Mentally on Mars

Image courtesy of Jonathan Copper on 

By Marina Campoy-LoVasco (‘23)

The Earth spans a surface area of 196.9 million mi². Its highest point of elevation is 29,029 ft above sea level at the tip of Mount Everest. Over 4000 people have reached this point successfully, while around 295 people lost their lives in the process.

The deepest known point on Earth’s surface is the Challenger Deep somewhere near 35,814 feet below sea level. It lies between Guam and the Philippines. These depths were first reached by Victor Vescovo on August 24, 2019.

Fifty years before Vescovo’s dive, humans reached the moon for the first time on July 20, 1969. It was then that Neil Armstrong said his famous line “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” 

Now we have made it to Mars with the Perseverance rover. There, it will analyze the planet’s surface for microbial life. Its wheels will crunch along the red land of the Solar System’s second smallest planet after Mercury. 

We have only just made it to Mars, and yet for so long we have dreamt of what may lie there. In science fiction stories and movies and tales we’ve made up, the idea of Martians has existed. The common depiction of these beings includes large heads, green skin, and long fingers, but there have been variations. 

Will we be okay if in the end the Perseverance only encounters bacterial life forms? Single celled organisms invisible to the naked eye? One might remember that we too came from single celled organisms and exist among them, so discovering this form of life should excite us greatly. Perhaps we will move on to the next planet and have Jupiterians show up in books and shows instead. Their heads will be small, with bright red skin and  stubby arms like a Tyrannosaurus Rex . Or maybe we’ll stay on Mars? Plan out the evolution story of these unicellular beings? Do Adam and Eve apply to another planet? 

At the same time, maybe the Martians will simply be hiding from the Perseverance Rover. Yes, they knew we were coming, we’re a very loud people and they had seven months to prepare. Or not, who really knows? Yes, we’ve made it to Mars, to the bottom of the ocean, and the top of the world, yet we know very little about what lies there and likely will never know everything that is there. Heck, we don’t even know everything that’s in the rainforest. We’re spread thin across two planets now, trying to find out what’s on our own and beyond. Even if we’re bad at doing it, humans always multitask to survive. We breathe while we eat, and sometimes we choke, but then someone else does the heimlich while another person calls the hospital and someone else starts the car. But that’s the beauty of it, we keep going even though we have no idea what’s going to happen or what just happened. And who knows, maybe someday the Martians will come visit us instead.

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