So, the Red planet may have once held life, even if it was only moss and lichen. That seems to be the consensus of scientists studying the latest information sent back by NASA probes of the planet. There's also raging scientific arguments on how much water is on the planet next in line from the sun from us. Were there oceans there? Did they dry up and why? They wonder if this formation or that one over there shows evidence of canals on Mars, waterways not occurring in nature but created, thus indicating the presence at least at one time of intelligent life.

There's all sorts of debates on the exact nature of our neighbor. Why don't they just send some guys up there and find out? If one of these robotic probes, as marvelous as they are in the technical marvel department, landed in the Great Salt Desert, or in New Jersey, don't you think the reports of life on Earth would be pretty limited? Wouldn't you want to send some eye-witnesses to this planet to see which of those two wastelands was really representative of Earth?

We started sending astronauts to the moon in 1969 and everybody figured that by now we'd have some kind of base up there and a launching platform from which to blast off to check out the other nearby planets. For some reason we just stopped in our moon tracks. The most exciting and daring enterprise ever taken up by mankind was pretty much abandoned before it really got started. Why? Have we been doing such wonderful and exciting stuff down here that it made the Space Program look tame? As far as I can tell it's been business as usual down here for the past forty years; wars, famine, plagues, genocide and bad sit-coms.

Maybe the government figured they'd let Captain Kirk handle that stuff, he's got that cool warp-drive Enterprise and all those neat toys. Well, we've got a lot of neat toys we didn't have forty years ago, like cell phones and computers and CD's and i-pods and DVD players and the like. Guess where the lion's share of the technology that makes these cool things possible was developed. If you guessed the Space Program, go to the head of the class, young Skywalker.

But to go to Mars people would have to spend a couple of years of their lives going back an forth, a real sacrifice. Well, they send our soldiers to Iraq for a couple of years of their lives, and they don't even have a choice in the matter. I'll bet any number of them would rather be sent to the surface of the Sun than to be sent back there for another tour of duty. If NASA is serious about exploring our Solar System you can bet dollars to doughnuts there would be no shortage of eager volunteers to fly in space ships to some distant destination. You'd have to beat them away.

It would be quite expensive, but not as costly as a war, and in an endeavor of this sort there's the possibility that we can learn a lot of neat things. We've never learned a damned things from all of our wars since we keep doing them over and over like some race of compulsive autistics. Does anybody think there's any valuable knowledge to be gained by doing the same thing over and over with the same negative results? That's one of the textbook definitions of insanity, by the way. Or do we keep fighting wars in the hope that someday we'll get it right? That's also pretty crazy.

Odds are that some people are never going to like certain other people on this planet all that much but we've proven beyond any doubt that going to war with these people doesn't change any of that even a little bit. We humans have been pretty thorough in exploring that aspect of our personalities and that's just the way it is, so just maybe we can figure out a better way to co-exist with people who are not our cup of tea. Can't we just not invite them to our weddings or something? Or stop trying to convince them to change?

So what if they are different from us? If you're convinced that your way is the right way you don't need the approval of anybody to live as you see fit, especially some group of people you don't even like in the first place. At least adults don't. Who cares what that guy down the block thinks? He's an asshole anyway. But he's got just as much right to be an asshole as you have to be the person you want to be. There's nothing worse you can do to him than to leave him alone to be the jerk he'll be for the rest of his life while you pursue your own interests. War is just a temporary nightmare that solves nothing, instead almost always makes a bad situation worse, what with all the dead bodies an blown up cities and whatnot.

But if we want to blow stuff up, if that's really ingrained in our nature, let's blow some rockets into outer space and see what we can find out there. Mars should only be the start of our journey. There's other planets in the Solar System and beyond that, the Galaxy and the rest of the Universe. We could plant our flags and claim it all in the name of Spain and subdue and slaughter any life we encounter! No… wait a minute, that's what got us into such a mess down here.

Anyway, why don't we all e-mail NASA and our Congress people, (forget the President, he's an asshole) to get he ball rolling on the Space Program once again. We could put our own life on Mars, human life, thus ending that debate pretty quick. We could establish human outposts on the Moon, Venus and some of the planet-sized moons of Saturn and Jupiter too. And we could mine the asteroids for precious metals or even find some new and useful materials that don't currently exist on earth, maybe even discover a source of energy that doesn't choke us and corrode our statues faster than pigeon crap. We could construct stations in outer space quite easily in the zero-gravity environment, with one guy holding up an entire building while the other guy fumbles around for his screwdriver.

There's all kinds of human benefits that have already been derived from the fruits of the Space Program, the microchips, the fiber optics, the tasty and nutritious Tang in a tube and a lot of other neat stuff. Of course it would take the solving of a lot of physical problems to make long space flights possible and comfortable for the human body, but we've solved huge problems before. And exploring the Universe would give us something new to do beside hate and kill one another, something we've really got to work on here, people. Let's put our smartest people to work on designing something other that advanced weapons systems, a monumental waste of talent if ever there was one and a pretty redundant exercise. One thing we humans don't need is any more help in killing each other. We're good with that, thanks, got it down pat pretty good.

There's a lot of people that tell us that humanity is forever earth-bound, we'll never adapt to extreme environments. Tell that to Eskimos and Zulu. The naysayers point out that we'll never reach the stars because it's impossible to travel faster than light. There are other scientists, however, that say there just might be a way around that speed limit, something to do with artificial worm holes and warping space and other stuff I don't understand. But there are people in this world who do understand such concepts and would jump at the chance to be gainfully employed in a coordinated crusade to push the limits of their intellects and mankind's horizons. It's a dream job for a lot of scientists who would gladly make it their life's work and produce a lot of astounding benefits for the rest of us in the course of this project. Some ideas that may not solve the speed of light speed limit may have incredible benefits and practical applications for the rest of us.

Good thing Christopher Columbus didn't heed the Flat-Earth Society's dire warnings and stay in Europe or fall off the edge of the Earth. Good thing the curious Nomads that were Early Man didn't confine themselves to the African continent and set out on foot into a world full of predators the size of mini-vans armed only with spears and their wits and wound up populating and dominating every corner of this planet. One great thing about humans: tell us we can't do something an we'll prove you wrong every time. Oh, yeeeaaah? You just watch me!

It may take a long time or require a huge investment of intellect, money and energy but we've shown time and again throughout history we're a pretty obstinate and persistent bunch when we're trying to reach a goal together. We built pyramids with levers, the Coliseum with treadmill wooden cranes, dug out the Suez and Panama canals, crossed the snowy Alps on tropics-bred elephants, sent a man to the moon and cameras to the deepest ocean floors. Look at Manhattan, Paris, Rome, Prague, St. Petersburg, London, Venice, Rio, Agra, Singapore, Hong Kong and all the great cities we built from nothing.

Was building those places easy or even considered feasible at the time? Hell, no. So let's not send out an S.O.S. to Columbus to turn around and head back to the serenity of the safe and the known. Besides, what's known down here isn't really all that safe. Civilization is quite a jungle sometimes. Maybe we're killing each other at such a quick clip because there really isn't any Great Unknown to chase after any more and our restless energies are being taken out on each other.

Only one way to find out. Try something completely different and aim for the stars. Since humanity already started this whole Space Age stuff into he first place, it's inevitable that at some point we'll follow it up. Once Columbus sailed, a thousand ships followed and even the most remote corners of the world became known to us. Do we want history to remember us as the generations who shied away from our destiny or the ones who started the great adventure of spreading our wings into the Universe? Or we could always go back to our bad sit-coms and bloody wars.

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