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“Some people, when confronted with a problem, think “I know, I’ll use regular expressions.” Now they have two problems”
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Did Martian MARIE leave any legacy?


>>Begin Update April 1st 2011:  I told you there are no conspiracies, just misunderstandings, and here is a partial proof:  I'd been re-checking the JPL MARIE google link every few days and this morning noticed something that I hadn't seen before, something now obvious.  In the upper left corner of is a list of links and one of them is to the Odyssey Mission.  I truly do not know how I could have missed that so many times. Click that link to get here, and then use the Mission>Technology menu to call up a list that includes MARIE.  On that page you won't get any results or conclusions from the experiment but you will get this great information:

"It stored large amounts of data for downlink whenever possible, and operated in orbit around Mars until a large solar event bombarded the Odyssey spacecraft on October 28, 2003. MARIE has been unable to collect data since that time, and engineers believe the most likely cause is that a computer chip was damaged by a solar particle smashing into the MARIE computer board. Odyssey engineers will attempt to turn on MARIE again in the winter of 2005, after enough time has passed that MARIE may have recovered itself, like it did during a similar incident during cruise."

I have not found any other mentions of a 2005 restart... yet.  But this, even without any detail on the results, was a happy find.

End Update April 1st 2011<<


As more years pass us by there's lotso bitchin' from loads of corners about Humans going to Mars.  It was, and supposedly IS the end-game of all of the "current" work.  But as we keep hearing of the big solemn Quest For Life, this supposedly bigger goal keeps fading behind the smoke.

I got my March 2011 issue of Spaceflight from the BIS yesterday and one of the cover stories was on the record breaking Mars Odyssey's Decade on Mars.  In the article there was a paragraph that struck me.. we had a science aspect called MARIE that was "the first experiment sent to Mars specifically to prepare for human missions."

What ever happened to MARIE?

I was surprised.

MARIE, the MArtian Radiation envIronment Experiment, was put onboard the 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft (yes, the name of the craft was in honor of Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey... the fiction that we all accepted in the 1960's showing almost-Regular Humans having regular access to LEO and beyond).

MARIE's job was to gather radiation data "to determine the radiation-related risks to any future human explorers who may one day journey to the red planet."

MARIE worked hard for a few years then stopped or was shut off; the magazine article just says "The payload's MARIE radiation experiment stopped taking measurements several years ago" and leaves it at that.  In fact, what I've already quoted was pretty much all there was about MARIE in the four full pages of small font text. So I went for what I thought would be a quick look at the NASA sites.

Google brings up the top link: "MARIE - Mars Exploration Program" which is this: .  What do you get from that?  I get a "Sorry, the server cannot find the file you requested" page with pretty picture links leading you:

1) The K-12 "Mars: Extreme Planet" page of scary reasons JPL thinks that humans who go should be ready to die

2) The "Pop Culture Mars" page which also gently leads the reader into realizing that all the possibilities of humans going are just silly kid stories

3) The "Mars in the night Sky" link which tells how much fun it is to get yourself deep into staying here and looking at the wonders of far away.

4) The "Send your name to Mars" page where you can sign up to add your name to a microchip that should be on the Mars Science Laboratory scheduled for a 2011 launch. "This is your chance to go to Mars!" says the page.

5) The final piclink is the metal martian bug image titles "Be a Martian" which leads to a nice, albeit K-6 targetted, Microsoft/Caltech Sliverlight twin-rover dedicated area full of clickable quickies about various parts of Mars with a  nice little Atlas app, stock footage of the Spirit and Opportunity parachute landing plans and, in the "oooookaaaaay department" acoustic guitarists strumming and singing songs about how our green valleys on Earth are pretty.

"Be a Martian" is ok, several years dated with no mention of the 2004 Phoenix lander or anything but ok.  The twin rovers have been great so they deserve a site even if it is frozen in the past.

There's one thing you might not notice on the Be a Martian area because it is not anywhere I could find: Content specifically addressing Humans going to Mars.  Ok, there is one place actually, in the "Polling Area" (which is at the top just links to the other 4 bullets in this here list), the link to "Mars Missons" has the clickable text "Robots are extensions of ourselves, venturing where we cannot yet go."  Where we cannot yet go... Cannot.  Says who and why not? Well, it's a JPL site and JPL is only out for getting the largest chunk of the small NASA pie to go into robots so.. that's who says, and that is why.

(side note: in the polling area there are actually quite a number of real-person questions about Humans to Mars... I signed up to give my thumbs up to them... but a strange thing happened, when I clicked on these the silverlight app froze and my votes weren't recorded... sad metal martian bug).

Anyway... MARIE.  That top level link with MARIE in its url was a bust, leading only to past events not related to "the first experiment sent to Mars specifically to prepare for human missions."

On down the list of google results...

The oddly titled "Space Weatheron Mars - NASA Science" brings you correctly to the misspelled "Weatheron" NASA page dated 2001 which tells of how: "Future human explorers of Mars can leave their umbrellas back on Earth, but perhaps they shouldn't forget their Geiger counters! A NASA experiment en route to the Red Planet aims to find out." The italics in that are NASA's, as is the final paragraph that wraps the gist:

"Radiation hazards ... tissue damage ... broken DNA. Space sounds like a dangerous place! Nevertheless, MARIE is an optimistic experiment. Its underlying assumption is that humans will eventually cross the divide between our planet and Mars. Thanks to MARIE and future experiments like it, Mars explorers will know how to survive and prosper when they get there."

What other experiments "in the future" exactly?  Good question, it doesn't say; But they've only had ten years to update the page and it's been a long while since we were expected to believe in follow-through from post-Apollo-generation Government workers ;-).  However.. in all that time maybe one little added sentence about what MARIE did would have been nice... maybe the team was fired before the mission was shut down. 

Okay... so nothing official is obvious and top level from NASA's MARIE.  Broken links to the misson's own pages and loads of stuff about the old pre-flight planning stages of the mission are at least something right?  Some would say that alone adds up to something all by itself ;-).

Wait!  I found a link to a real document at the bottom of the Weatheron page, "Human Exploration and Development of Space"... ahhh, a link off of robotic JPL and over to Johnson.  Hmmm... well the link just goes to the JSC main page which is of course full of stuff about the upper atmoshpere STS aand ISS.

Nothin' exact and quotable at Johnson today about Humans to Mars or Humans slated to head anywhere else. Oh well, maybe next decade.

Back to Google, and finally... paydirt.  Sort of.  There is, today anyway, a direct link to a PDF joint-written by Lockheed Martin, JSC, Langley and Berkeley workers called "RADIATION CLIMATE MAP FOR ANALYZING RISKS TO ASTRONAUTS ON THE MARS SURFACE FROM GALACTIC COSMIC RAYS", I see no exact date on the paper but it mentions "At present, NASA Johnson Space Center’s MARIE (Martian Radiation Environment Experiment) instrument on board the 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft has been collecting and successfully providing data for the Martian radiation environment mapping since March 13, 2002"

It is not a difficult read.  There are geekisms and calculations but if you're interested in a real document from real people with names related to this truly worthy subject then you can grasp it. If it scares you at all, just glitz over the greek for the gist at first.  It is worth it.

This pdf is does couch its "conclusions" concerning Humans to Mars in the pattern of most non-website NASA reports but, luckily, when things are known to be going In Real Print and thus the researcher's feet are being held to more of a publishingfor-real fire, they tend take a bit more care than the K-12 approach.  The report doesn't come out and say "No Problem" but - surprise! - it doesn't in any way at all come out and say "NO WAY"; It doesn't give all of the negative pushes that the above mentioned JPL pages did and do.

I came away from my 3rd read of it with the voice of crazy Zubrin in my head 'we CAN do this'. Darn it... MARIE seems to tell us we can.

It's at it yourself, as of today the link is off the self-destructo radar.

Just know up front that the very last line of the very last page will lead you only to two more dead links:
"24. For more info and".

Oh, and to cover the bases, there is a Wiki page for MARIE.  It's short, clinical, tells a "probably" reason for MARIE going offline in 2003 (as an AdMan for many years, I always loved the word "probably"), and its links to JPL and JSC are 404.

Look, even without MARIE Odyssey was and is still a great spacecraft.  Odyssey found the Water - that we could drink - beyond a doubt and Odyssey has been the relay for 70 - 90% of all data coming up from the amazing twin rovers and the short-lived inconclusive Phoenix.  I'm not downing NASA for the stuff that they push.  I'm simply hoping that this posting will help someone remember that we used to do end-game work for Humans, and letting that information fade away so that the Follow the Water Quest for Microbes group can take everything over to leave us sitting here with no hope of moving on, is wrong. 

Thanks so much MARIE. I'm sorry that so little has been done to show your work to the people who paid for you to be built and sent to Mars. 


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