Another rover is about to be launched to Mars. Each time, I cringe at the wonderful event, wondering if the rocket will instantly flip and spike like in those early space-program films. Then, after the usually-not-that-exciting launch, there is the long wait until we get to Mars. Months. Usually a half-year of months or so. In between, I think about what my grandfather would’ve thought of the images that have come back from the two little rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, that operated on the red planet way beyond their warranties: Well, why would you want to go there for anyway? Dudn’t make no sense. Let’s go catch us some catfish.
Then comes the key moment — oh happy day — when the world will learn whether engineers inverted metric and imperial like they did that time, causing an X-billion-dollar mission to skip on past Mars into the black unknown goodbye we hardly knew ye. Apparently, this rover, Curiosity, which sounds like a child’s game, will be using a fancy little “sky crane” to land, whatever that is and which sounds like a child’s toy, that involves little wires to lower the package to the surface nice n easy. It better, because this rover is as big as an SUV. But super-sized gizmos are the American way, hoo rah, and most Americans drive big-ass gas-sucking SUVs so they should be able to instantly relate to this fantastic feat of science. That is, if they look up from their smart phones long enough to notice while they’re texting down the interstate about the waste of precious federal dollars on interplanetary missions when what we should be doing is putting this kuntry back to work!
This is a tiny corner of the universe. An edge-on galaxy. A weird, torn-up blue one (blue because young) down at the bottom. An egg in the sky upper-left. There are billions of these islands out there, each containing billions of stars. Can you honestly believe that intelligent life has not developed more than once in the entire universe that we see? I can’t believe that, no matter if it is argued that intelligence is not an imperative. This tiny scene from the immeasurable universe coming into view is the essence of beauty.
Just a nice image of the two moons in the Mars sky on the night of June 18, courtesy of a great little program called Stellarium. You can almost hear the Martian crickets. Sure is quiet, too.