By Siya Chhabra (’24)
A historical, Wright-Brothers-like event took place on Mars on April 16th, 2021. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, commonly known as NASA, successfully completed a momentous flight to the Red Planet. The Ingenuity helicopter independently flew through the atmosphere, without the superintendence and control of the phalanxes of individuals it generally takes to undergo a similar expedition into the unknown environment of the solar system.
Of course, this event only took place recently, but for time immemorial, Mars has been a deeply intriguing location to the human race. In no way whatsoever, is Mars portrayed as anything other than a microcosm of peregrination and outer space investigation. Not only has this has been exemplified in the countless number of productions that have been announced and disseminated by the film and television industry, but it has also been highlighted through the everlasting effect Mars’ exploration has had on the young public over the course of several years. Yet, in order to truly gauge the significance of Mars, vicariously living through the astronomical people of the hour, excuse the pun, those directly connected to the future of us earthlings and Mars is pivotal. And this is most definitely possible when viewing Nagin Cox’s TED Talk “What time is it on Mars?” What time is it? It’s Mars o’clock!
TED and Cox herself collectively refer to Cox as a “first-generation Martian.” After viewing the importance of Mars in her daily lifestyle, it isn’t difficult to see why that would be the case. Cox serves on the team that oversees America’s rovers on Mars as a specialized engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Quite literally, Nagin Cox attends work, a conventional job, from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., but on a different planet. Her world revolves around the idiosyncratic characteristics of Mars, which tend to be increasingly difficult to interpret, the scientist’s dream in terms of analyzing, comprehension, and scientific perception. In the preamble of her TED talk, Cox asserts that when contacting someone who lives in a different timezone, an individual has to ask themselves three fundamental questions: “Will I wake them up? Is it okay to call? What does it take to coordinate communication when people are far away?” Nagin Cox enunciates that although there really isn’t another population on Mars, at least in the scope of knowledge of humans in the present, having a correspondence with the technology on Mars is essential for the United States’ outer space agenda. Nagin Cox is an executive employee at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Los Angeles, California. Cox refers to the total of four rovers on Mars as “robotic emissaries.” Eloquently, she articulates that “…they are our eyes and our ears, and they see the planet [Mars] for us until we can send people.” For the time being, the trials and tribulations of space analysis are experienced not by human beings, but instead, by carbon-based layers of graphite fiber woven into a fabricated robot. In addition, Nagin Cox alludes to the fact that, “the Martian day is forty minutes longer than the Earth day.” As simple as this slight time change would seem, the reason the Nagin Cox utilizes a Mars watch, becomes evident. Just as any living thing requires for proper health, the androids on Mars, are in need of slumber as well. Henceforth, the STEM workers at JPL in California have to adapt to an altering environment and time precinct every single day. Making the audience hysteric, Cox declares, “So one day you come in [at work] 8:00, the next day forty minutes later at 8:40, the next day forty minutes later at 9:20, and the next day at 10:00.” Essentially, NASA’s members of staff that work in relation to the events on Mars live on Earth, give effort for the amelioration of Earth’s representation on Mars, and live on Mars time. In order to keep abreast of and be cognizant of the timing on Mars in relation to Earth’s surroundings, Cox and her colleagues utilize a genius contrivance, A Mars watch. “The weights in this watch have been mechanically adjusted so that it runs more slowly.” In addition to this contraption, Cox and her collaborators were forced to concoct a Martian language and a natural light schedule due to a constant sense of confusion within their cubicles.
Nagin Cox reveals that due to the fact that the normal population perceived NASA’s JPL engineers as science-loving eccentrics, the distinct group of people truly did eventually refer to themselves as “Martians.” Despite having such a large task to complete on a daily basis, while simultaneously being coerced to extend the day, alter a conventional lifestyle, and inherently be on Mars, the experience would have been worth a lifetime. Therefore, throughout the course of her talk, Nagin Cox portrays her sui generis adventures in a hilarious, authentic, and gratifying format. As a population that just recently experienced an occurrence correlated with Mars, Nagin Cox’s speech displays to all, that there is always something intriguing within every circumstance, and that some specific stories that come to light are simply stimulating events on their own.