Mars, Space Probe Lands, a Mother Wrings Her Hands

By Kamaria Muntu
Editor
8th August 2012, 15:49 GMT

Like all who have mused over mercurial mysteries beyond the boundaries of visible stars, I am feeling a child’s kind of excitement knowing that Curiosity is roving about the red planet; the latest in space exploration – the  robotic probe launched by NASA landed in Gale Crater on August 6 at 05:15:30 UTC of this year.

This graphic shows the locations of the 17 cameras on NASA’s Curiosity rover. Photo courtesy of space.com

I recall my grandmother and other elders sucking their teeth at the earlier Apollo space missions; they’d complain about the fact that there was so much to do on earth in alleviating human suffering, “the money could be put to much better use right down here.”

I could see their point. To tell the truth, the idea of aeronautic science advancing new horizons and furthering our understanding of the enigmatic universe in which we live is always thrilling irrespective of cost. But the critique waged by the elders held some nuanced truth, even though I doubt they understood it wasn’t an either/or proposition.  What Nana and chums didn’t quite understand was how much money was being spent in the name of war, conquest and other strategies of mass destruction.

Child in the rubble on the 6th August 1945. A bomb code-named “Little Boy” was dropped in Hiroshima 67 years ago on the same day the Mars Rover Curiosity landed. Photo courtesy of pickchurn.com

Popular author and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson told NPR “the expenditure of the U.S.’s military budget is equivalent to NASA’s entire 50-year running budget.” My own concern is a synthesis of the two schools of thought, Nana’s and Tyson’s.  As enthused as I am about the possibility of discovering new life forms, geology and startling beauty in the far reaches of the universe, I can also hear echoes of John L O’Sullivan stirring moon-dust from his grave; the ongoing debates about his true intentions when he coined the term manifest destiny.

I’ve had nightmares about the super powers annexing Venus!  In line with the pedagogy of the life process it’s self, I tend to think people should not move to the next grade until they’ve passed the previous one.

The recent 67th anniversary of Hiroshima (coincidentally occurring on the 6th of August as well) is a tragic reminder that we as humans refuse to live with each other in relative and pragmatic harmony.  The myriad of environmental catastrophes and our ecological policies suggest we have utter contempt for the very earth that sustains us.  And while we watch agog at the possibilities of diverse plant and animal life in movies like Avatar, I wonder if we are teaching our children about the miraculous biodiversity that exists on the home planet – does anyone other than staunch tree-huggers truly comprehend the wonderment and healing potential that continues to be irrevocably lost when we murder the Rain Forest?

The beautiful Black and Yellow Rainforest Frog of Venezuela, parts of Guyana and Brazil and the extreme easternmost part of Colombia.

In the atmosphere of the first Apollo missions we had so much hope. Even though we took many hits in assassinations of world leaders; all over the globe people continued to insist on a new day. World citizens of African descent were fighting for their rights in the America’s, South Africa and the diaspora. The Civil Rights Movement and Women’s Empowerment Movements were in full or residual steam. The musicians and artists in both craft and message were phenomenal…and those spectacular hippies!  Although they are often portrayed in right-wing revisionist media as being spaced-out junkies – who could ever forget their youthful utopian cries for peace, love and communal living. It was in this atmosphere that we happily cheered as man set out to conquer the moon.

And it is that word,

conquer

An estimated 140,000 people died instantly in Hiroshima or succumbed to burns and radiation sickness soon after the blast, and over 70,000 perished as a result of the Nagasaki attack three days later. This image shows a devastated apartment building less than a half-mile from ground zero in Nagasaki. Photo: AP

which remains the problem.

I do realise that the cause of science must march on, but we have some serious work to do down here.

Fragmentation of the Women’s Movement has relegated the Goddess worshipers to  a bunch of New Age dingbats who light candles and dance at the river’s edge. 

But the philosophies of earth reverence, regeneration and preservation that they embrace are the scientific underpinnings of a healthy earth, necessary for her perpetuity. And because we continue upon this damaging path of disregard for these principles in favour of masculine dominance and feminine subordination, it is the Mother of us all who becomes sick and crippled.

Hence we arrive at the fear I have of taking these testosterone driven ways into the deep reaches of outer space (part of Curiosity’s mission is to assess habitability).

Comparison of the Mars Twill Peaks and the Indonesian Rainforest. Rainforest loss is principally for wood (over timbre mining), corporate farm expansion and mineral exploitation. Brazil leads in the highest amount of tropical forest loss, with Indonesia next, Nigeria, Tanzania, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, The DRC, Bolivia, Venezuela, Mozambique, Cameroon and Ecuador.

Perhaps we can all be a tad more celebratory when the same powers forging these missions  own the fact that their varied ideologies of imperial intervention, exploitation, aggression, disruptive and ultimately destructive agendas are hideous and wrong;

if as in my better dreams they offer a modicum of contrition and evidence of real change, then we will truly be daring to go where no man has gone before.

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