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An open letter to the OSIRIS Project Team


ROSETTA has now been studying Comet 67P for two months, and thanks to the tremendous efforts of ESA, especially its hard-working Outreach and media teams, we are seeing a comet as never before. As you know, ESA is regularly releasing images taken by ROSETTA’s navcam camera, and with every one of these images released 67P is becoming more and more a real world to us; the features on its bizarre, alien surface are coming into sharper focus now, and we’re starting to make (a little!) sense out of what we’re seeing. Like all great space missions, ROSETTA’s goal is exploration in its purest form – we are seeing somewhere new, for the first time in human history, and thanks to the efforts of the ESA team releasing those navcam images, tens of thousands – and probably many, many more – of armchair explorers, amateur scientists and space enthusiasts around the world are joining in that exploration, and supporting and following this exciting, ambitious and history-making mission.

However, while the navcam images are impressive, everyone knows that ROSETTA carries an imaging system with much higher resolution, capable of taking extraordinarily detailed images – your system, OSIRIS.

Ever since ROSETTA was launched, ten long years ago, we have looked forward to seeing OSIRIS’s images of the comet, our appetites whetted by the spectacular views of asteroids taken en-route to 67P. Now ROSETTA has reached its goal, the navcam images are hinting at incredible features on its surface, and with Philae’s dramatic landing barely a month away understandably public interest in seeing the comet in all its grandeur and glory is climbing higher and higher every day.

But sadly, no OSIRIS images are being released to the world.

Having looked forward to seeing 67P through OSIRIS’s eagle eyes for a decade, this is frustrating a lot of people, as I am sure you are aware if you are following discussions taking place on the forums, blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts of space enthusiasts and space journalists around the world.

I share that frustration. I have written about this here on my own blog, and on Facebook and Twitter too. I have emailed people on the OSIRIS team about this personally, but my emails have been ignored, so I am writing to you in this way to request, on behalf of myself, ROSETTA followers, armchair explorers, space enthusiasts and science reporters and journalists all around the world, that you release some of the images you have taken.

Many people believe that the images should be released because the ROSETTA mission is a publicly-funded mission, and the public who paid for it, through their taxes, have a right to see the images. Others believe that the images should be released because they would excite and inspire people around the world. Still others believe that the images should be released because they would allow the public to participate in one of the most exciting voyages of discovery ever made.

I agree with all those views, and share them. I also strongly believe that, in this modern age when people around the world can enjoy new images taken from Saturn and Mars daily, and can regularly see new images taken from the Moon and elsewhere, the continuing lack of OSIRIS images into the public domain is now nothing short of a disgrace, and needs to be addressed urgently. This wonderful mission, and the incredible scientific team behind it, and the members of the public following it, deserve better than to have their thirst for knowledge ignored like this.

I am not just writing this because, as one of those aforementioned “space enthusiasts” I want to see those pictures for myself. I want those pictures to be released because I want to share them with others. As someone very active in Outreach and Education I spend a lot of my “free time” giving illustrated talks to groups about astronomy and space. I want to be showing your beautiful pictures of 67P in the schools, church halls, and community centres I visit. I want to be showing them to classrooms full of bright eyed young children who are fascinated and excited by “space”. I want to show them to societies of engineers who are eager to learn what is happening “out there”. But maybe most of all I want – no, I need – to show them to the people who are NOT already fascinated by space. The young mums, struggling to pay weekly bills who wonder why millions is being spent on exploring distant worlds when they can’t afford to heat their children’s bedrooms; the pensioner couple who can’t understand why so much money was spent sending a robot to a space iceberg when they have to choose between a meal for them, or their dog; the jobless teenager who can’t make sense of the way a fortune is spent taking images of boulders on a chunk of ice far, far away from Earth when she can’t afford the bus fare to get her to a job interview on time. You have images which would – or at least might – help show these people why we explore space, why we spend that money, why we reach out for Out There when our own world and its people have so many problems. Keeping them to yourselves is wrong. It’s just wrong.

I understand how busy you are, trying to ensure Philae sets down as safely as possible, and no-one would want to interfere with that vital work by asking you to take new images just for public use. But by now you must have dozens, if not hundreds of images available for release.

I also understand that you are following the terms of your agreement with ESA by having a “proprietary period”, during which you are entitled to keep the images to yourselves. This makes sense, as it allows your scientists to look at the images before anyone else, and to use them for their research and for writing their crucially important papers and journals, etc. That’s how modern science works, and no-one sensible is questioning the need for that for a moment, or expecting to see all the images OSIRIS is taking. No-one begrudges the men and women who have worked on this mission for so many years the first chance to see and work with the images being taken by OSIRIS. But it simply cannot be the case that every single OSIRIS image taken so far shows something *so* important, *so* scientifically paradigm-shifting that it has to be locked up for 6 months. That’s simply not possible. There must be some OSIRIS images now that could be released without any risk to the mission or the careers of the hard-working, dedicated scientists involved.

You will be aware, I’m sure, that an Indian space probe recently arrived in Mars orbit, and within hours images taken by that probe were being released online, creating a media storm. Surely you must realise that the release of even a handful of OSIRIS images, showing close-ups of individual boulders, or crumbling ledges, or a single out-gassing vent, would raise the ROSETTA mission’s profile enormously, and really set the stage for the Philae landing?

It is my belief, and the belief of many others, that the OSIRIS team’s attitude towards the release of images is badly outdated and misguided. Many years ago it would have been the norm. But now, in this age of social media, scientists working on other missions are enthusiastically embracing the public’s fascination with the exploration of space, and allowing them to share in the sheer joy of that exploration by releasing images taken by their space probes and rovers, quickly and freely. The most striking and successful examples of this are NASA’s Mars rovers. Images taken by the MER “Opportunity” and the MSL” Curiosity” are posted online the next day, sometimes even within a matter of hours, allowing the public to virtually explore Mars for themselves, which they love.

The brave and bold decision to do this was taken by scientists involved in those missions before they were even built. Why? In his best-selling book “POSTCARDS FROM MARS” MER and MSL scientist Jim Bell says:

Steve Squyres and I made an unusual decision early on in this project. If we were lucky enough to land a rover (or two) on Mars safely, we decided that we would share the images with everyone without restrictions or embargoes, as quickly as possible, using the Internet. Both of us had been involved in previous projects where this had not been the case. Certainly there were technological limitations on data distribution in the days before the Internet. Sometimes, though, scientists who have put so many years of their career into a project feel entitled to “own” the data. It’s natural for some people to feel a close personal connection to images or other data that have been acquired at a cost of years of hard work and personal sacrifices. However, sometimes people can go too far and start referring to the data as “my images” or “my spectra.” In the long run, I believe that holding the cards too close to your chest like this can do more damage than good for science and exploration. We were privileged to have been entrusted with taxpayer dollars to run this mission. We have an obligation to share both our successes and failures openly and honestly with the general public. In the case of the rovers, when the images are decoded at jpl from the radio signals the rovers send from Mars, a computer program automatically generates a JPEG version of every image at the same time, and these get posted on a publicly accessible Web site (see “Additional Resources” at the end of the book) usually within a day of being taken on Mars. As best we can count, millions of people have been accessing and downloading these images from the Web. Some of our colleagues think we’re fools to have done this (“You’re giving your data away!”). It is true that we have been “scooped” a few times on scientific papers or media stories by some people who use these instant images to get a quick result published. To us, though, that’s a small price to pay to allow so many others—kids, teachers, space enthusiasts, laypeople, even members of Congress—to be able to follow along in near-real-time and to be a part of our amazing martian adventure.”

Thanks to this generous policy, every day people all around the world are able to see images taken on Mars just a matter of hours previously. School pupils in high tech classrooms in Europe and in barely furnished rooms in Africa are able to stride across Mars together, hand in hand. Today, thanks to the Internet, knowledge has no boundaries, knows no borders. Around the world scientists are embracing the possibilities this presents – but not the OSIRIS team, it seems. By withholding your images as you are doing, you are – unintentionally I’m sure – making ESA look outdated and selfish.

I therefore urge you all, in the strongest possible terms, to think very carefully about the harm this withholding of images is doing – unfairly – to ESA’s reputation and to the ROSETTA mission.

I also urge you to think for a moment about how huge the Outreach impact would be if you released some images. Within hours they would be on every space blog, forum and website, on the front pages of newspapers, and on TV news programmes around the world, showing the people of the world what an incredible mission ROSETTA is, how much ESA has achieved, and more.

And to be frank, ESA carried OSIRIS to Mars for you. You owe them.

The ROSETTA team did such a fantastic job getting the public interested in the mission, with all the cute animations, competitions and more, that by the time ROSETTA reached 67P countless thousands of people around the world, young and old, felt involved in the mission. Now that ROSETTA is orbiting 67P and taking, we are told, “stunning images”, those same people are desperate to see those images, but can’t.

I hope you change your minds soon, and release some of your spectacular images. They must show wonders the like of which we have never seen before. More importantly, those images have the ability to inspire a generation of children to become scientists – perhaps the scientists who, following in your footsteps, will help guide a manned spacecraft down to the surface of a comet, on some future anniversary of Philae’s historic landing.

Again, on behalf of myself, and the countless thousands of frustrated ROSETTA followers – armchair explorers, space enthusiasts, science reporters and journalists – scattered all around the world, desperate to see 67P in the same glorious detail you are seeing it, I request that you release some of the images OSIRIS has taken, now, and not in six months time.


Stuart Atkinson.

ROSETTA: Closer and closer…

Yesterday ESA released its latest set of four Comet 67P images taken by Rosetta’s own navcam camera. They tried assembling them into a single mosaic image,  bless them, but when the images were taken, on Sept 30th, the comet moved so much between each of the individual frames as they were taken that they just don’t line up very well. Anyway. here’s the latest image…


And again, although that image itself is rather confusing, it does show wonderful new detail if you just take the time to let your eyes wander over the image and drink in the view. I’ve cropped sections of it and enhanced those crops to bring out some of the increasingly-amazing detail on offer now… As ever, click on each image to enlarge it…


Oh my, look at the crack running through that! And that MUST be layering in there….


I love this area of the comet, it’s definitely one of my favourites, with that “fortress” standing high above the rocky plain, with huge rocks and boulders littering the ground beneath it…

Oct 6 release LZ 2

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that that’s a new view of the Philae landing site, the clearest I’ve been able to produce from the navcams yet. Philae is going to be aimed at the centre of that image… where it looks like there are a few pretty big boulders waiting to welcome her…. :-(

And finally for this time…


Look, there’s That Boulder again, the one studded with other, smaller rocks. Would LOVE a closer look at that, wouldn’t you? Oh, if only ROSETTA had a higher resolution camera, which could take images with a resolution of 1m or less, that would be BRILLIANT, wouldn’t it -

What? It does? Really? What’s it called? Something really cool? What was that? It’s called “OSIRIS”? Wow, they kept that quiet! How long has it had that? What, since it got there? Since it was *launched*??? Naaah, come on, you can’t fool me, that’s ridiculous! Surely, if a science team had such a technological marvel they’d be showing off at least some of its pictures now and again, for the good of everyone? Cos, you know, if they just kept them all to themselves it would make them look like a bunch of arrogant, selfish, stubborn boffins who basically just didn’t want to share their pretty pictures, especially not with the little people who actually paid for their fancy camera to be built, taken to Mars, and operated there.

And that would be pretty appalling.

Don’t you think?

New navcam image of 67P shows stunning activity

After a pause of several days, ESA has released another set of four images of Comet 67P taken by the navcam on the ROSETTA probe. These images can be assembled into a single mosaic image, but the problem is that ROSETTA is now so close to 67P, less than 30km away in fact, that it has moved noticeably between each of the exposures, which means stitching them together without seams or discrepancies is just about impossible, and even creating a single image at all is is extremely difficult; shadows lengthen between images, features rotate towards or away from the camera, etc. Here’s the version put up on the ESA “Comet Chaser” blog, which is still pretty amazing but you can see the challenges for yourself where the images join…


Image: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Now, when you isolate each image, the level of detail is pretty stunning, but obviously what really draws the eye are those beautiful jets shooting up from the “neck” of the comet…

jets crop

Here’s a closer look at that horizon being silhouetted by the jets…


Oh, just imagine what it must be like just over that horizon, where the jets are coming out of the ground…! But WHAT are they coming out of? Cracks? Holes?

The only people who know what wonders lurk beyond that boulder-strewn horizon are the OSIRIS team – the scientists and engineers, based at the Max Planck Institute for Science, who continue, despite public and professional pleas, to withhold the images being ROSETTA’s highest resolution camera from the world.

I’m sure that OSIRIS images of the sources of those jets must be absolutely jaw dropping, but I honestly get the feeling we’re just not going to get to see them anytime soon. The OSIRIS team are keeping them under wraps because they want to, because they just don’t want to share them. And, of course, under the terms of their written-in-blood-on-tablets-of-stone contract with ESA and the ESA’s member states they don’t HAVE to share them for at least another five months.

I know some people will accuse me of being obsessed here, and of going on like a stuck record (sorry, scratched CD… showing my age there!), but it’s just wrong what they’re doing. There is absolutely no way, no possible way, that every single image taken by OSIRIS is so scientifically priceless, so packed with new insights into cometary processes, so revolutionary, that it has to be kept from the world. I’m sorry, I’m just not buying that.

It’s not as if the OSIRIS team are unaware of the public and media interest in their images, and the hunger to see them. Many bloggers are writing about this, as are many space journalists, and space enthusiast forums and websites are all putting out the same message – please show us some pictures!

But they’re not listening, and they are now consciously ignoring the calls for release of their images. I know this for a fact because I have personally emailed people on the OSIRIS team and had no response. I have written to Prof Ulrich Christensen, the MPS “Comets and Planets” Section Director, but have received no reply. I have written to the OSIRIS Project Manager, Dr Dr Carsten Guettler, twice, but again have received no reply. Now I know they’re very busy people, but to not even reply to an email (and I was polite and respectful, I didn’t demand anything!) is a pretty deliberate snub. I have also written to OSIRIS Principal Investigator Dr Holger Sierks, and he was very generous with his time a few weeks ago when he agreed to an email “Interview” for this blog, but the last time I wrote to him, more than a week ago, he suggested that an OSIRIS image of the source of the jets would be released soon, and it still hasn’t been, which is very disappointing.

It’s time this situation changed.

I’m seriously thinking about setting up an online petition for people to sign if they want to see some OSIRIS images of Comet 67P. I’m mulling that over right now. If I did that, would YOU sign? Would you circulate it amongst your friends and online contacts?

In the meantime, here are some of my (now quite popular, apparently!) enhanced crops of sections of the latest OSIRIS image…








Right. Before I go any further with this post, I want to make a few things clear so there is no misunderstanding. I am fully supportive of ESA as an organisation, and have nothing but praise and thanks for the ROSETTA team which is working so hard, with limited time, resources and budget, to “spread the word” about the mission and publicise its achievements. I want to say a special and public THANK YOU, AGAIN, to the team responsible for releasing the navcam images of Comet 67P, which have, as they promised us they would, shown us what a bewilderingly exotic and bizarre world 67P is. None have been released for a few days now, but hopefully it’s just a pause while everything is so busy, and we;ll see miore navcams soon, I have nothing but praise and more thanks to the mission’s outreach team which has worked tirelessly, for years, to raise public awareness of and interest in ROSETTA’s historic encounter with 67P through countless cute animations, exciting competitions and attractive, info-packed websites. They’ve done, and continue to do, a fantastic job. The ESA “Comet Chaser” blog is especially good, and much thanks needs to go to everyone working on that.


There is another camera onboard ROSETTA, a much higher resolution one than the navcam called OSIRIS, which has been taking absolutely jaw-droppingly, ass-kickingly incredible images of the surface of 67P – pictures which we are not being allowed to see despite countless appeals from the pro-space community and journalists. And that is now, I’m afraid, becoming nothing short of a disgrace.

Now, before going any further, let’s be clear about this, again. This OSIRIS image hording is nothing to do with ESA. ESA has no say over when, or which, OSIRIS images are shared with the world. But come on, that’s wrong, it just is. ROSETTA is a publicly funded mission – no, it is: we all pay taxes, and our elected Govts have seen fit to hand over some of that tax to ESA, to do cool stuff with, like fly ROSETTA to a comet and take pictures of it, so we all have a stake in the mission, however small – but the public are grudgingly being tossed scraps from the OSIRIS table.

Essentially ESA gave OSIRIS a lift to the comet in a fancy car, which we paid for, and now it’s there OSIRIS is leaning out the window, snapping away like crazy, but keeping its pictures to itself, whilst calling out cruelly “Wow! Look at that! That’s amazing!! Unbelievable!” to all of us working our day jobs, desperate to see the pics, but deprived of them.

Now I’m not stupid, I’m not naive. I know that there are Reasons why we’re not being shown the pictures, and the people sitting on them believe they are good reasons. For a start, the OSIRIS team must be INCREDIBLY busy looking for a safe landing site for Philae next month, so they won’t have time to prepare all their images for release by writing the captions and media blurb that accompany such things. That’s fair enough. Also, there’s no getting away from the fact that the OSIRIS team is “just following the rules”. They’re not obliged to release their images because their archaic agreements with ESA, and ESA’s contributing states, allow them to sit on those images for up to 6 months, giving them time to use them for scientific research before the rest of the world gets their grubby little paws on them. And I can see the sense in that too, because I am that if I was an OSIRIS scientist I would be concerned about people outside of the mission using their data to “do science” with and beat me to announcing discoveries in papers and journals. But no-one is asking for *every* image to be released, just a few. I would never, ever risk a scientist’s career by demanding the release of everything, that would be foolish and selfish and unrealistic.


Come on… OSIRIS must have taken *dozens* of images by now, surely, and we’ve seen less than half a dozen to date. I cannot – and absolutely refuse to – believe that there aren’t *some* OSIRIS images which would show us the incredible surface of 67P without needing a whole day to write a press release for them, or risking a career, or opening up a planet-eating rift in the space time continuum.

Somewhere on a server in Germany there is a folder stuffed full of pictures taken by OSIRIS which show such incredible detail they would knock our socks off. We should be allowed to see them.

Now I know this might sound like a bit of a bawling, fists-thumping-on-table “I want! I want!” tantrum rant by an impatient, selfish space geek… and ok, guilty as charged, I DO want to see those pictures ,myself, cos I AM a space geek and I live for this stuff, and I really, really want to see the surface of 67P in detail. But, less selfishly, I also want to be sharing these images with the people who read my blogs, and who come to my Outreach talks. I want to be able to shout out, with those pics, how amazing ESA is, and what an incredible achievement this is! And again, keeping ALL the OSIRIS images under lock and key is just… wrong.

What I just can’t get my head around is this: the ROSETTA Outreach and publicity team has worked tirelessly, for YEARS, to promote the mission and to get people around the world to engage with it and get excited about the encounter with 67P. They made the probe into a cute media star, with its own presence on Twitter and Facebook, and essentially brought it to life for people all around the world, giving it its own personality. At the same time ESA has been telling us what a fantastic mission ROSETTA is, and how it would revolutionise our understanding of comets, and take the best, most detailed ever images of a comet. And now, with ROSETTA within spitting distance of the comet, and with space enthusiasts, journalists and the public all whipped up into a pre-landing frenzy, there are none of those images to see! They should be everywhere! On every blog, every space website, forum and tumblr. It’s crazy!

No, let’s be frank, let’s be honest. It’s not crazy, it’s foolish. In fact, it’s bloody stupid. There, I’ve said it. Lots of people are thinking it, and whispering it to each other, but not daring to say it outloud. Ok, I will. The way the OSIRIS images are being withheld from the public is bloody stupid. Even the most unexceptional scientifically could be exciting, inspiring and educating people across the globe just because they show things never seen before. The people responsible for those images should be looking at the way the public, space enthusiasts and amateur image processors have all embraced the release of navcam images, and felt a part of the mission because of them, and thinking “Hey, that could be us!” They could be using them to show the public just what an incredible achievement OSIRIS is and putting out a “harmless” one every couple of days. Instead they’re just not listening to the appeals for more images to be released, and sitting on them. And I’m sorry, but I think that’s pretty shameful.

And come on, seriously, did no-one in charge of OSIRIS image release notice the reaction to the release of the gorgeous whole Mars globe image taken by India’s Mars orbiter yesterday? Twitter, Facebook, forums and space news websites went absolutely insane! Just imagine the reaction – and the surge in support for ROSETTA and ESA – if they released an OSIRIS pic showing the surface of 67P at 1m resolution, which is the resolution possible for the camera now, I believe…

I don’t know, it just makes no sense to me, sitting on everything like this. Every picture can’t be invaluable. Every picture can’t be The One that scientists need to write their career-making paper. Every picture can’t be so important it has to be held hostage, chained to a radiator in some cellar beneath the Max Planck Institute for Science.

Can it?

What does everyone else think? Do YOU want to see the OSIRIS images of 67P, or are you happy to wait until next Spring to see them? Let me know in the comments. But keep it civil, and polite, and respectful. This policy is wrong, but the people involved are good people, if a little misguided. I’m sure they think they’re doing the right thing. They just need to wake up to the fact that the world has changed, and that it;s no longer ok to sit on images like this when there are people wanting to see them.

In the meantime, if anyone with the key to the OSIRIS vault reads this (I’ve written to the OSIRIS Project Manager twice now, but no reply), if you won’t listen to me, you might listen to this guy…


Thank you :-)

Philae landing date and time announced!

Ok, attention everyone following the ROSETTA mission to comet 67P – stop what you’re doing, grab your phone, or your diary, or run over to your wall planner and mark the following down:


Yes, we now have a confirmed date for the historic landing of ROSETTA’s Philae lander on the surface of the comet! The time isn’t so certain, because that depends on which landing site they go for. There’s a big review of the landing team on October 14th when, after reviewing the latest and most detailed images of the landing sites available, they will decide between the Primary site, site “J”, or the back up site, Site “C”. Here are the timetables for what will happen, depending on which of those sites they go for.

SITE “J”: Philae will detach from ROSETTA at 08.35 GMT, and will land on the comet’s surface around 4 hours later. Confirmation of the landing will be received on Earth around 16.00 GMT.

SITE “C”: Philae will detach from ROSETTA at 13.04 GMT, and will land on the comet’s surface around 4 hours later. Confirmation of the landing will be received on Earth at around 17.30 GMT.

As part of yesterday’s press announcement, ESA released a new image of Site “C”. Here it is…


I’ve worked on that a little to bring out more detail, and cropped it’s a closer view of the actual landing site. Here it is, as usual click on it to enlarge it…

Philae landing site

That’s a fascinating-looking area, isn’t it? With that enhancement it’s clear that there’s a lot of topography at the landing site, so the pictures Philae sends back should be very exciting! When we’ll actually get to see those images is another matter, of course, but I’m sure that at least one will be released to the media quickly for them to use in their reports that evening. After that? Well, we’ll see. We’re all aware of the situation re image release by now.

But anyway, November 12th… that’s going to be a heck of a day, isn’t it? Imagine how tense it’s going to be after Philae is released… after that, all everyone will be able to do is wait to hear that it’s landed safely, and we’ll all, along with everyone at ROSETTA mission control, and ESA, just have to sit and wait for Philae to phone home. If she does, wow… the roof at ESOC will lift, won’t it? If she doesn’t… well… that’s not going to happen, is it! be positive! :-)

Seriously tho, this is going to be a huge thing if it comes off – Mankind’s first landing on a comet. The stakes are incredibly high, but the potential rewards even higher. And 67P has turned out to be an even more intriguing, even more fascinating world than we dared imagine. Here are some enhanced crops from yesterday’s released images…





crater crop

Love that last image of Big Crater (my name, it hasn’t got an official one, well, as far as we know, though I’m sure it and lots of other features on 67P have been “christened” by the ROSETTA team by now), cos you can see so much detail on its floor.

Really looking forward to the landing day now, especially as the 24hr slip means I will now be able to enjoy it properly: I’ll have finished work and be back home in time for the landing now, but I would have missed it a day earlier because of my shifts, so thanks ESA! :-)

Gorgeous new images of 67P from ROSETTA…

I was hoping desperately for ESA to release a new picture of Comet 67P today, seeing as it’s been a week since the last one was released into the wild, so it was a delight to find not one but *two* new ROSETTA images on the ESA ROSETTA blog when I checked earlier, one taken on the 21st and the other on the 24th of September!


Here they are…



Credits: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

I particularly like the second one there because of the way the dramatic lighting angle casts long, long shadows, highlighting features and details on the comet’s surface, some of which I’ve picked out here…





Huge thanks to the ESA team for releasing these images, as ever. Here’s hoping that we see some new OSIRIS images soon, too. They must be showing jaw-dropping amounts of detail by now…

RED MARS coming to our screens, at last!!!!

rm peg

Oh my…

Went online this morning, hoping to see some new pics of Comet 67P from ROSETTA, but didn’t see any (at first… see next post). Instead I saw something which made me gulp like a goldfish that had jumped out of its tank. Literally.

Oh my… deep breath Stu… deep breath… Was it true? Was someone playing a cruel trick on me? Was it all a wicked wind-up?

Nope. The same story was on several sites, so it was true… Someone is FINALLY going to transfer my favourite ever SF book, the beyond-stunning RED MARS, by Kim Stanley Robinson, to TV!!

As I sat there, Peggy purring away beside me, oblivious to my thumping heart, my first thought was YESSSSSS!!!! FINALLY! After countless aborted attempts – including annual and increasingly-tiresome “James Cameron to Film Epic Mars Trilogy!” rumours – it seems that someone is going to be brave and bold enough to film the book that changed my life, forever.

My second thought was wait… hang on… oh no, oh no, oh no… they’ll mess it up, they’ll ruin it, they always do…!!

But the fact that it’s going to be filmed by the “Game of Thrones” team – which does “epic” pretty well, they’ve proved, I think – is encouraging, and with the right casting (ooh, that‘s going to be a minefield… it will have fans of the books up in arms if they get it wrong… I don’t envy the casting directors, picking actors and actresses to play handsome, dashing John Boone, moody and bitter Frank Chalmers, passionate enviromentalist “Red” Ann Clayborne, scheming, beautiful Maya, cool scientists Sax Russell and larger than life Arkady! Brian Blessed springs to mind there…! Awesome characters! Hopefully they won’t “re-imagine” the First 100 as sexy supermodel 20 somethings) and budget they might, MIGHT bring the incredible story to life in the way it deserves to be. I’ll keep my fingers crossed…

You have probably sensed that this is a big deal for me. Why? Well, because, as cheesy as it sounds, “Red Mars” changed my life. It was, literally, a life-changing book. It turned my interest in Mars into a passion, it intellectually and emotionally pushed me off a cliff and sent me diving headfirst into a love affair with the Red Planet which continues, and deepens, to this day. Reading it was like being plucked out of the 20th century and transported to Mars of the future and being involved in its colonisation, working alongside the terraformers, seeing the planet’s landscape changed. The first time I read that book I lived it, I devoured it, I drank in every page like a glass of fine wine. It devoured me. And every time I have read it since, and I read it just about annually, it has slapped me across the face again with its power and scale and ambition, bringing Mars to life again. Since it was written its transfer to the screen, large or small, has been announced several times, but without a single scene being filmed. Which is probably a good thing; I doubt that the technology existed to do the story, its characters and landscapes justice until now. If special effects have advanced to the point where the worlds of Narnia and Middle Earth can be brought to life, they can now show us Mars properly too.

So… here we are… Red Mars is coming to our screens. What does this mean, apart from “You’ll finally have to get a Sky subscription now, Stu…”? It means that guys, finally, *finally*, after all these decades of **** ups, crappy effects and scenery and unconvincing landscapes, we might get to see Mars – the real Mars, the beautiful Mars, the epic, noble, ancient, Time-sculpted Mars – in her true beauty and glory.

Bring it on.



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