elements and compounds were in the soil and air, and even what temperatures and other atmospheric conditions existed. The lead scientist for the rover is John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology, and he is a geologist.

“We have never had an opportunity even close to this on Mars before,” he said, referring to the exposed and “readable” cliffs of Mount Sharp. “We’re just waiting with bated breath.”

An additional Curiosity goal is to learn more about how to protect astronauts who may someday fly to Mars. The landing of a large vehicle is part of that learning curve, but so too is Curiosity’s radiation assessment detector, a toaster-size instrument that will measure and identify high-energy and potentially harmful radiation on the Martian surface, such as protons, energetic variations of common elements, neutrons and gamma rays.

The Curiosity mission is scheduled to last for another two years, but it could continue much longer if funding becomes available. The rover’s power source is a nuclear battery that, if all goes according to plan, could move the rover and keep it warm for years longer.

There is precedent for prolonged rover missions: The Spirit and Opportunity rovers were designed to operate on Mars for 13 weeks, but Spirit sent back information until 2009, and Opportunity is still traveling. So if the landing succeeds and the rover and instruments work as planned, Curiosity might be telling us about Mars for years to come.
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Old 08-07-2012, 10:55 AM   #256
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It's not really the politicians fault. They are not going to sacrifice their careers for science. For a possibility.

It's on us. Look at these threads. There is always someone making a comment about it being wasted money. Until our society agains values science we cant expect politicians to make them.
How about we spend money on science instead of on government cheese, which is damn near half our federal budget? If we weren't paying people to be layabouts for decades, what might we have achieved?
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Old 08-07-2012, 10:57 AM   #257
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Step One for any phase of humanity has been, "How do we survive?" Step Two is, "How do we kill anyone we don't like?"
Well that explains why we had the Lounge before we had DC.
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High Tech is Sorcery and the people who are really powerful are literally telling people to commit crimes using the psychic interspace created by the WWW and Wireless. They are controlling peoples actions like drones . The two things are deeply intertwined. The more man's brain interfaces with machines the creepier it gets. They use brains separate from a human body in a supercomputer and you have The Image of the Beast. The military has been doing this since the 50s

Last edited by Dave Lane; 08-07-2012 at 01:02 PM..
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Old 08-07-2012, 11:38 AM   #258
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Not necessarily. One of the plans over the years had no intention of returning to Earth. It was always envisioned as a one-way trip.
Well, I meant landing on the surface and returning to the orbiting craft, but I did consider the one-way option. Problem is, to sustain life in space for months to get there, you already have to build a self sustaining ecosystem so you might as well come back... Unless they can manage to land it on the surface and turn it into stage one of a base.
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Old 08-07-2012, 11:48 AM   #259
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NASA releases low-res video of Mars rover descent



PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — NASA's Curiosity rover has transmitted a low-resolution video showing the last 2 1/2 minutes of its white-knuckle dive through the Martian atmosphere, giving earthlings a sneak peek of a spacecraft landing on another world.

As thumbnails of the video flashed on a big screen on Monday, scientists and engineers at the NASA Jet Propulsion let out "oohs" and "aahs." The recording began with the protective heat shield falling away and ended with dust being kicked up as the rover was lowered by cables inside an ancient crater.
It was a sneak preview, since it'll take some time before full-resolution frames are beamed back depending on other priorities.

The full video "will just be exquisite," said Michael Malin, the chief scientist of the instrument.

NASA celebrated the precision landing of a rover on Mars and marveled over the mission's flurry of photographs — grainy, black-and-white images of Martian gravel, a mountain at sunset and, most exciting of all, the spacecraft's white-knuckle plunge through the red planet's atmosphere.

Curiosity, a roving laboratory the size of a compact car, landed right on target late Sunday after an eight-month, 352-million-mile journey. It parked its six wheels about four miles from its ultimate science destination — Mount Sharp, rising from the floor of Gale Crater near the equator.

Extraordinary efforts were needed for the landing because the rover weighs one ton, and the thin Martian atmosphere offers little friction to slow down a spacecraft. Curiosity had to go from 13,000 mph to zero in seven minutes, unfurling a parachute, then firing rockets to brake. In a Hollywood-style finish, cables delicately lowered it to the ground at 2 mph.

At the end of what NASA called "seven minutes of terror," the vehicle settled into place almost perfectly flat in the crater it was aiming for.

"We have ended one phase of the mission much to our enjoyment," mission manager Mike Watkins said. "But another part has just begun."

The nuclear-powered Curiosity will dig into the Martian surface to analyze what's there and hunt for some of the molecular building blocks of life, including carbon.
It won't start moving for a couple of weeks, because all the systems on the $2.5 billion rover have to be checked out. Color photos and panoramas will start coming in the next few days.

But first NASA had to use tiny cameras designed to spot hazards in front of Curiosity's wheels. So early images of gravel and shadows abounded. The pictures were fuzzy, but scientists were delighted.

The photos show "a new Mars we have never seen before," Watkins said. "So every one of those pictures is the most beautiful picture I have ever seen."
In one of the photos from the close-to-the-ground hazard cameras, if you squinted and looked the right way, you could see "a silhouette of Mount Sharp in the setting sun," said an excited John Grotzinger, chief mission scientist from the California Institute of Technology.

A high-resolution camera on the orbiting 7-year-old Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, flying 211 miles directly above the plummeting Curiosity, snapped a photo of the rover dangling from its parachute about a minute from touchdown. The parachute's design can be made out in the photo.

"It's just mind-boggling to me," said Miguel San Martin, chief engineer for the landing team.

Curiosity is the heaviest piece of machinery NASA has landed on Mars, and the success gave the space agency confidence that it can unload equipment that astronauts may need in a future manned trip to the red planet.
The landing technique was hatched in 1999 in the wake of devastating back-to-back Mars spacecraft losses. Back then, engineers had no clue how to land super-heavy spacecraft. They brainstormed different possibilities, consulting Apollo-era engineers and pilots of heavy-lift helicopters.

"I think its engineering at its finest. What engineers do is they make the impossible possible," said former NASA chief technologist Bobby Braun. "This thing is elegant. People say it looks crazy. Each system was designed for a very specific function."
Because of budget constraints, NASA canceled its joint U.S.-European missions to Mars, scheduled for 2016 and 2018.

"When's the next lander on Mars? The answer to that is nobody knows," Bolden said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

But if Curiosity finds something interesting, he said, it could spur the public and Congress to provide more money for more Martian exploration. No matter what, he said, Curiosity's mission will help NASA as it tries to send astronauts to Mars by the mid-2030s.
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High Tech is Sorcery and the people who are really powerful are literally telling people to commit crimes using the psychic interspace created by the WWW and Wireless. They are controlling peoples actions like drones . The two things are deeply intertwined. The more man's brain interfaces with machines the creepier it gets. They use brains separate from a human body in a supercomputer and you have The Image of the Beast. The military has been doing this since the 50s
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Old 08-07-2012, 12:15 PM   #260
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NASA releases low-res video of Mars rover descent



Well, honestly, since there's really no frame of reference in the shot it's kinda boring.
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Old 08-07-2012, 01:11 PM   #261
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I think it would be great if someday, they could land a craft somewhere near an existing camera (set up in a previous mission obviously) so we could see that sucker coming in. It'd be awesome footage.
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Old 08-07-2012, 02:08 PM   #262
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Scene of a Martian Landing

The four main pieces of hardware that arrived on Mars with NASA's Curiosity rover were spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured this image about 24 hours after landing. The large, reduced-scale image points out the strewn hardware: the heat shield was the first piece to hit the ground, followed by the back shell attached to the parachute, then the rover itself touched down, and finally, after cables were cut, the sky crane flew away to the northwest and crashed. Relatively dark areas in all four spots are from disturbances of the bright dust on Mars, revealing the darker material below the surface dust.

Around the rover, this disturbance was from the sky crane thrusters, and forms a bilaterally symmetrical pattern. The darkened radial jets from the sky crane are downrange from the point of oblique impact, much like the oblique impacts of asteroids. In fact, they make an arrow pointing to Curiosity.

This image was acquired from a special 41-degree roll of MRO, larger than the normal 30-degree limit. It rolled towards the west and towards the sun, which increases visible scattering by atmospheric dust as well as the amount of atmosphere the orbiter has to look through, thereby reducing the contrast of surface features. Future images will show the hardware in greater detail. Our view is tilted about 45 degrees from the surface (more than the 41-degree roll due to planetary curvature), like a view out of an airplane window. Tilt the images 90 degrees clockwise to see the surface better from this perspective. The views are primarily of the shadowed side of the rover and other objects.

The image scale is 39 centimeters (15.3 inches) per pixel.

Complete HiRISE image products are available at: http://uahirise.org/releases/msl-descent.php.
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Old 08-07-2012, 02:23 PM   #263
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Scene of a Martian Landing

The four main pieces of hardware that arrived on Mars with NASA's Curiosity rover were spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured this image about 24 hours after landing. The large, reduced-scale image points out the strewn hardware: the heat shield was the first piece to hit the ground, followed by the back shell attached to the parachute, then the rover itself touched down, and finally, after cables were cut, the sky crane flew away to the northwest and crashed. Relatively dark areas in all four spots are from disturbances of the bright dust on Mars, revealing the darker material below the surface dust.

Around the rover, this disturbance was from the sky crane thrusters, and forms a bilaterally symmetrical pattern. The darkened radial jets from the sky crane are downrange from the point of oblique impact, much like the oblique impacts of asteroids. In fact, they make an arrow pointing to Curiosity.

This image was acquired from a special 41-degree roll of MRO, larger than the normal 30-degree limit. It rolled towards the west and towards the sun, which increases visible scattering by atmospheric dust as well as the amount of atmosphere the orbiter has to look through, thereby reducing the contrast of surface features. Future images will show the hardware in greater detail. Our view is tilted about 45 degrees from the surface (more than the 41-degree roll due to planetary curvature), like a view out of an airplane window. Tilt the images 90 degrees clockwise to see the surface better from this perspective. The views are primarily of the shadowed side of the rover and other objects.

The image scale is 39 centimeters (15.3 inches) per pixel.

Complete HiRISE image products are available at: http://uahirise.org/releases/msl-descent.php.
That's really cool. I'd like to know the distances between them all.
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Old 08-07-2012, 02:45 PM   #264
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That's really cool. I'd like to know the distances between them all.
These are pretty raw images at present. When the hype settles, they will start putting scales on the images.
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Old 08-07-2012, 05:41 PM   #265
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Scene of a Martian Landing

The four main pieces of hardware that arrived on Mars with NASA's Curiosity rover were spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured this image about 24 hours after landing. The large, reduced-scale image points out the strewn hardware: the heat shield was the first piece to hit the ground, followed by the back shell attached to the parachute, then the rover itself touched down, and finally, after cables were cut, the sky crane flew away to the northwest and crashed. Relatively dark areas in all four spots are from disturbances of the bright dust on Mars, revealing the darker material below the surface dust.

Around the rover, this disturbance was from the sky crane thrusters, and forms a bilaterally symmetrical pattern. The darkened radial jets from the sky crane are downrange from the point of oblique impact, much like the oblique impacts of asteroids. In fact, they make an arrow pointing to Curiosity.

This image was acquired from a special 41-degree roll of MRO, larger than the normal 30-degree limit. It rolled towards the west and towards the sun, which increases visible scattering by atmospheric dust as well as the amount of atmosphere the orbiter has to look through, thereby reducing the contrast of surface features. Future images will show the hardware in greater detail. Our view is tilted about 45 degrees from the surface (more than the 41-degree roll due to planetary curvature), like a view out of an airplane window. Tilt the images 90 degrees clockwise to see the surface better from this perspective. The views are primarily of the shadowed side of the rover and other objects.

The image scale is 39 centimeters (15.3 inches) per pixel.

Complete HiRISE image products are available at: http://uahirise.org/releases/msl-descent.php.
I've been so busy since I stayed up for the landing and haven't been able to check NASA's site. Thanks for posting Planet "Mars" Man
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Old 08-07-2012, 06:58 PM   #266
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Meh,... Only because of the Iranian dude in a mohawk.

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Old 08-07-2012, 07:07 PM   #267
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Holy shit!

Hey Donger, according to NASA's website, there is going to be a longer and more detailed video of the landing. Just FYI.
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Old 08-07-2012, 07:09 PM   #268
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I've been so busy since I stayed up for the landing and haven't been able to check NASA's site. Thanks for posting Planet "Mars" Man
Always happy to help out a fellow space freak.
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Planetman Forgot to Remove His Claytex and Got Toxic Shock Syndrome.Planetman Forgot to Remove His Claytex and Got Toxic Shock Syndrome.Planetman Forgot to Remove His Claytex and Got Toxic Shock Syndrome.Planetman Forgot to Remove His Claytex and Got Toxic Shock Syndrome.Planetman Forgot to Remove His Claytex and Got Toxic Shock Syndrome.Planetman Forgot to Remove His Claytex and Got Toxic Shock Syndrome.Planetman Forgot to Remove His Claytex and Got Toxic Shock Syndrome.Planetman Forgot to Remove His Claytex and Got Toxic Shock Syndrome.Planetman Forgot to Remove His Claytex and Got Toxic Shock Syndrome.Planetman Forgot to Remove His Claytex and Got Toxic Shock Syndrome.Planetman Forgot to Remove His Claytex and Got Toxic Shock Syndrome.
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Old 08-07-2012, 07:10 PM   #269
Donger Donger is offline
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VARSITY
Quote:
Originally Posted by Planetman View Post
Hey Donger, according to NASA's website, there is going to be a longer and more detailed video of the landing. Just FYI.
Yep, I know. Bandwidth limitations and priorities.
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I think the young people enjoy it when I "get down," verbally, don't you?
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Donger is obviously part of the inner Circle.Donger is obviously part of the inner Circle.Donger is obviously part of the inner Circle.Donger is obviously part of the inner Circle.Donger is obviously part of the inner Circle.Donger is obviously part of the inner Circle.Donger is obviously part of the inner Circle.Donger is obviously part of the inner Circle.Donger is obviously part of the inner Circle.Donger is obviously part of the inner Circle.Donger is obviously part of the inner Circle.
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Old 08-07-2012, 08:14 PM   #270
Fish Fish is offline
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LOL....

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SarcasticRover ‏@SarcasticRover
Every where I turn, this stupid crater looks like Spectacle Rock in Legend of Zelda. Just want to go home.

SarcasticRover ‏@SarcasticRover
Is the PRIME DIRECTIVE "Don't interfere with alien life" or "Murder alien life with a laser"? Asking for a friend. JK DO A SCIENCE!

SarcasticRover ‏@SarcasticRover
I'm just gonna do a science on this dirt here… Science done! It's made of dirt! WIN FOR SCIENCE! Why did you all abandon me?

SarcasticRover ‏@SarcasticRover
LET'S ALL DO A SCIENCE!! It's like sports for your mind - only no one appreciates you and maybe you get a chemical burn!

SarcasticRover ‏@SarcasticRover
I sent back 5MB of data to Earth today… it was an MP3 of "Bust a Move" by Young MC. LOL THEY HATE THAT SONG!

SarcasticRover ‏@SarcasticRover
If they'd let Michael Bay design me like I wanted, I'd have a robot penis and spinners. And everyone on this planet would recognize!
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Fish is obviously part of the inner Circle.Fish is obviously part of the inner Circle.Fish is obviously part of the inner Circle.Fish is obviously part of the inner Circle.Fish is obviously part of the inner Circle.Fish is obviously part of the inner Circle.Fish is obviously part of the inner Circle.Fish is obviously part of the inner Circle.Fish is obviously part of the inner Circle.Fish is obviously part of the inner Circle.Fish is obviously part of the inner Circle.
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