Why Look At Rocks When There Are Monuments?

            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 alike.

          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.

-by Ignatius Graffeo  c. 1997, 1998.

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