Mars Is Calling. There’s no avoiding the Red Planet. Stories are everywhere, but what is hype and what is real? Arts and Sciences experts come to the rescue, sorting out fact from fiction, tackling serious questions such as: “Can we really colonize Mars?” And less serious questions: “What would football be like?”
Be sure to check out the entire Mars Is Calling feature on the ASC website. First, read my first guest blogger, Paul Sutter. Paul is a visiting postdoctoral fellow with our esteemed Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics (CCAPP).
THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES. MOVIES. TV. BOOKS:
The Intersection of Storytelling with Reality
From the Romans to the Hindus to the Mayans, ancient people have long associated Mars with war, strife and bad omens. And as soon as telescopic observations allowed us to draw roughly accurate maps of the Red Planet’s surface, we wondered if it harbored life — and if that life meant us harm. Instead of just heralding war, would that planet be a source of conflict or invasion? War of the Worlds, The Martian Chronicles, Mars Attacks! 20th century media was filled with frightening Martian tales, some more worrying than others.
But our stories about Mars have changed in the past couple of decades. Now, instead of being about them, they’re about us. No longer tales of warfare, invasion or subjugation, they’re about exploration and discovery. Our new storyboard involves humans solving human problems, people working together to understand an unknown landscape and build a new civilization. There’s still conflict, but these conflicts are the same human struggles we’ve always had. Just look at Red Mars or The Martian: story themes we’re all too familiar with, just set in an extraordinary land.
I believe this shift in popular culture is driven by our ever-increasing scientific understanding of Mars. Orbiters, landers, rovers. They send back striking images and mounds of data — of a cold, lifeless, inhospitable place. No, there isn’t life on Mars (at least, complex life). No, we’re not likely to be invaded. No, we won’t have to fight the natives if we want land there.
And yes, we will be able to go there.
Science fiction is becoming science fact. Fanciful dreams are becoming hard reality. Instead of artistic visions of rockets and habitats, we have blueprints, designs, test mockups and fully-engineered vehicles. We have plans. NASA and a half dozen private companies want to take us there. Not just to explore, but to build.
Mars presents an amazing opportunity: the first time in thousands of years that we can settle a new land without anyone there already calling it home. We are entering a new era of peaceful exploration, and the researchers and students in arts and sciences are the ones who are solving the practical challenges – How can humans survive in low gravity? How can we build business partnerships to develop the technology? How can people live together in such an isolated place? This will not only take us there, but allow us to bring our humanity with us.