From Giovanni Schiaparelli’s descriptions of canali the “channels” which became Percival Lowell’s “canals” on Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Princess of Mars, H.G. Welles’ War of the Worlds, and Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, to Loewen & Yesh’s young adult non-fiction Seeing Red: The Planet Mars and today’s serious considerations of colonizing the red planet, human interactions with the Red Planet have been a blend of wonder, science, imagination, fear, longing & engineering.
In honor of this interplay, The Planetary Society has placed a DVD among the scientific instruments on board the Phoenix Lander that touched down on the Martian south pole this last memorial day. Titled Visions of Mars: A Message to the Future, and made of silica glass that is intended to last a thousand years, “the Phoenix DVD carries personal messages from visionaries of our own time to future visitors or settlers on Mars.”
And it carries books. Eighty-four of them. Plus other artwork, radio broadcasts, and more. We watched the landing live on NASA TV with a friend and our kids, including one-year-old Gwenna. Good to know that when she gets there, she’ll have something to read.
Meanwhile, we’ll be keeping up on the news from Mars via the Planetary Society’s Mars page and the official-but-very-cool Phoenix Mars Mission page from the University of Arizona. And by reading some of those books right here at home…