Above: Taken from the descent stage, a snapshot of Perseverance rover from about two meters above the Martian surface. This image was sent down the coiled umbilical into Percy for later transmission before the descent stage disconnected from the rover and flew off to a safe distance. [NASA/JPL-Caltech]
The entire issue celebrates the successful (fortunately) landing of Perseverance by summarizing the history of all five NASA rovers (Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity, Curiosity, "Percy") – with as much Martian eye candy as will fit into 60-ish pages.
For the record – Percy’s landing on the 18th did not leave a whole lot of time to prep a full article that then needed to be translated into three other languages by the 28th. Additionally, it would have been awful (on many levels) to put together a full article on all of the exciting science and imaging to be done by Percy and Ingenuity – only to then have to scrap the whole article if the rover itself ended up as scrap on the surface (or several feet below depending on the speed of impact).
That said, the landing of Curiosity was exceptional and nine years is a long time to perfect a technique. As such, the final article only required a few changes of verb tense and the “Nixon-Apollo 11” alternate version was not necessary to have out early for its separate translation. In the words of Thomas Zurbuchen as he tore the thin stack of papers up during the first press briefing, “Here’s for the contingency plan!”
I will say, however, that the last-minute-ness of the prep may have resulted in a few glitches working their way into the final edition. People finding them means people are reading, so all the better. As expressed to our fearless leader Michele and in the words of Paul Valéry, “Aux yeux de ces amateurs d’inquiétude et de perfection, un ouvrage n’est jamais achevé, – mot qui pour eux n’a aucun sens, – mais abandonné."
Browser-readable version: www.astropublishing.com/2FAM2021/
Jump to the PDF download (18.7 MB): March-April 2021