Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Title text: We all remember those famous first words spoken by an astronaut on the surface of Mars: "That's one small step fo- HOLY SHIT LOOK OUT IT'S GOT SOME KIND OF DRILL! Get back to the ... [unintelligible] ... [signal lost]"
This comic is talking about the robotic science platform Opportunity. On January 25, 2004, the Opportunity rover landed on the surface of Mars for the purpose of gathering data about the surface of Mars.
Also sent to Mars on the same date was another Martian rover, Spirit. Unfortunately, this became stuck and a sand storm covered its solar panels. On March 22, 2010, it was thought that Spirit's batteries finally ran out, marking the end of its mission. This was memorably covered in 695: Spirit, in which the Spirit rover is portrayed as sentient.
As of the release date of this comic in 2015, the Opportunity rover is still alive and moving. The comic depicts the scientists at ground control being amazed at this.
However, in 2023, Opportunity has apparently become so powerful that it has become dangerous, presumably cannibalizing or destroying the rover sent in 2020. Cueball and Megan note it even continues to operate without its original battery, suggesting it has developed a new power source. This evolution is similar to the stories of HAL 9000 (from 2001: A Space Odyssey) and V'Ger (from Star Trek: The Motion Picture), both of which became sentient and dangerous.
By 2450, humans have supposedly colonized and terraformed Mars. “Everything the light touches” is a reference to what Mufasa says in The Lion King. (Mufasa's son Simba then asks "What about that shadowy place?" and Mufasa tells him “That is beyond our borders. You must never go there”.) What this all implies is the Opportunity has dominated half of the planet — and clearly has devised a new power source for itself, given that its power originally came from solar panels, which obviously do not function in the darkness.
The title text refers to the first words of the first astronauts on the surface of Mars. At first, the astronaut copies the first words of Neil Armstrong on the Moon ("That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind") but it is interrupted by the Opportunity rover. Onboard the rover uses a drill for sampling rocks, but here it is heavily suggested that it uses the drill to attack the astronaut.
- [Ponytail and Hair Bun sitting at a computer, facing left.]
- Ponytail: After six years, Spirit is down, but Opportunity is still going strong.
- Hair Bun: Tough little rover!
- [Opportunity traveling on Mars.]
- Offscreen: Eleven years, wow.
- Offscreen 2: Wasn't the original mission 90 days?
- Offscreen: This is starting to get weird.
- [Cueball and Megan sitting at a computer, facing right.]
- Cueball: The battery is totally disconnected. How can it still be moving??
- Megan: Given what it did to the Mars 2020 rover, we may never know.
- 2450, terraformed Mars, martian imperial capital:
- [Some martian inhabits looking like Cueball and Megan pointing towards a dark, mountainous region]
- Cueball-Martian: Everything the light touches is our kingdom.
- Megan-Martian: What's that dark area?
- Cueball-Martian: That is Opportunity's half of the planet. We must never go there.
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"Everything the light touches is our kingdom" are Mufasa words from 'The Lion King' (1994) --JakubNarebski (talk) 08:39, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
- The "You must never go there" line is also from Lion King. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110357/quotes?item=qt0371437 Drmouse (talk) 11:40, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
May someone make this Transcritpt better? 18.104.22.168 08:58, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
Hey, thanks to whoever tidied up my explanation 22.214.171.124 11:01, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
I think the second line ("We must never go there") is from the same scene in The Lion King as the first line, not a reference to Space Odyssey . See [] from 0:52 to 1:23. 126.96.36.199 11:04, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
It seems to me to be common currency that the 'missing' word in "one small step" is "a", not "this" (whether as a fluffed line, in the moment, or a temporary radio drop-out over that bare syllable). Also, while it's highly suggested, there's no certainty in the title-text that the new Mars-landing quote necessarily ended in fatality. 188.8.131.52 14:31, 27 March 2015 (UTC) (Someone seems to have edited the text that inspired these comments, now... so you may now ignore me. 184.108.40.206 22:41, 27 March 2015 (UTC))
I just don't get how the rover could gain more power. It is after all, isolated on mars. All it could do is get weaker. Maybe it was already strong enough to control half of mars. The Goyim speaks (talk) 15:05, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
- My take was that even without batteries, it was still getting enough power from the solar panels (and maybe it somehow became sentient enough to reconfigure to create additional solar power arrays sufficient for its needs, like some suggestions for 'builder' robots on the Moon, perhaps mixed in with Von Neumann machine ideas). Which makes the "dark part of Mars, don't go there!" even more intruiging. (Have we done to Opportunity what 'we' tried to do to the Matrix's machine-civilisation? Darken the environment? And thus how is it still dangerous? The same reason as the Matrix machines are still powered on that world? Or has it raised the cloud of darkness itself; Because It Can, to delineate its territory or as an actual terraforming effort of its own, more suited to its own current needs and 'desires'? And how many more questions can I raise?) 220.127.116.11 22:41, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
I'm surely not the only person who read the title text and thought, "Well, that's more work for the Death of Being Ground by a Mars Rover Rock Abrasion Tool." 18.104.22.168 18:01, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
- I just wanted to say pretty much the same thing, so no, you're not the only. 22.214.171.124 09:12, 28 March 2015 (UTC)
Did something happen to inspire this? Mikemk (talk) 19:28, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
On March 20 Opportunity completed a reformat of its flash memory and started accumulating more data. On March 24 it logged 26.219 miles (42.195 km) in the 11 years and 2 months since it landed, the length of a marathon.
NASA JPL press releases: http://mars.nasa.gov/mer/newsroom/pressreleases/20150323a.html http://mars.nasa.gov/mer/newsroom/pressreleases/20150324a.html The Dining Logician (talk) 22:59, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
What citations does this explanation require?--17jiangz1 (talk) 11:39, 28 March 2015 (UTC)
What does the transcript require for it to be complete? As far as I can tell, it is complete. --Zbee talk git (talk) 17:16, 28 March 2015 (UTC)
- I think the transcript is incorrect, rather than incomplete. In the 2450 panel Meghan-M and Cueball-M appear to be standing in daylight. In that case it would be wrong to say they are "pointing in the dark". It would be better to say they are "pointing towards a dark, mountainous region". Someone feel free to edit the transcript if you agree.These Are Not The Coments You Are Looking For (talk) 19:21, 28 March 2015 (UTC)
- I hadn't caught that before; I've changed it and think it is good now.--Zbee talk git 20:02, 28 March 2015 (UTC)