A View from Jeff Foust

Martian Language and Culture

No, this has nothing to do with little green men or other aliens. With the Mars rover missions about to enter their third month on the planet, it’s not surprising that the teams of scientists and engineers involved with the…

  • February 27, 2004

No, this has nothing to do with little green men or other aliens. With the Mars rover missions about to enter their third month on the planet, it’s not surprising that the teams of scientists and engineers involved with the missions have developed some interesting jargon and customs. For example, the Associated Press reported on how mission team members communicate with one another in a language that only vaguely resembles English. An example, from the article: “MER-A ratted Adirondack yestersol while solar groovy, even though it was high tau in Gusev.” While you might be able to understand, or guess at, some of the terms–“yestersol”, for example, refers to the previous Martian day, or sol–you’ll probably need to read the article to fully understand what that means.

Meanwhile, SPACE.com reports on the tradition to play wake-up songs in mission control at the beginning of reach rover’s day. NASA follows a similar tradition for space shuttle missions, playing a song each morning as the crew wakes, but in this case the songs are for the benefit of the controllers on the ground and not the rovers themselves. The choice of songs reveals the flight controllers have healthy senses of humor: the day they reformatted the memory on one rover that was experiencing computer problems, the sing choice was “Wipe Out”.

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