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  Field Notes From
A Mars Never Dreamed Of

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View Field Notes
From Author

Kathy Sawyer

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photograph by Washington Post

image: Earth
Studying the Face of Mars

Field Notes From Author/Photographer
Kathy Sawyer
One high moment was being able to sit at the Malin Space Science Systems’ computer in San Diego, where all the pictures of Mars are received. The scientists let me set up a target from the upcoming ground track and, with just a click of the mouse, I could zoom in for a picture targeted and that would be taken a day or so later. It is a very surreal experience because I felt like I was flying above Mars while looking at the computer monitor. It was a thrill to be one of the first on Earth to ever see some of the more dramatic and scientifically important images of Mars.
The deadline for this story to go to press was delayed about a month because we wanted to include the most up-to-date news. At the time, NASA was announcing changes to its Mars exploration program and releasing new observation about the planet, so that required a lot of rewriting. I was glad we were able to mention the new discovery that Mars, in its infancy billions of years ago, might have been a land of lakes.
Trying to keep up with changes was not quite as hair-raising as armed men attacking you or a hippo chewing on your jeep. But, being that Mars is another planet, you take what you can get.
The geology of Mars is extremely graphic and dynamic, so pictures of the planet are amazing. One of my favorite images was created by dust devils that move dust around, exposing a darker surface underneath in patterns of swirls and curlicues. These and certain other features in the images show random works of nature looking eerily as if there were artistic intent or design. Mike Malin, the lead scientist of Malin Space Science Systems, is even thinking about blowing up some of these images and making posters of them.

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