Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on May 13, 2008
One of the coolest guys at the Serious Play conference at The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena was Nobel prize-winning cosmologist George Smoot. He works at JPL, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, that builds the interplanetary probes, including the two Mars Rovers now roving over the face of that planet. The JPL is just down the road in Pasadena from The Art Center Collge.
I learned two amazing things from George. First, the Rovers were expected to “live” and be active for only about 100 days on the harsh Martian planet. The JPL engineers figured that dust would cover the solar panels and the robots would slowly lose enough energy to move. But something unexpected happened. It turns out that a steady stream of little, benign, twisters, swirl across the Martian landscape and they clean off the solar panels. So now, years later, the two Rovers are still moving around collecting information.
Innovation Lesson: edges and frontiers are full productive surprises that cannot be determined without being there. And their value cannot
be calculated beforehand.
The second thing I learned from George is that there are 17 robot probes out in space and each has a different personality. The scientists are JPL have relationships with each of them, the rovers, voyager, cacini and they are all different. A new robot is scheduled to lift off for Mars on May 25, the Phoenix. Even cooler.
The Phoenix was at the Art Center when I was there. Amazing hand-crafted creation. I also saw the Rovers--fantastic. You should go out to see them and appreciate what we doing on the edge, in space. It's amazing design. Amazing innovation.
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