Vol. 2, Issue 1, January 6, 2004
The Joy of Liquid Shrimp!
The Sleaze

Mars Mission Success Attributed to Corporate Endorsement

The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) has attributed the success of its latest Mars lander to funding provided by a commercial endorsement deal, the first such deal to provide financial support for an interplanetary mission.

"Our strategy of "faster, better, cheaper" simply wasn't cutting it," said NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe. "Cutting corners on our spacecraft design was leading to errors and substandard vehicles which were not always successful. Thankfully, we found a solution which did not require more federal dollars."

The Spirit lander was named to tie in with the 2002 animated film "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron," which was in preparation when the spacecraft was launched in 1999. The deal funded $80 million of the $400 million Mars lander program, enabling NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to install brand-new landing bumpers on the spacecraft instead of recycled space shuttle parts.

"This may have made the difference in getting the rover down safely," said Mark Adler, manager of the Spirit mission. "And allowing Dreamworks to name the craft saved us an additional $250,000 in name selection research. It's a win-win situation."

The Spirit rover contains images of the principal characters in the film etched into its exterior plating by professional Dreamworks artists.

"It was a little challenging getting all of the artists sufficient security clearance to work in JPL," admitted Adler. "And we had to modify the instrument clusters somewhat to accommodate the artwork. Otherwise there would have been a spectrometer sticking out of the stallion's left nostril, and Dreamworks didn't want that." In addition, an extra camera was installed allowing the rover to take pictures of itself in order to show the artwork to viewers back on Earth.

NASA is speculating that future missions could benefit from similar agreements, and is reportedly in negotiations with Nike to rename a module of the International Space Station. Other nations, which were skeptical of the Dreamworks deal when it was announced, are reconsidering their positions.

"Maybe we should have tried to get the Peanuts franchise to kick in a few million for the Beagle," said David Southwood, Director of Science at the European Space Agency, referring to the ESA's missing Mars lander. "Hindsight is twenty-twenty, I suppose."


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