Stagger onward rejoicing

Tag: Mars (page 1 of 1)

How to Search for Life on Mars — The New Atlantis:

Despite what it says, NASA has actually made the decision not to look for present life on Mars, even though tools that could identify life have been available to the agency for twenty years. Even worse, NASA’s existing rovers operating on Mars are being directed to avoid areas most likely to harbor life, and its plans for future human exploration are being designed in a way that would minimize their exploratory capability.

What in the world is NASA thinking? And how can we get the agency back on the path to finding life? 

A fascinating essay, and a kind of case study on how bureaucracies evaluate risk vs. reward.  

For the Love of Mars

For the Love of Mars:

Once we come of cultural age into a mature, considered love for Mars, and see what happens when we act on that love, our crises and challenges on Earth can be recast, as can our menu of choices in meeting them. Rather than panic and rancor, scripted according to the prevailing social and political battle lines that have replaced the grand frontier, we will be more apt to find confidence, courage, and creativity. And rather than applying these virtues to the virtual world that draws us deeper into antihuman utopias, we’ll apply them to the metal-and-plastic, flesh-and-blood, brick-and-mortal world that forms an essential bridge between analog and digital life. It shouldn’t be a surprise that this approach will also happen to fit in logically with the reality that our younger kids now experience.

A really fascinating essay by James Poulos. The core of James’s argument, and it’s a point that deserves extended contemplation, goes something like this: We think all the time about the technologies we use or might use, but we don’t think at all about the object of our technological explorations, the sovereign end (telos) of our ingenuity. The pursuit of Mars, James thinks, can be a kind of collective focal practice (to borrow a term from Albert Borgmann) that brings order and purpose to our technological strivings. 

Whether this proposal can actual work will depend, I think, on whether it has the follow-on effects that James believes it will — follow-on effects that make life on Earth better, as described in the paragraph quoted above. I’m no so sure. But what a wonderfully imaginative and provocative essay. 


Royal Museums, Greenwich: A manuscript globe, hand painted and lettered, representing in 3-dimensional form the maps of Mars published in the American astronomer Percival Lowell’s books, Mars and its Canals (1906) and Mars as the Abode of Life (1908) which developed Camille Flammarion’s views. The globe is mounted on a bronze stand. Emmy Ingeborg Brun was a Danish Mars enthusiast who made a small number of globes, many for presentation to particular individuals and institutions. Her inscriptions suggest that she viewed Mars as a potential model for Christian socialist cosmopolitanism on Earth. There are three inscriptions engraved into the globe’s stand. The title — Mars after Lowell’s Globes ca. 1905-1909 — is near the column. On one half of the edge of the base is a quotation frrom the Lord’s Prayer — Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. On the other half of the edge of the base is a socialist slogan — Free Land. Free Trade. Free Men.