The Mars Curiosity Rover team says I think like NASA!

Ooh! The Mars Curiosity Rover team says I think like NASA! Now I feel all smart and stuff!


You may have seen my Facebook post on July 10th about an email to NASA/JPL and the Curiosity Rover team about the damage to Curiosity’s wheels. Here’s that email again, followed by their (amazingly fast!) reply, and mine back to them:

Please forward to the Curiosity Rover team.

Here’s another of the countless suggestions you receive — this one regarding the damage to the wheels.

Would it be possible to use the science laser to do any of these?

1) Melt (weld) the ends of cracks to stop their progress, or even spot-weld together portions of cracks that have not separated widely
2) Punch a hole at the end of a crack to serve as a “rip-stop”
3) Warm portions of deformations to bend them using temperature differential, then spot-weld points that have been brought closer together

I Googled a bit and haven’t seen any discussion on this, though I’m guessing it might have been discussed. I have no idea if the laser has the right power output, or is power-variable or can be reconfigured through a software upload.

But I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask.

Congratulations on a spectacular mission, and thanks for all you do!

— Bob

Their reply:

On Jul 14, 2014, at 1:33 PM, Mars Outreach wrote:

We checked with one of the Curiosity science team members, and here is his response:
Those are really great questions and just how NASA thinks–how can we creatively solve the problems we encounter. Unfortunately ChemCam isn’t really a good tool for welding. It uses only a tiny amount of energy, but focuses it over a very small area and over a very short time (microseconds), so the effect is still large (for that tiny area). It vaporizes just a few micrometers of material.

To do any welding, you’d really want a blowtorch, which can impart a lot of energy over a big area, for a long time, until the whole thickness of material gets warm enough to melt.
Thanks again for your message and your interest in Mars exploration!

And I just sent them this:

Ah! Well, darn.

But I’m sure the team will do what it takes to get the job done — whether it’s steering around caprock or something more MacGyveresque!

Thanks again!


…and now I’m giggling like a schoolboy.

Chef: A savory little movie you’ll want to see

Just saw ‪the movie “Chef” with fabulous Production designer Denise Pizzini. Sure, I might be a little biased. But when a movie I work on ain’t so great, I’m not going to say it’s fab.

In this case, it’s not necessary for me to keep my mouth shut. Because Chef is fantastic. Even better than I expected.


This is one of those “little” movies that is genuine and hilarious and touching, and even more uncommonly, every aspect of the filmmaking craft is done with care and energy and heart, and everything clicks. Jon Favreau’s great script — with many scenes augmented by ad-libs — is delivered with tons of strong performances from a great cast. Including Jon himself, who went to cooking school and worked for months in Chef Roy Choi’s restaurant to bring scary-good reality to his physical work in the kitchen.

With players like John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Sofia Vergara, Robert Downey Jr., Oliver Platt, Dustin Hoffman, and superb 10-year-old newcomer Emjay Anthony, all creating chemistry out the wazoo, this movie just sings.

This is a film about losing your position in life, learning to find your way in a new world of technology, and reconnecting with family. It’s a father-son buddy picture, and a road picture. It’s a floor wax and a dessert topping!

It’s been a long time since I saw a movie about realistic characters doing realistic things that was this great. We used to have more movies like this, but as Jon said in the Q&A, with the demise of the DVD market, the studios don’t want to make them anymore. And what a loss. To think that we’ve missed out on countless engaging, rewarding movies like this is a real shame. But, as he also said, with digital/new media rising, smaller, more “personal” movies like these may get a new life.

Oh, and by the way— Let me brag about the production design work of my boss and friend Denise Pizzini. I think this is her best work ever. She actually has experience designing restaurants, and I think that really shows in this movie. The look has that perfect “heightened reality” feel to it, from richly-decorated high-end restaurants to fabulous mansions to funky apartments, to rusty, grimy, beat-up old food trucks. And the photography is great, too, which supports and adds to the look. There’s a very inviting visual texture to this film; with Denise’s sets and all the literally hands-on food porn, you just want to reach into the screen and grab stuff. Okay, so Scarlett Johansson and Sofia Vergara are in it, too, but I’m not talking about them. Seriously. Because Denise didn’t design them.

Go see Chef, and enjoy it. But please — eat first. The total payload of delicious food porn in this picture is probably in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Jeff Bridges: Rich, Chewy, Behind-the-Scenes Goodness

So, am I pretty much the last person on Earth to hear about Jeff Bridges’ excellent website? On which, among other features, he displays some of his excellent photography? Of behind-the-scenes happenings on some of the excellent movies he’s been in?

No? Oh, good. I don’t feel so bad now.

Jeff’s got great cast-and-crew shots from Iron Man, Tron: Legacy, True Grit, and more, some of which he shoots with an old-school Russian pano camera that actually turns as it’s exposing the film. (You have heard of “film” I take it?)

Here, Jeff acts as his own camera crane, and catches Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow in an early production meeting for Iron Man, Directed by Jon Favreau.

There’s a lot more in addition to the photography, including info on the End Hunger Network, a non-profit Jeff helped found in 1983, and the film “A Place at the Table.”

Check it out at .

The entire site abides.