Friday, February 1, 2008

Little House on the Red Planet

On January 14, 2004, the White House announced that Bush had “committed the United States to a long-term human and robotic program to explore the solar system, starting with a return to the Moon, that will ultimately enable future exploration of Mars and other destinations.” Space fans almost fainted en masse: the Moon, we’re going back to the Moon! Has the human spirit ever again soared so high as it did during Apollo? Remember when Alan Shephard hit that golf ball?

And then
Mars. Pioneer families in corduroy britches, poke bonnets, and space suits will be wending their way to the Red Planet in nuclear-powered Conestogas before you can say “Manifest Destiny in Space.” Bonus: no annoying Indians to kill now, mourn later! Super cool!

But things have not been going so well for the Bush administration’s Vision for Space Exploration lately, as cost overruns force NASA to eat itself alive like the marooned, starving surgeon in the Stephen King story who gradually sliced off and ate all his own appendages. I comment further on the state of the space-colonization dream in an essay just published by
Turnrow, the literary review of the University of Louisiana at Monroe. A sightlier, more-printable PDF of the piece—all Turnrow’s apostrophes and quotation marks appear in Firefox as question marks, ugh!—can be had here.


(Mars photo taken by Viking 2 lander, 1976.)