Traveller’s Baggage

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With the passing of Ray Bradbury, science fiction has lost one of its giants. I met him once when he came to Redlands University during Author’s Week. Unassuming, funny, down to earth, he inspired me to read everything that he had written—and when I came to The Martian Chronicles, I was enthralled with those golden-eyed people who had voices like music and with their crystal cities that soared to the sky!

I thought of Bradbury the other day when I heard about the plan to begin a settlement on Mars. A Dutch start-up company has announced Mars-1, a completely non-political project that hopes to send settlers to Mars. The ‘let’s send people to colonize Mars’ movement is hardly new, but Mars-1 is serious: it’s projected that in 2012 unmanned spacecrafts will be sent to the Red Planet so that robots can set up living quarters for four people. These space pioneers are slated to leave in Earth in September 2022 and after a 7-month long voyage, they will land on Mars.  Every two years, more space-pioneers will arrive on the Red Planet, but no one will ever return home to Earth. Their tickets are for one way only.

Incredible, I thought, Oh, brave! These people would be willing to leave the earth and everything they knew behind. Those that they knew and loved would never shake their hands or hug them again. Oceans would be replaced by red dust. Mountains, green in spring and golden in the fall would be replaced by the arid Martian hills. The warmth of the sun would turn cold and the air thin. Instead of our Moon, there would be two smaller satellites in the Martian sky. When they died, these Martian settlers, they would be buried far away from home.

In the cold night sky

            Would eyes seek distant light

            Of the home once loved?

Such sacrifice! And yet, there is precedent. The men and women (and children) who made that historic voyage on the Mayflower knew that they were leaving behind everything they knew. They knew even less about the strange land they hoped to reach than the space-travelers of our century. The early pioneers realized that they would never come home again, that their loved ones would never see—or, likely even hear—from them again.

To say last farewells

            To hold each other once more…

            But– the promised land.

As a species we are dreamers and adventurers who need to seek out what we cannot understand. That is why scientists experiment and theorize, why writers create people and worlds that become real to those who read their books, and why artists shape paint or copper or marble to share a part of their personal vision. Now, our vision is turning toward Mars, and someday it will extend beyond Mars to Jupiter’s moons, or to the end of our galaxy. Perhaps future generations will find the galaxy as small as  this electronic generation finds the earth today. Imagine skyping Europa, or sharing a great grand child of facebook with someone orbiting Neptune!

This is a good thing… isn’t it? Well, sure. But just as our curiosity and yearning for adventure has sent us into the unknown, there’s also that other and less pleasant motivation… greed.

Columbus couldn’t have ferried his ships across the unknown ocean were it not for Isabella’s desire for the riches of the East. Ponce de Leon and his ilk were not motivated by anything but a lust for wealth and conquest. So, have we changed in a few hundred years? When we reach for the stars, will the quest for knowledge and the hope for a new home be the sole inspirations for our space pioneers? Will there be other, less pleasant incentives?

Those who plan Mars-1 doubtless have the best of motives, but what of the future? Will there be conglomerates interested solely in mining precious ore from distant worlds? Wealthy businessmen who want to exploit the riches of another planet? A reprise of the gold-rush, this time to the stars?

So—perhaps  it’s not going to depend so much on what these first space pioneers are willing to leave behind but on what human beings are going to carry with them into those brave new worlds.

 

“Birth Of a Star”

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About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: maureen@wartski.org/ My blog is here: https://maureenwartski.wordpress.com/ Or friend me on Facebook!

10 responses »

  1. THOSE OF US WHO ARE SCIENCE FICTION DEVOTEES WILL MISS RAY BRADBURY AS WE HAVE ISAAC ASIMOV. WE WERE TRANSPORTED OUT OF THIS WORLD INTO OTHERS OF OUR JOINT IMAGINATIONS. WITH STAR TREK AND STAR WARS LONG PAST, WITH 1984 NO LONGER FUTURE BUT WAY PAST, WE MUST LOOK EVEN MORE CREATIVELY INTO FUTURE GALAXIES. MAUREEN, YOU HELP US NAVIGATE FROM EARTH INTO A MYRIAD OF FUTURE WORLDS WE CAN ONLY BEGIN TO IMAGINE. THERE WILL BE THOSE WHO DARE TO STEP INTO THAT BLACK VOID IN THE INTEREST OF DISCOVERY. LOVE FRAN

    • Ah, fellow Trekkie, you can imagine how we are following the Mars adventure! I don’t think I would go to Mars, though. Mike would, in a minute! Thank you for reading…. and for your heartening comments.

  2. I was reading Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage when the Mars exploration was going on … and I couldn’t help but think of the similarities in what Lewis & Clark faced. We are a naturally curious species … and thank goodness for that. How else would we get into trouble? Or discover the depths within us?

    RIP Ray Bradbury …

  3. Isn’t it a terrible thought? I couldn’t do it, Linda. Leaving everything behind…. but to a scientist, I suppose, this is the most wonderful of all adventures: to discover a world where no man (or woman) has gone before. Who would have thought that in our lifetime we may actually see a landing on Mars?

  4. Thank you, Carol! I really think that today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s science… we’re using the cell phones that Captain Kirk used in Star Trek! But I agree with you. Mars is so desolate and cold … and its moons are so small. I will stay put on Terra. 🙂

  5. I have been reading Peter H. Diamandis’ book called ABUNDANCE which i purchased from Amazon. He was involved with the group who built a private plane that has flown into outer space- it was in the news. Well, he sent an e-mail to purchasers of his book and said we should tell others about his book and he would put our name in a drawing and someone’s name will be drawn and they will get to fly into outer space. I said – no thanks- I don’t want to go there.

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