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Monday, January 05, 2004

Alright, alright, alright, I'll admit it

It hurts my Venus. It hurts Uranus. Regardless of the pain, I have to admit it.

The robotic mission to Mars fascinates me.

For those uneducated in my feelings about the great beyond (not to be confused with the Great Beyond, big sleep of death), I'm not too keen on astronomy. I find it theoretical, obtuse, and lacking in any real luster. Perhaps it's because if I have to see the cosmos through a big long tube, I might as well be in college beneath the smell of incense and tunes of the Grateful Dead.

My disinterest reached its zenith (or perhaps its nadir) during Mars' recent close proxemity to Earth. The media and many of my friends couldn't contain their excited magnetic poles. Every time we walked outside, they would point toward a blinking light in the sky and say, "Hey, look! Mars!"

Allow me to offer a wholehearted, "Okay, whatever."

And so, I developed a reputation for being, well, anti-Martian. Perhaps to do no more than noodle and needle me for being disinterested, my friends increased their fascination. They would direct their Mars-related comments directly at me. At one point I found myself around a campfire with an astrophysicist (really, I'm serious) talking in drunken slobbers about my disdain for the Red Planet. He tried with every ounce of his being to convince me that Mars' close proxemity to Earth was, in fact, a big deal. To no avail. I had grown to hate the damned planet.

Perhaps, then, it was Beagle--the failed Brittish robotic mission to Mars--that began my turing of the cheek. It may be because I once had a beagle named Bernie that I had to give away because he was too much of a rough-houser (I was six). It may be because I hate to see the Brits fail at something at which they were so destined to fail to begin with. Regardless, when the Beagle crashed into Mars and never barked again, I felt sort of sad.

Then NASA (a group of keystone physicists not unfamiliar with failure) made it happen. It did what every man who has ever driven his tee-shot into the rough during a par game has wanted to do: It put a golf cart on Mars. Bravo.

I didn't expect to care. I really didn't. Then I saw the pictures. Vast wastelands of nothing but dusty desert (but no sign of the poor Beagle).

It was then I realized that despite a lack of trees, streams, and mountains, Mars is a round, walkabout planet. Sure it's cold, dry, and boring. But, given the right air supply and space suit, I could go for a walk there.

That, friends, is more than a blinking red light in the sky.

So, okay, I'm sort of fascinated by Mars. One word about it and you can kiss me where the sun don't shine.


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