November 28 is Red Planet Day. We’re not sure who noticed our carmine neighbor first. Galileo Galilei sighted it with a telescope in 16-something-or-other. One thing we can be certain about? Ares Mars Barsoom has held our attention ever since.
Mars tugs at the human imagination like no other planet. With a force mightier than gravity, it attracts the eye to the shimmering red presence in the clear night sky.” -John Wilford, Mars Beckons
HELENA: You were born under a charitable star. PAROLLES: Under Mars, I. HELENA: I especially think, under Mars. PAROLLES: Why under Mars? HELENA: The wars hath so kept you under, that you must needs be born under Mars. PAROLLES: When he was predominant. HELENA: When he was retrograde, I think rather. PAROLLES: Why think you so? HELENA: You go so much backward when you fight. - The Bard's "All's Well That Ends Well"
2020 is a banner year for Mars missions.
NASA’s Perseverance rover is gearing up for a landing on Feb. 18 of 2021. The July 30, 2020 launch went off without a hitch. That is, if you don’t consider a pandemic a hitch.
The well-named little rover that will, and the team members VPN’ing it onward from their lanais, basements, and balconies? They are helping us all through this liver and limabean casserole of a year.
China’s Tianwen-1 mission launched in July. Their lander should touch down in Utopia Planita next year. Yes, the same Utopia Planita in the Short Treks “Children of Mars” episode.
UPDATE: 祝融 Has landed! The unnamed rover is unnamed no more. Zhu Rong is alive and well on the surface of Mars.
The European Space Agency and Russia’s Roscosmos agency contributed the Rosalind Franklin rover. Scheduled to launch this year, its debut slipped because of technical issues. They bounced back this month and passed their full-scale high-altitude drop test. The rover is in target for Oxia Planum sometime in 2022.
In the spirit of STEAM, scientific satellite and mighty mite MAVEN carried 1,100 haikus with it into Mars orbit. The poems and 377 student paintings were burned onto a DVD and attached to the underside of a solar panel on MAVEN. Launched in 2013, it has patiently awaited this year’s arrivals.
MAVEN will soon have a less literary but just as curious partner to carry the torch of atmospheric studies. The United Arab Emirates launched their “Hope” probe on July of this year. It should enter orbit in early 2021 for a two year+ mission.
Need some Fiction to go with all that Science?
Best Mars Movies, Bakers Dozen. In Order:
- The Martian
- The Martian
- The Martian
- The Martian
- Mars Attacks
- Ghosts of Mars (My Darkhorse vote)
- Total Recall
- John Carter
- Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
- Watchmen–because, well, Watchmen.
- 1951’s “Flight to Mars” Deserves a mention. Just not a viewing. It was one of the first color science fiction movies in color. There, I mentioned it.
That’s a lot of Mars movie time, Link. How about some TV?
Apart from two seasons of Jihae and company in Mars, I got nothing. Seriously. Okay, if I stretch, Babylon 5, season 4. Then The Expanse. Lastly The Martian–of course–Chronicles. Not a lot, really. Maybe it is time to Remake, Reboot Chronicles? No? How about My Favorite Martian? Well, I tried.
Enough of the telly, the idiot box. Bring on the games!
This was easy. And hard. The first of four comes with a five fountain pen out of five recommendation. The last? Sentimental pick.
Mars Power Industries Deluxe
Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony
Tabletop: Terraforming Mars
UPDATE: Diamond in the rough Sol Cycling has so much potential. I game while I stationary bike. Now I can do both when I… do… both.
Still interested? NASA’s Mars the Red Planet interactive site is pretty cool. But look no further than Scott Maxwell’s online diary as a member of the Spirit and Opportunity rover driver team. The entire blog belongs in the Smithsonian. Maybe all of JPL as well. Read it.
And so, in silence, we walked the surface of a dying world, but in the breast of one of us at least had been born that which is ever oldest, yet ever new.” Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars