Millions of Americans and
people around the world are elated at NASA's astounding achievement of putting
the Pathfinder Sojourner on Mars. The interest in the daily exploits of the
"Rover" have captured everyones imagination, both believers and disbelievers
But what's the big fuss about rocks?
Barnacle Bill and Yogi... really cute. This stuff is so campy it must
come from the same script as the recent Air Force press conference explaining
the Roswell aliens away as crash test dummies. Is this what we paid
200 million dollars to see? Rocks? Is this the only kind of hard
truth we are ever going to get from the good ol' folks at NASA?
Why did NASA land Pathfinder in a featureless,
rough, rocky flood plain called AresVallis to search for "signs of life"
when it could have landed the Pathfinder smack in the center of the Cydonia
region? Instead of looking at incongruous rocks we might have
been treated to see the most controversial feature on the "red planet," the
monuments and ruins of an ancient civilization known as Cydonia.
There are many tantalizing answers hidden beneath the Martian sands
(and in NASA's vaults) about what the real goal of the Mars exploration program
is all about. I don't think poking around crusty old rocks and looking
for fossils really amounts to anything meaningful, from a practical point
of view. The same thing was done on the Moon almost 30 years ago.
We brought back samples. So what?
The true spirit of exploration is adventure,
discovering profound truths about ourselves as human beings and knowing about
the mysteries of the Universe. If some knowledge is dangerous
then those who are in our service must reveal what the dangers are, what
they really observed. Every Lunar and Martian mission to date curiously
had nothing more to reveal about those places than its rocks. The only
rocks truly worth seeing are the kind in NASA's heads! One wonders
what secrets have yet to be un-covered there.
Hopefully, Pathfinder is a test drive for more
ambitious adventures to come when Mars Global Surveyor begins its mapping of the
Martian landscape in early 1998. Maybe NASA will surprise us and rephotograph the
pyramid-type structures and The Face. There's a history surrounding Mars that will
forever change our notions about man and his place in the Universe. It's all
linked together with our own past history, our beliefs, and our fears.