The other day, a few friends from work gathered on one of the balconies of our building to enjoy a beer (ot two) and we were treated to a brilliant sunset — crisp cerulean blue skies with clouds that changed from white to pink to orange to red, finally fading to violet and gray. It was spectacular.
It reminded me of a picture that I had seen earlier that day, taken from the rover Spirit on the surface of the planet Mars.
How remarkable! The sun — our sun – tiny on the horizon of another planet. Apparently, dawn and dusk conditions last longer on Mars because of all the light-scattering caused by the large amount of dust in the atmosphere.
Since they landed and sent back their first images, how many people have given much thought to these robot-explorers? Probably not many (or much thought), but I think they represent the best of what the space program has done in the last decade. NASA hoped the rovers (the other is Opportunity) might last for a few months — they've been going strong for 1000 days! I'm always a little chagrined at how accustomed we get to things that should be mind-boggling.
Mars may be a dead planet by most measures, and perhaps the mystery of the "Red Planet", which has captured the imagination of writers from the 19th century until today, has been diminished. But writers can move their imaginations to other, farther worlds — and perhaps Ray Bradbury's closing of "The Martian Chronicles" is even more appropiriate than ever. "The Martians were there–in the canal–reflected in the water. Timothy and Michael and Robert and Mom and Dad."