The Martians Have Landed

Space travel is fraught with risk. There’s the outbound voyage, long and boring (think Kansas), the terror of the unknown inter-planetary void and finally the touch down on the surface of ________(enter name of your favorite planet/moon).

Imagine if there were an asteroid or a pre-positioned docking station that could serve as a mid-trip “rest stop” to stretch your legs and check the tires on your space vehicle. Or stay awhile while NASA sends out a rescue vehicle.

There is such a place, and it bears a striking resemblance to a Target store. It’s in Dillon, Colorado where the Mars Rover mothership/trailer was towed when it lost its brakes coming out of the Eisenhower Tunnel last week.

En route to the University Rover Challenge in Utah, Alyssa McCarthy’s “Rove” group camped out in the Target parking lot to wait for rescue that came in the form of solar car team members John Schoeberle and Conner Kostelac. Timing was critical because they had to arrive in Hanksville, Utah in just two days.

While the Dodge rescue ship was prepared for launch/stripped of its warp-speed limiters the team used the time to rehearse the same actions they’d take in Utah so the “mission” would stay on schedule. While John and Conner streaked across the barren landscape of Kansas and eastern Colorado* a local garage (cash only) fixed the mothership’s brakes.

Local media caught wind of the impromptu base camp and wrote it up here. Target shoppers stopped by to talk to the Miners and see Zenith while store managers fretted about violating the city’s ban on camping. An S&T alum stopped by to offer encouragement and an old hippie couple showed up to ask for duct tape and coffee. Sorry, no coffee.

Ultimately the wanderers made it to Hanksville in time and did well, winning the new Phobos Division at the University Rover Challenge and were honored with the John Berenka Science Award. Read more a about it on the Rover team’s Facebook page.

*No law enforcement personnel were inconvenienced in the performance of this mission.