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Martian Diaries

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SAM I Am
By Jeffrey Marlow


NASA is world famous for several things: robotic missions throughout the Solar System, key milestones in manned spaceflight, Tang, and freeze-dried ice cream. And, of course, the liberal use of acronyms, which seem to comprise at least half of any respectable briefing.

It sounds like a foreign language, but given the many complex instruments and procedures involved in NASA missions, acronyms save time. Well aware that their creations will ultimately be known by a few letters, instrument developers carefully craft titles that compress to mellifluous acronyms.

The Sample Analysis at Mars instrument - one of the key scientific workhorses aboard Curiosity - is no different. "SAM" captures the essence of the task, but what it has in snappiness, it lacks in descriptive rigor. Then again, a more faithful acronym of the tools involved - QMSGCTLS (which reflects the module's Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer, Gas Chromatograph, and Tunable Laser Spectrometer) - doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

To SAM co-investigator William Brinckerhoff, the name instantly led to associations with Dr. Suess's masterpiece Green Eggs and Ham, which features a character named "Sam I Am." In honor of the 1960 book, Brinckerhoff composed a work of fan fiction, featuring Curiosity's SAM. "It was inevitable, along with the groans and eye-rolling, when we named this thing SAM," says Brinckerhoff.

The composition debuted last week during a science team meeting - accompanied by the requisite groans and eye-rolling - and is reproduced below. Brinckerhoff will no doubt be fielding multi-million dollar book offers as the mission proceeds...

Sample Analysis at Mars for Curiosity
The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument was built at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. It will analyze samples of material collected by the rover's arm.

That SAM-I-am. That SAM-I-am! I do SO like that SAM-I-am!

Say, I LIKE green PS3_Imon_AUX2 traces in RAM!
I do! I like them SAM-I-am!
And I would downlink them in a sol!
And I would downlink them with Patrice Coll...
And I will downlink them in B264-430.
And in the SPOCC. Even if the rover deck is dirty.
And into a XINA. And from an MEB.
They are so good so good you see!

So I will downlink them via MRO.
And I will downlink them to exclaim "We are GO!".
And I will downlink them from Odyssey.
And I will downlink them with a PC.
And I will downlink them here and there.
Say! I will downlink them ANYWHERE!

I do so like
Green PS3_Imon_AUX2 traces in RAM!
Thank you!
Thank you,
Sam-I-am

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