Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and late-night television host Stephen Colbert took one of NASA's Mars rovers out for a joyride in the streets of Manhattan last week, and you can watch their out-of-this-world adventure in this video clip.
NASA's Mars rover concept vehicle, which looks like a beefed-up version of the Batmobile, made a special appearance on an episode of the CBS series "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" that aired on Friday (Sept. 22). [We Explored NASA's Concept Mars Rover, and It Was Out of This World]
Designed and built by the Florida-based company Parker Brothers Concepts, the six-wheeled, tank-like rover was made as a prototype off-roading vehicle for the first humans on the Red Planet. "Before they send it to Mars, they want to see if it can stand up to New York's inhospitable atmosphere of urine-based humidity," Colbert said before hopping in with his buddy Neil.
The duo cruised down 53rd Street at a "lugubrious" speed of about 3 mph (5 km/h), getting honked at only a handful of times as they took the wrong way onto 8th Avenue before turning the cumbersome vehicle around.
During their adventure, the two made a pit stop at a Duane Reade convenience store to pick up supplies for their make-believe trip to Mars. Items in Colbert's shopping basket included adult diapers to wear under their spacesuits, eyebrow pencils just in case "our eyebrows burn off" during atmospheric entry in a Mars landing, and a dozen eggs to run over with the Mars rover (just for fun).
While Colbert was pretty gung-ho about going to Mars, Tyson conveyed no desire to travel to the Red Planet himself. "Who's gonna want to do that?" Tyson asked. "I don't see people lined up to colonize Antarctica, and Antarctica is balmier and wetter than any place on Mars." To that, Colbert replied, "Matt Damon proved that on Mars you can grow potatoes in your poop. You can't do that in Antarctica." In the 2015 film "The Martian," Damon's character survived on potatoes.
Colbert and Tyson's adventure came to an end when they pulled the Mars up in front of the Ed Sullivan Theater, parking illegally on the side of the road. "If it gets booted, that's NASA's problem," Colbert said.
This episode of "The Late Show" wasn't the first time Colbert had fun with NASA equipment. In 2009, when he was still on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," he convinced NASA to name its zero-gravity treadmill after him. To this day, astronauts at the International Space Station use the Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (or COLBERT) to get their exercise in space.
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Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at FutureFlight.aero and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at Space.com. As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.