Broadcasting live, from Mars

It was a blast to watch the live NASA broadcast of Phoenix landing on Mars from sleepy Salem, Massachusetts! Since my buddy, Don, who lives in Beverly doesn’t have cable t.v. or internet, I called him up on my cellphone and turned up the volume so he could listen along to the first powered landing on Mars since Viking, 32 years ago. As we were all listening to the transmissions from Mission Control at JPL in California, the whole communications scenario appeared in my mind. What a far out world we live in! As a space vehicle hurtles into the atmosphere of Mars, heat shields flaring up to plasma, it is sending a live signal to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter at 32 KB / second. This signal is then piped back to JPL on earth, taking 15 minutes to traverse the 173,000,000 miles of space that currently separates the two planets. At JPL, the communications of the Mission Control crew, along with video of them sitting in their closed booth, is sent out as a live t.v. broadcast, which is, in turn, converted into a live video stream over the internet. So, here in Salem, Mass, I logged on and while watching this all happen live, decide to ring up Don, across the way in Beverly. Therefore, Don, with nothing more than his cellphone, can listen to the live landing sequence on Mars, as he potters around his back deck lighting up some charcoal on the grill. Is this amazing, or what? Now back the hum-drum surface ops on twitter.