A message to the Martian voyagers
A few months before his demise in 1996, Carl Sagan, the famed astrophysicist and astronomer known for his famous TV series and book ‘Cosmos’, recorded a poignant message for future Martian wanderers. It’s a message that attempts to understand why we’ve put so much effort, so much passion and so much intelligence into sending a robot all the way across to another planet that’s hot, sandy and, at this point in time, uninhabitable to humans. It contains the essence of what makes us want to know and discover even more about around us, in a quest to understand ourselves. As NASA’s Curiosity Rover transmits more information about Mars over this week, Carl Sagan’s words echo with even more relevance and timelessness.
However, sixteen years earlier, in Chapter V of Cosmos, titled “Blues for a Red Planet,” Sagan had voiced a gentle lament reminding us to keep our solipsistic anthropocentrism in check:
“The surface area of Mars is exactly as large as the land area of the Earth. A thorough reconnaissance will clearly occupy us for centuries. But there will be a time when Mars is all explored; a time after robot aircraft have mapped it from aloft, a time after rovers have combed the surface, a time after samples have been returned safely to Earth, a time after human beings have walked the sands of Mars. What then? What shall we do with Mars?
There are so many examples of human misuse of the Earth that even phrasing this question chills me. If there is life on Mars, I believe we should do nothing with Mars. Mars then belongs to the Martians, even if the Martians are only microbes. The existence of an independent biology on a nearby planet is a treasure beyond assessing, and the preservation of that life must, I think, supersede any other possible use of Mars.”
Via Brain Pickings