Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Expensive Hardware Lobbing

In honor of the roll-out of Discovery to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, I offer the following walk on the lighter side of space exploration. To wit:

The history of planetary exploration, as written by a sports journalist.

It's a shame that they stop at Mars. There are four other planets to consider. But, the play-by-play wouldn't be quite as interesting.

Every so often, I get the urge to give that a shot. Here's a first cut.


Earth has stolen a commanding 0-7 lead on the king of the planets, beginning with the Pioneer 10 spacecraft in 1973, and ending the current series with a stupendous performance by Galileo in the mid to late 1990s. That last looked for a while as if it would be Jupiter's first goal in the match, when its antenna failed to deploy properly, but masterful play on Earth's part saved the streak.


Saturn has fared little better, dropping four staight to Earth. Pioneer 11, along with Voyagers 1 and 2, grabbed three quick goals in the early 1980s. A lengthy delay followed, prompting many fans to wonder if Saturn would ever get a chance at a rematch. Earth obliged with the Cassini probe, which scored a successful goal in late 2004.


Uranus has only hosted one match to date, dropping a flyby to Voyager 2 in 1986. Earth leads this series 0-1.


Neptune, like Uranus, has only had one test, with the same result. Voyager 2 earned Earth a goal in 1989, becoming the only player ever to score four goals in succession. Voyager 2 has since gone on to a lengthy retirement tour, but still calls home regularly.


Pluto has yet to host a match. The New Horizons probe is due for launch soon, however, so eager sports fans are watching their calendars for 2014 or thereabouts.

Comets, Asteroids, Minor Planets

In minor league news, there have been few results to report. Giotto slipped one in on Halley's Comet in 1986, giving Earth a quick 0-1 lead. Deep Space 1 edged out a squeaker, almost dropping the goal to failures in the navigation system. NEAR followed that up with a commanding tour-de-force at Eros, extending Earth's lead to 0-3. Genesis carried out a successful comet rendezvous to bring the score to 0-4, but sustained serious injuries sliding in to home plate.

And that's it for the sporting report. Good night!

No comments: