Vice President Dick Cheney visited JPL today, and gave a short congratulations speech to the MER team and JPL employees on the mall. LIke many of the people I talked to, I had decided that it was unlikely that anything new would be said in his speech, especially after Bush's announcement from NASA Headquarters, and that it would essentially waste the whole afternoon. But, along with most everyone else, I ended up heading over to the mall anyways, because how often does the VPOTUS come to your workplace, after all?
They weren't kidding about security. I heard we caused massive traffic snarls around La Canada Flintridge High School because of JPL's main gate being closed for most of the afternoon. JPL's main cafeteria was shut down since it is right now to the mall, and anyone coming over had to pass through metal detectors. Many of the folks on the MER team stood on the main steps behind the speakers, and they choreographed so that Cheney walked through the middle, with the team parting like the Red Sea. They introduced him as the VPOTUS
and his party which I thought was rather funny, since it was Charles Elachi (JPL Director), David Baltimore (Caltech President) and several other old men in suits. :-)
Cheney told us a bunch we knew already. You've landed a rover on Mars, you've taken lots of neat photos, you're egressing tonight, you've flown through a comet's tail, you're arriving at Saturn this summer, etc. So I figure it was broadcast, or archived or something. Elachi gave him a nice mockup of the MER, and an MER t-shirt. Yeah, when was the last time Cheney probably wore a t-shirt? Besides, from where I was standing, it looked like a small!
As far as Bush's announcement goes, I'm still confused about the dates. Was it just landing on the moon in 2012, or is that a permanent presence? And what was the 2020 data for exactly? One person I overheard said something to the effect that Apollo's landing was accomplished in less than 7 years, but Bush's plan is for about 9. I guess we won't be getting as much of the federal budget as Apollo did. Too bad. :)