Over the course of this blog series’ first two installments, you and I’ve been teleporting back to my July 28th, telescopic “travels” to Mars. While, we’ve been exploring my astronomical, philosophical and theological observations / musings, we have yet to ferret and flesh out the underlying causes of my chronic, Mars Mania “affliction”… that is until now.
With Part 3 about to unfold, I pause to announce a slight course correction re my mission to the cosmos. Rather than revisiting this past Saturday’s viewing session, we’ll be reliving the return to my backyard open air observatory at 3:50 a.m. EDT (0750 GMT) on this very day… July 31st. I just had to “be there” at that precise moment… at the very pinnacle of 2018’s Mars and Earth rendezvous… to experience the almost palpable cosmic magic in the air.
Remaining ever mindful of Part 3’s content prerequisites, as I metaphorically wander about the heavens and the recesses of my mind, I start to zero in on the origins of my personal obsession with Mars.
As I wistfully gaze upward, I briefly consider the possibility that aliens might be doing the same. Only my not wanting to wake up my neighbors prevents me from yelling skyward at the top of my lungs, “Is there anybody out there?” Of course, my dismay regarding the present-day ideological disarray of my homeland… our home world… has certainly, detrimentally impacted my attitude (not unlike a meteor hit). How so? Well, were any ET’s to ever flyby my neighborhood, I’d instantly stick out my thumb and attempt to hitch a ride. Even if their motives were unclear… even if it’d be a certain, one-way trip for me… in a heartbeat… I’d still take my chances and opt to forever leave planet Earth.
Alas… long sigh… on this night… there are no such, extraordinary, extraterrestrial vehicular light patterns in the skies… soooooo… I must make the best of the ordinary.
And I do that, precisely, by granting free rein to my boyhood recollections. Naturally, Mars themed literary works come to mind. First up, my Middle Schooler era, figurative feasting upon my book club purchased, paperback copy of H. G. Wells’ page turner, Sci-Fi novel, The War of the Worlds. Next up, come my elementary school library visits… my checking out astronomy textbooks… their authors’ content, eventually, proving to be more fiction than fact. About the only thing they had ever gotten right? The Red Planet’s 24 hour and 37 minute diurnal rotation!
That’s about all anyone could ever expect from authors “infecting” themselves with the “contagion” of astronomer Percival Lowell’s over-imaginative “strain” of Mars Mania (and I do good-naturedly employ those enclosed in quotation marks, italicized words). Their perpetuation of his fantasyland… an irrigation canal networked, hospitable to humans, environment… coupled with my younger, overly impressionable mind… accounts for my own fantasies of becoming a spacefarer aboard NASA’s very first Mars-ward bound spacecraft.
My mind next crossfades to the plights of Sci-Fi stranded astronauts portrayed in films such as 1964’s Robinson Crusoe on Mars (which takes literary liberties with the Daniel Defoe classic) and in 2015’s The Martian based on Andy Weir’s sci-fi book of the same title.
As these big screen drama scenes dissolve to the realm of the Sixtes era, small screen, Sci-Fi TV sitcom, I catch myself smiling as I recall My Favorite Martian episodes featuring earthling Tim O’Hara comedically interacting with his spacecraft crashed and marooned, ET “Uncle Martin”.
The TV images soon shift from the ridiculous to the sublime. Philosopher / astrophysicist / author Carl Sagan… via both his book and PBS miniseries Cosmos… presents his Blues For A Red Planet chapter / episode #5. That late, great man… the consummate scientist and dramatist… so adeptly, fact checks / debunks Lowellesque Mars Mania yet, simultaneously rekindles it with seasoned-by-science sanity. In his chapter’s / episode’s epilogue he even speculates…
“The power of Lowell’s idea may, just possibly, make it a kind of premonition. His canal network was built by Martians. Even this may be an accurate prophecy: If the planet ever is terraformed, it will be done by human beings whose permanent residence and planetary affiliation is Mars… The Martians will be us.”
It’s at that moment where my thoughts begin to set, along with Mars’ orb rapidly nearing the hazy, southwestern horizon. As I naked eye glimpse that bright orange dot slipping behind the approaching, thick veil of clouds, I begin loosening the clamps, separating my scope from its tripod.
As I look up one last time, my thoughts of Dr. Sagan’s Cosmos crossfade to his fictional work, Contact. It is during one of that film’s final scenes where silver screen star Jodie Foster… in the lead role of astronomer Ellie Arroway… so fervently… so eloquently… so tearfully serves upward, her own cosmic perspective as…
“A vision of the universe, that tells us, undeniably, how tiny and insignificant… and how rare and precious we all are! A vision that tells us that we belong to something that is greater than ourselves. That we are not… that none of us are alone! I wish i could share that. I wish that everyone… if even for one moment… could feel that awe and humility and hope. That continues to be my wish.”
To continue conveying and living those same sentiments is my wish, too! Hopefully, you feel similarly!
While the gradual dimming of that bright orange dot… a.k.a. Mars 2018… is inevitable in the days and weeks to come, my oneness with our universe shall shine on brightly… eternally. My continually blogging about Mars… on similar cosmic topics… will be unavoidable. After all…
“Transcendental moments, such as these, are where one’s worldly concerns dissolve into the rarefied air. Minds tend to free associate / wander and welcome the timelessness of it all. A sense of DNA level déjà vu also enters the mix… after all… has not humankind been stargazing ever since first standing up on two feet? Ever since that (then) newly evolved posture first allowed us to look upward to the eternal heavens?”
As for part 4 to this series… stay tuned…