When I wrote that I have just landed on Mars on my Facebook, few hours ago, friends thought at first I was posting a joke on my wall. But soon enough I explained that it wasn’t. Rather it was about my name, which was inscribed on a plate -along with many other American names- inside a rocket flying since last year to eventually land on the red rock.
Indeed Sunday night on 6:30 PM (EST), my name penetrated Mars’ skies. The NASA spacecraft landing there has a list of names packed with a typed message from Earth. Just in case Aliens shows up? In fact it is only a symbolical plate to commemorate the landing for future explorers. It was August of last year. The Mars Phoenix Lander lifted off aboard a Delta II rocket. When the spacecraft arrives on the red planet, the lander’s robotic arm will be used to dig through the top soil layer to the water ice below and ultimately bring both soil and water ice back to the lander platform for analysis.
It is just the idea that something that belongs to you, your name for example, would be going that fast and that far in space to reach another world. The idea on the mind of the great folks at NASA is to send messages to the unknown laying ahead of us in that deep cosmos. I was always fascinated by the Universe’s issues, when I wasn’t analyzing terror wars on this Planet. What a shame: had humanity not wasted time and resources to defend itself against these totalitarian scourges for a century, instead of names, we could have had real humans landing there. But that’s another story. I hinted about it in my last book, The Confrontation: in my maths it doesn’t look we’re going to finish this global conflict very soon.
Since the chances to have some Martians checking the 4×4 NASA vehicle and finding that list of humans is almost zero, the only function of these licence-plates looking things is probably to be read by future generations of explorers and by far-future settlers on that planet. Then most likely they will hyper-Google these names and check them out. Maybe over a cappuccino in an end of century Mars’ Starbucks. Who knows?
I must thank NASA for this honor. It gives you a moment of reflection away from the daily brouhaha of the political jungle we’re in. Just think about it: something is actually moving on Mars tonight (or today). The rocket which carried the Landing craft passed the Moon last year, in just nine hours. And here on Earth, we’re still debating if Jihad means conquest or Yoga. Deep breath..
Walid Phares is an author and space observer.
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