Space Machines and Wildest Dreams: An Open Letter to Mars Rover

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Space Machines and Wildest Dreams: An Open Letter to Mars Rover

Cassie Jeong

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Dear Curiosity,

Happy belated birthday, little guy. November 26 marked the first anniversary of your launch from Cape Canaveral. Soon after, on December 8, American company SpaceX Corp. celebrated the second anniversary of their “Dragon” capsule’s first mission, becoming the first privately funded spacecraft to orbit our planet. I hope you two know what you’re doing out there, because frankly, I’m a little tired of being stranded here on Earth.

The Apollo lunar missions in the Space Race of the mid-20th century were sources of hope and pride for many Americans. These advances in space faring technology were spurred by the fear of and competition with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and while I am not suggesting we start those whole shenanigans up again, I think a bit of friendly rivalry between you and Dragon could inspire new generations to look to the stars.

Your mission is to find out if Mars, past or present, could sustain life as we know it. Excitement buzzed in early October when you discovered a shiny object in the Martian soil, but it was found upon further examination to be a piece of plastic broken off from the sky crane during your landing. Don’t worry, we litter on our own planet, too, but you can’t keep messing around like that, especially with an opponent as impressive as Dragon, which delivered supplies to the International Space Station a second time on October 8, the same time you goofed around examining your own debris.

Blunders like these delay time we could spend building the first House of Air on Mars or adventuring together on the Red Planet. Discovering conditions for life on a foreign planet increases incentive to visit there, and I believe I am a fitting candidate if NASA ever needed untrained and scientifically incompetent young astronauts.

But never fear: there remains yet a small glimmer of hope. At the Royal Aeronautical Society in London on November 16, SpaceX founder and C.E.O. Elon Musk stated that he had plans to establish a permanent, self-sustained Mars colony. And although I’m not one of the 80,000 migrants he estimates would spend $500,000 annually on interplanetary flight tickets, I could more likely hitch a ride to Mars with SpaceX than with NASA.

Musk described SpaceX’s Grasshopper, the reusable rocket that would transport people to Mars, as an evolution of the Falcon 9 booster, which launches Dragon on all its missions. Grasshopper already features landing legs for the day it, or a future version of it, will finally touch down on Mars’ surface; a firmer promise for the future of Mars exploration than what you have offered these past couple months.

All I’m saying is you better watch your back, Curiosity. At the annual American Geophysical Union conference from December 3 to 7, speakers from JPL, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory unveiled plans to send another rover up to Mars in the year 2020. This new model will be based off of your design and carry on your mission. It will be younger, better, and, let’s face it, shinier. Are you going to let some whippersnapper steal your job? Dragon is competition enough, but if you don’t get your act together by 2020, NASA will have a new favorite plaything as their Mars mission mascot.

Without threat of Russian warrior cosmonauts, space exploration is no longer a high national priority. It’s up to you and Dragon, NASA and SpaceX’s obvious respective current figureheads, to create excitement around your missions and pave the way for more accessible space travel. I wish you great success in your mission, partly because space exploration is an incredible endeavor that generates awe for our universe and future as well as a reason for pride in being a part of the human species, but mostly because Martian vacations would be pretty neat.

Yours Terrestrially,

 

Cassie Jeong

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Space Machines and Wildest Dreams: An Open Letter to Mars Rover