December 7, 2012

When Curiosity Bears Bad News

Well, NASA finally released some information about Mars soil. redOrbit reported on the release noting that the Curiosity rover found complex chemical components including water, sulfur, and chlorine-containing substances. However, NASA also reported that there still is no definitive analysis proving that Mars ever maintained or could, in the future, maintain life. As I read this report, I found myself thinking about all the science fiction novels and stories I read about living on Mars.

Two of the most prominent are Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. The former is a collection of short stories about colonizing Mars, and the latter is about a Martian coming to Earth. I remember reading these and falling in love with the idea of space travel and the possibilities of life on other planets. The author’s stories really create a vivid impression in readers of Mars, and for good or bad readers find themselves dreaming of the prospects.

Today, I felt a twinge of sorrow at Curiosity’s findings. Of course, there is still much to research and discover on Mars and NASA is hard at work there, but these initial reports do not support that life could have existed there. This also means that it is unlikely that Earth’s inhabitants could ever travel and station on Mars.

This idea is one that drives many writers and readers of science fiction. The possibility that we could travel to and experience different planets is one that catches our attention. For me, it is almost a modern day form of magic. Different planets mean different terrains, a new frontier, if you will. The possibilities are endless in this, which means so is the creativity.

Obviously, the unknown is a perfect place to create stories, which is probably why so many people have written about Mars and other planets. So much is open because we know so little about other planets. Like with fantasy, science fiction writers create whole new worlds only using real worlds as the setting. This means that anything goes.

Perhaps the idea of anything is possible that draws so many people to science fiction. We like the possibilities, the infinite and different possibilities. The landing and now data analysis of Curiosity strikes just those cords. We want to know everything because we know nothing.

Even though this newly released data from NASA is still inconclusive, many people find hope in the mere fact that Curiosity found water, sulfur, and chlorine. We understand these chemicals. We have and use these on our own planet. NASA has provided those of us interested in this study with a connection to Mars, a similarity, and that breeds hope for many.

My hope is that Curiosity will find something to show that Mars can or has supported life. Wouldn’t it be cool to travel not just to another state or another country but to a whole new and different planet!?! The possibility of intergalactic travel appeals to many of us including me. The call of travel regularly seduces me, but I can’t be alone in that. Others of Earth’s inhabitants must feel the itch for adventure, for wandering, on our planet, so why wouldn’t we want to be able to wander on other planets?

Image Credit: Photos.com

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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