If you have previously read this post…
… do me a favour, and forget it. Strike it from your memory. Because it’s absolutely, totally, and hopelessly wrong. Intrepid Crater wasn’t named after a sailing ship at all. It was named after “a famous ship of exploration,” in keeping with the naming policy for craters Oppy visits during her trek across Meridiani, but the ship in question wasn’t a sailing ship… it was a spaceship… THIS spaceship…
That’s “Intrepid”, the lunar module of the Apollo 12 mission, taking Pete Conrad and Al Bean down to within walking distance of the Surveyor 3 spaceprobe which had landed on the Moon some time previously.
I should have spotted that, I really should, especially when I read the name given to another nearby crater, “Yankee Clipper”… which was the name of the Apollo 12 command module, seen in this image…
I should have known that!!
What makes this even more annoying is that Apollo 12 is one of my own personal favourite Apollo missions, because of the way it is shown in Tom Hanks’ fantastic HBO TV series “From The Earth To The Moon”. For me, that episode, more than any other in the whole series, summed up why Apollo was such a stunning human achievement and not just a technical one. The actors’ portrayals of the Apollo 12 crew of Dick Gordon, Pete Conrad and Alan Bean are so joyful, so full of life that it really does stand out as an excellent episode in a series of fantastic episodes. And, of course, the story of Apollo 12 – the pin-point landing almost on top of Surveyor 3, the lost camera part, the “historic photo that was never taken” (see below) – is remarkable in itself. Very fitting, then, that the mission’s incredible ships of exploration are now immortalised on Mars.
And don’t forget, thanks to the fantastic camera onboard NASA’s Moon-orbiting LRO satellite, we have actually seen the lunar module Intrepid – well, its descent stage – standing on the lunar surface…!
So, hands up, I was absolutely wrong about the naming thing, forgive me. But I’m glad I was wrong, because it means that one of the most exciting missions in the history of space exploration will be honoured, remembered and celebrated on Mars in the centuries to come, as generation after generation of martians, both native and offworld, walk around the craters “Intrepid” and “Yankee Clipper” and read the plaques next to them.
And, you know… if the MER team are going to go on naming craters after Apollo spacecraft there are a lot more names to choose from:
Command module “Columbia”, Lunar module “Eagle”
Command module “Odyssey”, Lunar module “Aquarius”
Command module “Kitty Hawk”, Lunar module “Antares”
Command module “Endeavour”, Lunar module “Falcon”
Command module “Casper”, Lunar module “Orion”
Command module “America”, Lunar module “Challenger”.
Hmmm. I wonder if they’ll name That Crater over there on the far rim of Endeavour after one of those spacecraft?
Wouldn’t “Challenger Crater” be a wonderful tribute to the crew of 51-L?