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  Field Notes From
Mars Revisited

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From Author

Oliver Morton

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 Brian Strauss


Mars Revisited

Field Notes From Author
Oliver Morton

Best Worst Quirkiest
    The Mars scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey's Flagstaff campus used to be clumped together in a rather dreary and somewhat dilapidated building. Now they have an airy new building with some of the most beautiful views I've ever seen: floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the San Francisco Peaks. The building is named after one of the great astrogeologists, Eugene Shoemaker, who died about seven years ago. It was lovely to see this great building dedicated to him, though I have to say I felt envious of such a beautiful place to work. 

    I was traveling from Tempe to Flagstaff, Arizona, when the bus driver parked at a rest stop and simply refused to drive any further, leaving us stranded for four hours in the cold mountain air in the middle of the night. She claimed that two of the passengers were being abusive and that she was afraid to continue. I'm not sure why she thought it was a good idea to be stuck at a rest stop if the passengers were so dangerous. But it was hardly a cosmic level of hardship. In fact, it was a rather interesting experience, involving some good old-fashioned community building. We were all terribly good friends by the time we finally reached Flagstaff.

    As a citizen of the United Kingdom, I find it's more difficult to get into some NASA centers these days than it was in the past. While understanding the need for security, it's sometimes hard not to be a bit irked by it, too. Then when I was at the NASA Ames Research Center, where a lot of Mars research goes on, I happened to look out the window during an interview and see Air Force One trundling down the runway. The White House tends to use the landing strip; President Bush was on his way back from his trip to the U.S.S. Lincoln. So I figured maybe sometimes they're not being paranoid about security after all.


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