Do the names of the characters have any special meaning?
The characters’ names have meanings related to space, flight, exploration, and similar subjects.
Fara (traveler) Lucas (star)
Irisa (goddess of the rainbow) Orlov (eagle)
Peter (rock) Mason (one who builds with stone)
Yong (brave) Cheng (journey)
“Spike” Dillon (ray of light) Sheridan (searcher)
Elena (light of the sun) Fernando (traveler)
K27 does not have any special meaning.

Captain Melvill (see page 4, named for the first civilian astronaut, Mike Melvill, the pilot of SpaceShipOne.)
Lieutenant Rogers (see page 4, named in honor of Buck Rogers, a fictional space explorer.)

Also:
The book title on page 6 is a tribute to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a science fiction comedy series written by Douglas Adams.
The book title on page 8 is in honor of Around the World in Eighty Days, written by Jules Verne and first published in 1872.

On page 4, the cockpit controls are from what space vehicle?
The Space Shuttle.

On page 5, why are there no stars in space around Earth?
Stars are too dim to be photographed near a bright object such as the Earth when it has light from the sun shining on it.

On page 6, why does K27’s laptop have green lettering on a black background?
In the science fiction movie The Matrix (and the sequels) the code of the matrix was shown as green symbols on black.

On page 10–11, what are the little spheres floating in the background?
The spheres represent gas molecules, including water vapor, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen.

On page 11, where was the background photograph taken and what is it really?
Andy took the photograph at the Visitor Center at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It is a Space Shuttle engine.

On page 19 there is a photo of thin ice clouds on Mars. Does Mars ever have thick clouds?
No. (No water-based clouds, anyway. Mars does get dust storms as shown on page 18.) Mars is too cold and has too little water and air pressure for thick clouds to form.

On page 19, photo 3, how big is the frozen lake?
The crater is about 35 kilometers wide (about 23 miles). The lake is less than half as wide, so it’s about 14 kilometers across (about 9 miles.) For more info, visit the European Space Agency web site.

On page 20, what is wrong with the image of the Viking lander on Mars?
The Viking landers could not take a long-distance photograph of themselves since their cameras were attached and the two landers were many miles apart. The landscape is a real photo taken by Viking 1. Loreen inserted a photo of a Viking lander replica that stayed on Earth. It’s now located in the Smithsonian Air and Space museum.

So far, there are 3 ways to successfully land on Mars. What are they?
Page 21: Small rockets on the landers were used by Viking to settle gently on the surface.
Page 22, 24: A parachute and inflatable air bags were used by Pathfinder, Spirit, and Opportunity.
On August 6, 2012, the MSL Curiosity Rover landed safely using a parachute and jet pack. To view a short animation of the landing sequence, click here.

On page 22, why is Spike falling?
There is a dip in the Martian surface he has stepped into. The web site page below has a 3D version of the same landscape. Put on 3D glasses and look on the far left side of the photograph:
Click here to see 3D Pathfinder image.

On pages 22–23, some of the rocks have funny names like Yogi and Barnacle Bill. Who names the rocks?
The scientists who run each mission pick names for the rocks. Names are easier to remember than numbers or random letters.

What is missing from the Mars landscape photos on pages 22–29?
Footprints. With all the characters walking around, there should be plenty. However, we wanted to alter the Mars photographs as little as possible, so we didn’t add footprints.

Are the Spirit and Opportunity rovers on pages 24– 29 still running?
As of June 1, 2006, Spirit has one broken wheel out of six which is dragging in the soil. It is making it hard for scientists to move Spirit and get it into position to recharge with its solar panels. The Opportunity rover has gotten stuck in loose sand more than once, but has gotten out every time with careful driving by scientists on Earth. Still, both rovers continue to collect data. So far, Spirit has driven over four miles while Opportunity has driven almost five miles. The rovers have lasted about nine times longer than they were designed to. For updates, click here to visit NASA’s rover web page.

On page 32, why is the colony named Marsbase Alpha?
The first letter of the Greek alphabet is alpha. Also, Andy’s first dog was named Alpha.

How do Loreen and Andy know each other?
They are married to each other.

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Messages from Mars: Fun Facts & Trivia