Dare Mighty Things

By Phil Plait | August 9, 2012 9:40 am

Film critic and film maker Brandon Fibbs used JPL animations and actual footage from the Curiosity rover to create an inspiring video called Dare Mighty Things:

Productions like this are great. And what I love about the sentiment is that it’s true. This isn’t propaganda, it isn’t pablum that sounds good but is empty of actual content, and it isn’t hyperbole. It is, simply, true. The proof is in the video itself: we have a one-ton nuclear-powered chemistry lab on the surface of Mars.

When we dare mighty things, we achieve mighty things.

Tip o’ the heat shield to Jodi Lieberman

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Piece of mind

Comments (30)

  1. Chris

    I must have seen that “Seven Minutes of Terror” video a dozen times. Still gives me goosebumps. I can’t wait to see what crazy scheme they’ll think of next.

  2. Mark

    I find it interesting that a flying saucer was sent to another planet, and from that saucer emerged a heat-ray wielding, nuclear-powered robot bent on scouring the surface until all knowledge was acquired, and sent back to prepare for invasion and colonization.

    And it was Earthlings who sent it to Mars.

    I’m still geekin’ out over it.

  3. Bryan

    Im with Chris. I’ve seen the 7MOT video probably 10-15 times. I can’t get enough of it.

  4. Theron

    “The pre-history of the Terran Empire seems inauspicious in hindsight. A few quick stabs at their world’s extraordinary satellite (how ironic the name ‘Tranquility Base” seems now), a generation or two of desultory work in orbit, barely out of their own atmosphere, all largely ignored by the rapidly expanding population below. But in their slow, fitful mastery of of robot probes we can perhaps see just an inkling of the grand and terrible future to come…..”

    –Ebin a-Ranat Xi, Annals of the First Era, 613 (Third Republic).

  5. dirk

    Having 1 ton worth of nuclear powered lab equipment on Mars is a great feeling. Now that we’ve matched the accomplishments 1976, maybe we can dare to set our aspirations on accomplishing things done in 1969.

  6. Fred

    @Chris & Bryan: as an amateur astronomer, as an aerospace engineer that works in the space industry, as a person interested in and passionate about this kind of missions, I hate from the bottom of my heart videos like “Seven Minutes of Terror”.
    Probably it is because I am European and not American, but it is something already exciting on his own, I seriously do not see the need for an action-movie-style trailer. But, as I said, it is probably because of my background, I can’t stand more than 10 minutes of CNN as well, just to provide a term of comparison.

  7. Matt

    So, now that Curiosity is on Mars how is she directed? Is there a person on Earth remotely controlling the rover? If so, how do they account for the 7minute communications delay? For example if there’s an interesting rock it would take 14minutes to tell her, “study that rock.”

    Or is it on a pre-programed auto pilot with the option of remote control?

  8. Chris

    @6 Matt
    Right, the speed of light means they can’t drive it with a joystick. They’ll be doing it the same was as with Spirit and Opportunity. Send commands and tell it to drive over there. The rover has navigation cameras. The two “eyes” give stereoscopic vision so the rover knows how far an obstacle is and can avoid it. Almost like a smart car. Not the fastest but they have managed to avoid any fender-benders. Opportunity’s one day distance record is 220 meters.

  9. @Matt: Curiosity is directed on a one-Mars-day cycle. It sends back photos and other information at the end of Day x. The scientists look at that, decide what they want to do, and tell the engineers, who turn the plans into spacecraft instructions and send them to the rover early on Day x+1. The rover executes them, documents the results, and sends all that back to Earth, when the cycle starts again.

    So really if the rover spots an interesting rock, it’ll take until the next day to get the rover to investigate it in detail.

  10. gib

    … We’ve done the impossible, and that makes us mighty…

    OK, not impossible, but I like the quote (Joss Whedon).

  11. Pabulum.

    Pablum is a trademarked product. Pabulum is the latin word.

    //morning dose of pedantry

  12. Chris

    @6 Fred
    You’re just jealous that the NASA did it 😛 But I don’t see the “Seven Minutes of Terror” as an action-movie style trailer. Granted the background music gave it a bit of theatrical suspense, but it was presenting what was actually happening. It was also a PR move by NASA. We need to have to public behind NASA so the government will keep funding it. Also if it inspires a few kids to want to enter science, it was well worth it. And personally for me, as someone who grew up watching Star Trek, it is so cool to feel like we are actually entering what a few years ago would have been called science fiction.

  13. Nothing

    @ Fred: I tend to feel the same way. (And ditto for this video here.) Well, not quite as strongly. I don’t hate any of this, it’s just not the kind of stuff that turns me on.

    Maybe there is something to the idea of this being a cultural thing. One could make a poll on this, in which everyone reveals where (s)he is from.
    Another example: Many people here seem to love Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’. I tried to watch an episode on Youtube, but I couldn’t stand it. It’s way too much pathos for me.

    That said, I am incredibly excited about Curiosity, space exploration more generally, and many scientific areas even more generally.

  14. Grizzly

    Question: Is there an editing error here? At one point the voice over says something like “1 km altitude” and yet the next clip says “6.5 kilometers altitude”.

  15. CB

    My new favorite video is “Curiosity Has Landed” — it’s the 7MOT video, re-cut with some of the actual control room video and audio as the various stages took place during the actual landing (which was itself awesome to watch live). It’s an epic combination of “here’s our visualization of what’s supposed to happen — and here it is actually happening”. Woo!

    Bollocks to those who don’t appreciate a dramatic-yet-accurate rendition of the achievements of humankind. Heaven forbid the emotion of excitement and love of science allegedly experienced actually be expressed on-screen, because repressing that emotion will surely cause others to experience it too. Yeah yeah it’s just your opinion. My opinion is bollocks to you.

  16. Matt

    @Chris & @ToSeek,

    Very cool, thanks for the answer(s).

  17. BigBadSis

    I wish there had been a warning in your blog post — something like NSFW CIW: “Not suitable for work, could induce weeping.” My new favorite video. I’ll watch that over and over.

  18. Fred

    yes, indeed, 7MoT is a PR move, but as a person directly involved in the field, to me is the kind of wrong PR. I appreciate much more the inspiration, curiosity (…) and excitement that, for example, Neil deGrasse Tyson is able to transmit.
    the camera movements, the scene changes, the music, the slightly incorrect texts (that capture the attention*), the pauses in the speech: it all adds up to over-dramatization. might not be and action-movie trailer, but we are pretty near.
    my point is exactly that: I am overexcited at the moment, but that video does not represents what I feel, to me this is not an action-movie. It is science, that is much much better.

    Also, nobody remembers 2004? now are “7 minutes of terror” then they where “6 minutes into the unknown”. may I suggest NASA to change PR guy once in a while? 😛

    *example: “zero margin of error”. please. you always have some margin, from the engineering standpoint.

    p.s.: I take the point that “hate” might be indeed a pretty strong statement.

  19. The Mutt

    Speaking as a guy who has had a massive space-boner since I first saw the pictures one Gemini capsule took of the other in Life Magazine, I really don’t understand the hurry to put a human on Mars. This is a job robots can do better, safer and cheaper than a human could.

    To land a one ton science lab on Mars was a Rube Goldbergian million to one shot. How many tons would a human habitat weigh?

    And what would that human do? Walk around, pick up a rock and say, “Look! A rock!”

    And there would be a body count. Don’t you doubt it.

    50 years from now? Sure. But what’s the rush?

  20. Steve

    We have met the alien invaders, and they are US!

  21. CB

    But Fred, the only thing that makes it like an action movie trailer is that it is intended to be exciting. So you are excited about the science, but you don’t want that science to be presented in a way that is exciting.

    Oh, and yeah, Neil Tyson would never use pauses in speech, visuals with scene changes for emphasis, and accurate-though-imprecise* statements to “over”-dramatize something. That definitely sounds like someone who has watched the man in a show with an AV budget would say and not an arbitrary double-standard.

    * “zero margin of error” is accurate, though certainly imprecise. You didn’t think it was meant to imply infinite precision, did you? Is aerospace engineering different from electrical engineering in that you never ever lop off unnecessary digits when communicating to someone who has no need for those digits?

  22. LunchandSnack

    I’m hoping that the phrase “dare mighty things” gets snatched up and trademarked by someone at JPL as quickly as possible so that other folks in private enterprise don’t grab it first, just to print it on a line of underwear.

    I really think that NASA should use that phrase early and often as an expression of what they do. It glorifies science and ingenuity with just a few words in a way that few other expressions can. It’s inspiring.

    With “dare mighty things” as a mantra, I can’t help but think that American taxpayers would be much more sympathetic towards the mission of NASA and gain more appreciation of the agency instead of being lead down a path of apathy and dumbed-downedness towards science and technology.

    Nothing wrong with a bit of positive PR as long as it’s accurate and informational.

    OK, maybe the video WAS a touch over-dramatic, but it still gave me goosebumps. And I already knew the ending. :-)

  23. Messier Tidy Upper

    And what I love about the sentiment is that it’s true. This isn’t propaganda, it isn’t pablum that sounds good but is empty of actual content, and it isn’t hyperbole. It is, simply, true. The proof is in the video itself: we have a one-ton nuclear-powered chemistry lab on the surface of Mars. When we dare mighty things, we achieve mighty things. (Emphasis added.)

    ^ This. Yes! Seconded by me. Well said & great video. 8)

  24. Bad Wolf

    It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.
    – Robert H. Goddard

    “I have learned to use the word ‘impossible’ with the greatest caution.”
    — Wernher von Braun

  25. dcsohl

    Fred, may I humbly suggest that as a regular on Phil’s blog, maybe the 7MoT video isn’t really aimed at you?

    I know more than one person for whom the 7MoT video really got them interested in Curiousity. Before seeing the video it was, “Ok, so we’re putting another probe on Mars. Ok.” And after the video it was “Wow, holy crap! I can’t wait to see if it works!” And that initial interest, in whether or not the skycrane maneuver worked, translates into greater interest in the probe in general.

    It’s a PR video, but it’s a very well-done one that achieves the goal of getting more positive interest in the probe, the mission, and NASA in general.

  26. Jody

    As much as I appreciate the hype from NASA I think the dramatization was a bit overdone. I read in one place that the engineering estimate of a successful landing was 98%. So much for minutes of terror…

  27. mark d

    I am retired engineer living in very rural area with only dial-up and an old ibook/tiger. Takes over an hour to get a couple of minutes of this vid and then will not cache save and resets. How do I save the video so I can actually watch the whole thing (even if takes a couple hours to download.) There are millions of people without broadband access but just about every website assumes it.

  28. Muzhik

    @mark d, this URL will link you to the part of the JPL website that lets you download videos:

    From there you can select what kind of video you want to download (HD, podcast, etc.). Have fun!

    (If that site takes too long to load, here’s a direct link to the 7MOT video:

    If push comes to shove, check with your local library and see if you can download it to a USB stick using their broadband connection.)

  29. Muzhik

    @Fred, if you are a native English speaker, apologies. If English is a second language, may I suggest “loath” may be the word and sentiment you’re looking for, instead of “hate”.

    From TheFreeDictionary.com: Unwilling or reluctant; averse. Also check out the quotes section from the movie “Escape From the Planet of the Apes”:

  30. NoseyNick

    Definitely belongs on the “makes me cry” playlist along with Pale Blue Dot, “Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed”, and The Most Astounding Fact.


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