A recent comment from a reader about her 2-1/2 year old grandson’s reaction to watching a National Geographic show about the Mars Rovers and Mars Phoenix Lander (and his creative suggestion about how to save Spirit) reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write about my 4 year old friend Jack and his obsession with Mars.
It seems to have started about 9 months ago during a long drive, where we filled the time by talking about space. He seemed especially enthralled with my description of Mars, and the rovers really captured his imagination. We had really poor reception, but managed to download a few images on my iPhone, and he studied them intently for the whole trip. I later heard from his mother that all he talked about after that trip was Mars, Mars, Mars… and he seemed to remember everything I had told him (of course, sufficiently altered by a 4 year old’s memory, but still amazingly accurate).
Of course, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity (no pun intended) to mold a young geek’s mind, so I ordered him a copy of 5 Years on Mars, the National Geographic DVD on the first five years of Spirit and Opportunity’s mission. Little did I know that this would mean sitting with Jack to watch the DVD every time we were to together (and each time, he watches it with the same intense concentration, absorbing every detail for the 100th time). I have no doubt that he could pick Scott Maxwell or Steve Squyres out of a crowd!
Against my better judgement, I order him a model rover, entirely inappropriate for 4 year old hands, but a wonderful way for him to visual the workings of the rovers. Of course, I also ordered one for myself, and his became Opportunity and mine was Spirit (he seemed to prefer that it was mine that was stuck, and his would come and rescue me). The model has actually held up pretty well, with most parts still intact, but one of the solar panel is definitely dipping downward (out of fairness to Jack, most of the damage was done when Mom dropped it).
I can’t think of any other NASA mission capable of striking a nerve with your geeks the way story of Spirit and Opportunity has. Does anyone else have stories about kids and the Mars Rovers? I’d love to hear from you.