Meet Fred. Fred is a shimmering aluminum buffalo with golden wings. He sits on the roof of Copper Country Antiques on East Speedway in Tucson, Arizona, the street that Life magazine once called the "Ugliest Street in America." Owner Gaillard originally planned to turn the buffalo into a barbecue pit. But he got too attached and couldn't bring himself to cut Fred up. So, he welded on the golden wings and stuck Fred on the roof instead.
I didn't get a chance to photograph Fred when he was painted pink with red hearts for Valentine's Day. But I did stop by when he was celebrating Cinco de Mayo (5th of May), a Mexican holiday that commemorates an initial victory of Mexican forces led by General Ignacio Zaragoza over French forces in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. (The date is observed in the United States and other locations around the world as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride.)
On May 25th, NASA's Phoenix spacecraft landed in the northern polar region of Mars to begin three months of examining a site chosen for its likelihood of having frozen water within reach of the lander's robotic arm. Fred, of course, is particularly proud of the University of Arizona team* working on the Phoenix Mars mission.
I'll try to follow Fred's adventures as he pays tribute to significant events throughout the year. Stay tuned!
*Principal investigator of the Phoenix project is Pete Smith, a professor at the University of Arizona's Lunary and Planetary Laboratory. The University of Arizona team designed and built many of the components of the mission. In addition, the UA team will host the Phoenix Mission's Science Operations Center (SOC) in its Tucson facility. From the SOC, the Phoenix science and engineering teams will command the lander once it is safely landed on Mars, and also, receive data as it is transmitted directly to Earth. A payload interoperability test bed (PIT) will be located with the SOC to verify an optimal integration of Phoenix's complex scientific instruments. Working together, the SOC and PIT will ensure a seamless scientific and engineering process—from science goal to instrument commands to down-linked and analyzed data.