Sunday, May 25, 2008


The Phoenix probe sneaked up on me - I had only the vaguest notion that another Mars mission was closing in.

Perhaps it sneaked up on Mars too, because the Red Planet, though a popular fave, does not seem to like us very much. Mars, so far as I can recall, has swallowed up a larger proportion of the missions sent there than any other major body in the Solar System. It has continued to do so even to modern times, including the feet-and-meters folly that lost the Mars Climate Orbiter a decade ago. The old war god even knows how to screw with our heads.

Following a theme from last post, though, aren't Mars and Venus misnamed? Just as Saturn ought to be Juno with her royal diadem, let Sol II be Mars. War is hell, and so is it, with its broiler-hot surface temperature, ultradense CO2 atmosphere, and oh yes, endless sulfuric acid rain. The fourth planet can then be Venus - an endlessly fascinating tease and the most popular girl in class, but treating her terrestrial suitors with dismissive contempt. Quit probing me, jerks!

I'll stop before I get in more trouble, but hats off to Phoenix! Now, apparently, we're actually up to 50-50 on Mars missions. Maybe she's lightening up on us a bit.


Anonymous said...

Funny post. I think that some of Mars' allure is our disapointment about Venus. We so desperatly want to find Barsoom that sometimes we try to find a little piece of it even where it doesn't exsist. That doesn't mean that we stop looking.

Rick said...

Venus never had the magic that Mars did, at least in modern times. It was too shrouded in mystery, an atmospheric burqa. A lady has to show some ankle, or at least dark flashing eyes, to keep interest up.

I don't know if Mars was anything special before the 1877 opposition, but once seasonality and the canals were "discovered," Mars became the almost-Earth, and more or less has been ever since. It took a beating in 1964, but then at the same time we finally learned something about Venus, and it turned out to be just like Hell. Even a semi-lunar Mars looked great by comparison!

Anonymous said...

I think that the disapointment stims from a deep-rooted desire to stand somewhere new and breath the air and feel the soil. The only place we can do that, so far, is on Earth. We want to go someplace new and for modern humans, 'new' is another planet.

Magpie said...

Dejah Thoris won't be waiting beer in hand for me by the time I get to Mars, but that's okay... I'm sure there'll be something just as interesting.
Actually, I've got this very powerful feeling that the first man on Mars will be a female astronaut, and I don't seem to be the only one. Perhaps something in the collective unconscious will make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.