I got in touch with Jon Lomberg (Project Director for the Visions of Mars CD
amongst other things) regarding this email. Here is what he had to say:
> It is true that conventional CDs are not durable enough to
> withstand the various thermal, shock, and radiation rigors of
> interplanetary flight. For this reason, The Planetary
> Society's VISIONS OF
> MARS CD was carefully designed to be space-rated din all
> senses. The disk
> itself is not polycarbonate but silica, which is far stronger and more
> resistant to radiation. In fact we tested prototype disks in a nuclear
> reactor to give them a cumulative dose of radiation, and in fact
> polycarbonate was weighed and found wanting. Similarly we
> subjected our
> disk to thermal cycling and vibration/stress in testing
> chambers at JPL in
> Pasadena. It was also packaged inside a container, to reduce
> exposure to
> solar radiation even further. Our disk would have survived,
> had we gotten
> it to Mars. Other disks, such as that enclosed aboard Cassini
> and Huygens
> were not designed with the same attention to survival, and
> the writer is
> correct in suggesting that they will probably become
> unreadable in very
> short time scales.
> Jon Lomberg
Adrian W Kingsley-Hughes
Argus Station (currently under construction) IO73vf95
SETI League VOLCOR:Cymru/Wales
> -----Original Message-----
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]On
> Behalf Of Larry Klaes
> Sent: Tuesday, May 11, 1999 8:19 PM
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com;
> firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
> Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org;
> AllenTough@aol.com; email@example.com
> Subject: SETI Names to Mars and Europa won't last long
> What is the point of placing one's name on a
> CD-ROM bound for Mars when the planet's environment
> will render it unreadble in a matter of days?
> This means that the Vision of Mars CD created by
> The Planetary Society, preserving thousands of records
> about humanity's views on Mars, would also have been
> corrupted if it had ever made it past Earth orbit
> on the failed Mars '96 probe.
> The same will no doubt go for the CD on Cassini bound
> for the planet Saturn.
> Thankfully at least the messages on Voyager 1 and 2
> were placed on a good old-fashioned LP record.
> The article which prompted the above tirade:
> Write your name on Mars
> [ 09:00 p.m. PDT- 05/10/1999 ]
> When will you get a chance to visit Mars? Who
> knows -- but your name could easily make its way
> onto the very next mission.
> By visiting the Sign Up For Mars Web site, you can give
> NASA your name and let space agency officials burn it
> onto a CD-ROM that will be carried to the Red Planet
> on the Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander. John Lee, a program
> analyst for the Mars 2001 mission, expects to collect
> "3 to 4 million names at a minimum."
> A similar CD was carried on last year's Mars 98
> Polar Lander -- but only school-age kids could
> participate. Over 932,000 kids' names were
> collected, and Lee says that quite a few adults
> wanted in on it, too. [Puleeze - That Web site had
> no way of knowing how old anyone was who put their
> name on the list.]
> Now they're getting their chance. Within a day of
> announcing the new CD on a NASA mailing list, nearly
> 9,000 people signed up to have their names rocketed
> into space in April, 2001. Lee says adults are as
> excited as kids about the names CD, if not more so.
> In fact, he's been hearing from kids who don't want
> their names sent to Mars, but who have been added to
> the CD by "overzealous uncles." Some kids are afraid
> that the CD will be used by Martians to compile an
> invasion hit list. [What year is this?!]
> The kids have little to worry about: Because of
> the high radiation levels on Mars -- the planet has
> no atmospheric shield like Earth's ozone layer --
> the data on the CD will be damaged beyond
> recognition within a few days of landing.
> NASA could construct a radiation-proof case for the CD,
> but "the added cost to the mission would be considerable."
> Instead, the agency will let the CD destruct and will leave
> its remains on Mars.
> The Mars 2001 Lander is part of NASA's new
> philosophy of "Faster, Better, Cheaper," which
> attempts to generate maximum scientific returns at
> a minimum of cost. The mission will carry a
> number of experiments specifically designed to
> aid a future human visit to Mars.
> Most notable is a system devised to create rocket fuel
> out of materials readily available in the Martian
> environment, a procedure suggested in the 1996
> Robert Zubrin book, "The Case for Mars."
> But until the day when tourists can head off to the
> Red Planet, the name CDs will give everyday
> people a chance to send a bit of themselves to
> Mars. Lee expects that the name lists could
> become a regular part of NASA missions, at least
> those with an element of public interest.
> "We'd like to do this on the Europa mission," Lee
> says. (Jupiter's icy moon, Europa, will be the
> target of an upcoming mission to look for
> extraterrestrial life.) [No, Europa Orbiter will
> be looking for signs of a liquid water ocean under
> the moon's ice, which could mean the presence of
> life, but EO will not be looking for life directly.]
[That job could go to something like Icepick.]
[And if you think Mars has destructive radiation,
just wait until the Europa Orbiter CD gets into
Jupiter's radiation belts, where the icy moon is
located deep inside!]
"Humans have a natural inclination to be explorers,"
he says. By adding one's name to the 2001 Lander CD,
Lee purports, "you can be a part of the exploration."
At least for a few days after landing.
-- Jamais Cascio