The Laughter Online

NASA unveils its latest rover’s unimaginable success: navigating the landscape of Ikezi’s head

by Carol Donnell, undercover contributing writer | March 30, 2021

Images from a NASA satellite showing the Discretion rover’s miraculous landing

Scientists and engineers at the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, California, rejoiced this past Thursday when a decade of planning and high-tech engineering paid off: The space agency landed its first rover on a rocky patch of land in the northern hemisphere of the head of Mr. Chihiro Ikezi. The rover, known as Discretion, is the latest example of NASA’s string of successful rover landings on massive, planetary-sized objects in our solar system. Just last month, for instance, the Perseverance rover touched down safely on Mars—the fifth such rover in the program to do so—and has been sending back initial images and sounds from the Red Planet ever since.

The Discretion project, to land a rover on Ikezi’s head, was an even more impressive feat of engineering with an even more ambitious goal.

“We’re just so thrilled,” said Program Executive George Tahu. “Landing on Mars was difficult—there were so many engineering challenges. But landing a functioning rover on Ikezi’s head at times seemed like an impossible task. There are the usual problems associated with landing on a distant planet but, in addition, we had to deal with an uncertain topography and an especially deep gravity well.”

Unlike Mars, which orbiting satellites have mapped with relative precision, Ikezi’s head is largely covered by a dense hairlike substance that makes scouting the underlying scalp difficult.

“If you push through the hair,” Tahu explained, “you might settle on a smooth landing site—or you might come to grief on a rocky outcropping of some sort.” Similar problems have been encountered by those seeking to land on Venus, with its heavy cloud cover. “We got lucky,” he chuckled. “We hit a smooth patch.”

The other major difficulty faced by the Discretion project is that Ikezi’s head is much denser than other planets of that size, which meant that the lander and the rover would have to deal with much greater gravity than might be expected.

“For many years,” said Dr. Katie Stack Morgan of JPL and Caltech, “going all the way back to the original measurements made by Carl Sagan, scientists assumed that the head was quite porous and that there was lots of empty space within. And then came the Soviets.”

Morgan notes that our current best understanding of Ikezi’s head came from a disastrous mission launched by the Soviet Union in 1988. The Soviets had previously successfully landed probes on both Mars and Venus before they made an effort to land on the head.

“They weren’t really prepared,” Morgan noted. “The Vostok Foton was designed to enter the atmosphere of Ikezi’s head and to deploy parachutes to facilitate a soft landing, but the chutes were designed with an expectation that the atmospheric resistance would be enough to counteract the gravitational pull of the head. But on that head? It was like expecting an open umbrella to prevent your fall to the surface of a neutron star.”

Interestingly enough, Ikezi himself never noticed the failed landing in 1988.

“I had a lot of things going on that year,” he said. “I was taking some crazy classes in quantum mechanics at USC—go Trojans!—and I never really noticed anything until I read in the Daily Trojan the next day about the failed landing. But they were just communists, you know. You can’t count on communists to solve force equations correctly.”

The Discretion rover will be running systems checks for the next several days, and then will begin scientific experiments, including a search for the traces of life. Sometime in the next month, the project engineers and scientists hope to begin moving the rover around the surface of the head.

“Looking forward to it,” Ikezi said. “Just stay out of my eyebrows, dudes.”

This article is part of an April Fool’s edition of the paper. We regret to inform you that the content contained therein is fictional.

Categories: The Laughter Online

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