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...
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!