Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Canada on Mars

For those of you who don't know, the Phoenix Mars Lander has reached Mars safely, landing in the arctic region. The Canadian side of the story is that we designed and own the weather station aboard the lander. How very...Canadian of us or I might say, how cliche.

I never understood the whole Canada + weather obsession until a few years ago. But if you think about it, a lot of Canadian families started out as farmers and to a farmer, the weather is of utmost importance. It determined if farmers would have a good year or not, though I have to confess I've never actually heard of a farmer having a good year. As well, up here in Canada we have a shorter growing season than the US and therefore a smaller window to grow crops and make enough money to keep the farm.

Today isn't much different. Most of the conversations I eavesdrop on overhear consist of gas prices and what a weird spring we've had. Gas just keeps going up and up, causing me to reminisce about the days when gas was 60 cents a litre. Of course, this was during a gas war a couple of years ago but still, I can reminisce. It makes me feel like one of those old miners/trappers/curmudgeons bragging in a saloon about the blizzard they lived through in '96. That's 1896 to you. There was a major snowstorm here in 1996 or so I'm told. I left the day before it hit, escaping the perfect conditions for snowforts, snowmen and the occasional holiday snowball fight.

But let's return to the Phoenix Lander. Do you have any idea how historical this moment is? A piece of Canada, physically material, built here, is now on Mars, another planet! I suppose I can't fault Canada for contributing a weather station to the mission but I'm disappointed at the lack of enthusiasm and excitement from the country. I know that space is so 1969 but remember, we never went to the moon. This is important and I for one am happy to say I was here to witness it. I may not be in Houston or on Mars but I'm not going to forget this moment.

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