Well it’s certainly been an exciting few weeks for space nerds! I’ve probably used this column to ramble about space exploration enough that it’s probably no secret I’m a big NASA fangirl, but these last few weeks have been pretty interesting for even the most casual space enthusiast.
Millions of us waited with baited breath for NASA’s historic Sept. 28 announcement regarding new evidence of liquid water on Mars, and I was one of countless locals who packed into the Wynnsong Theater earlier this month, eager to see “The Martian” on its opening weekend.
The movie, which closely follows Andy Weir’s science fiction novel of the same name, was as awesome as most folks expected. The basic plot involves a fictional NASA astronaut, botanist Mark Watney, who is mistakenly left alone on Mars after being presumed dead in an emergency evacuation of the Red Planet during NASA’s third human voyage to Mars in the 2030s.
Watney is stranded with very little food and knows he is potentially years away from rescue, so he is forced to improvise with the equipment he has on hand and devise clever ways to survive, primarily by vowing to “science the sh*t out of [Mars].”
With the (real life) Curiosity rover sending back groundbreaking new data almost daily, we have learned more about Mars lately than many thought they’d see in their lifetime. At this point it’s almost inevitable humans will eventually travel to the Red Planet, and NASA is already aiming at the 2030s for the first manned mission.
Maybe you or I or some other fellow Mobilian will have the opportunity to visit the planet one day, and maybe even find ourselves stranded there alone. This could be bad, as everyone knows Mobilians have “special needs” that are imperative to our survival. No worries though, because I’m here to help you “science the sh*t out of this” situation.
Booze: This obviously won’t be an issue, as no self-respecting Gulf Coast hurricane survivor would ever engage in potentially disastrous interplanetary travel without stockpiling enough booze to last until help arrives. Duh.
Mardi Gras: The upside is that you won’t have to worry about the crowds, but of course the downside is there will be no parades. Or will there?
You could use the rovers as your floats, decorating them with colorful accessories and maybe even adding masks attached to stick figures to serve as the merry crew. You’ll program the space vehicles to run a large circular “parade route,” and design a mechanical arm out of spare parts to repeatedly toss assorted treats while you shout and squeal with glee.
As for the moonpies, that will require a tricky spaceflight maneuver involving a brief lunar landing. You’ll have to contact me directly for the calculations as they are too complex for this short column.
Fishing: Now that we’ve confirmed there’s water on Mars, there’s bound to be fish hanging around somewhere, right? Fish love water! Now keep in mind at this point all we’ve really found is an ultra-briny sludge seeping to the surface, which doesn’t exactly sound like a snapper hot spot, but scientists are fairly certain there are freshwater aquifers (and god knows what else!) hidden below the surface. You know what that means. Better get both a saltwater and a freshwater fishing license, just to be safe!
To be fair, I should remind you NASA scientists have yet to find any solid evidence of the existence of marine life — or any life at all — on Mars, but they haven’t ruled it out either. Any Alabama fisherman worth his bait would take that as a challenge. Rig up a pole out of a broken antenna, twine and a paper clip and get busy! Bonus points if you can science a sonar fishfinder out of miscellaneous spaceship parts.
Hunters will face a pretty similar, if perhaps slightly bleaker, situation in that there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest the presence of living prey. You know they’re out there, though, somewhere, hiding in the shadow, and you’re just the (wo)man to find them! Just think, your record-setting kill will be the biggest in the history of the planet!
A word of caution, however. You might have to deal with PETA and Greenpeace (I wonder if they call it Redpeace on Mars?) getting on your back, as you will have essentially killed the only animal on the entire planet, and the only known specimen of life beyond Earth. Oops!
It’s situations like this that remind me at some point — probably sooner rather than later — we’ll need plenty of space lawyers to help sort out the various legalities we’ll encounter on Mars. (Note to self: I should definitely spend some time contemplating whether I should drop everything to become a space lawyer ASAP. That sounds amazing! I’m gonna attorney the sh*t out of that planet!)
College football: It was bad enough when you realized you’d lost all communication with Earth, you were running out of food and timely rescue was exceedingly unlikely. But then you remembered college football was in season, and suddenly you realized the true gravity of the situation. Yeah, you’re pretty screwed.
That’s a good thing, though, as necessity is the mother of invention. It’s time to stop messing around and hurry up and science a functional radio out of spare parts so you can listen to live coverage of the game, albeit with a slight delay. If you’re really clever you might even be able to science a working television and satellite. Oh, and hey, by the way … if you get a few minutes during halftime, you might even be able to use your radio to contact NASA and signal for help. Bonus!
I have faith in you, fellow Mobilian. You’re a little rough around the edges, but when the going gets tough, you do what needs to be done. Just don’t forget your fishing license. Not even I can help you then.
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