BRADBURY LANDING

We just can’t get enough of Mars!

NASA saw its largest, most sophisticated robotic explorer yet, the Curiosity Rover, successfully land in a highly complex maneuver in mid-August.  The damned thing is so large and so heavy that they needed to remotely lower it with reverse thrusters and a complicated parachute system. Of course, it operated flawlessly, and the Rover landed with a little jet blast and a soft bump, exactly as hoped for.

We’ve gotten to see the initial images of the Rover’s immediate surroundings, then the more distant vistas, including Mount Sharp—also known as Aeolis Mons—which is where the Rover will be sent to explore the ancient geological layers of the formation. The goal is to further understand the evolution of Mars and discover whether or not that included the development of living organisms.

The spot upon which the Rover set down, from which it signaled Earth that all was well and it was ready to explore and search for signs of alien life, has major historic significance—even if no life signs are ever found. And how did NASA signify the importance of this site? By naming it “Bradbury Landing” in honor the late, great author and humanitarian, Ray Bradbury.

Of course, when Ray wrote the stories that would be collected into THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, he was commenting on what he saw on Earth; about the human condition; about our ability to rise to great challenges, as well as to succumb to malevolent forces.  But he was also energized and excited by the published works of astronomers Giovanni Schiaparelli and Percival Lowell, whose mistaken perceptions of Martian canals lent credence to the idea of the Red Planet being inhabited by intelligent beings. And he had read the pulp fantasies of Edgar Rice Burroughs, whose stories of John Carter, Dejah Thoris and Tars Tarkis have set on fire the minds of five generations of Earthly humans. Other world-class authors, such as Kim Stanley Robinson, have made Mars their own venue. But Burroughs gave them a reason. And Bradbury gave them the desire.

Bradbury Landing. I wish Ray were alive to see it.

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