In response to Steve Jackson's "Mars or Bust," in the September 18 issue, without sounding Amish or like a Luddite, I would like to say the following:
Has it occurred to anyone that the exploration of our solar system without a code of ethics that respects The Other is like putting the cart before the horse? After all, given the amount of commercialization and strip mining that we have engaged in here on the Big Blue Marble, what right do we have for shlepping our middle-class junk mail to other planets? Just because we have more missiles than anyone else in the solar system, does that mean that we have the right to franchise it out to a new generation of aesthetically bankrupt robber barons? Are we certain that Martians like sushi?
A country and an institution (NASA) that stand in awe of the universe (remember all those "golly gees" the Apollo astronauts cried when they saw things from a different perspective?), while appropriating a pristine sense of smugness based on some jerk's idea of legalities, are no better than used-car salesmen when it comes to "selling Mars." Your headline should have been "Mars for Sale--See the Classifieds." I can't wait to see the Red Giant overrun with sorority chicks in Bimmers (Future Shock).
The point here is not akin to that of Columbus (exhibiting prudery in the face of discovery). The point is that until we figure out what to do with all the landfills on Gilligan's Island, we have no legal, moral, cultural or logical right to dump our neuroses on Mars. Remember, kids, Lost in Space was a TV show--not an excuse.
via the Internet
I really enjoyed "Mars or Bust." It was informative and lively. However, I wish to correct a minor point in Jackson's article. Many readers will say I'm splitting hairs, but some hairs need to be split.
Jackson compared the scientists dreaming of colonizing Mars amid much skepticism about the feasibility of such a project to Christopher Columbus and the official concern of advisors that Columbus would fall off the edge of a flat Earth.
This is a widely held, modern-day popular view of what happened in the court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. However, this view is a myth. The advisors to the royal couple knew the Earth was round; it had been known for some time among medieval philosophers and astronomers. The reason that the King and Queen's advisors were skeptical of Christopher Columbus's plans was that Columbus underestimated the circumference of the Earth by several thousand miles, and the advisors pointed out the error. Columbus did this to make the voyage from Spain to the East Indies appear shorter and therefore more feasible or palatable.
The common folk living on the land in that period may have believed the Earth was flat, but the advisors knew otherwise. I realize it's a minor point to make about an otherwise excellent article, but I wish to make it nevertheless.
All in all, "Mars or Bust" was a very enjoyable article and presented much of the flavor of the current interest in missions to Mars. It also presented the basic reason these missions are important: namely, as the first steps in the opening of a new frontier. Without such a frontier, I have grave concerns for the future of the American spirit.
I am afraid the article did have several factual errors, though. It was Apollo 1, not 10, that had the deadly launch-pad fire. Apollo 10 was a highly successful dry run of the subsequent Apollo 11 mission. In Apollo 10, the crew did everything but land on the Moon. Also, the article describes the Saturn-bound Cassini spacecraft as being "as-yet-unbuilt." Perhaps the author intended to write "as-yet-unlaunched," since the spacecraft is ready to go and is just awaiting its October-November launch window.
Rush to Judgement
Regarding "What a Rush," by Tony Perez-Giese and T.R. Witcher in the September 11 issue:
It made a pretty sensational story to send reporters undercover to CU's fraternity rush. However, the letter you quoted, co-signed by Boulder police chief Tom Koby and me, was from 1995 and referred to an episode at a fraternity from 1994. The university, the City of Boulder and the Greek organizations have done a great deal since 1995 to promote more responsible attitudes and behavior. We feel a lot of progress has been made.
No one from Westword came to talk with anyone from the vice chancellor's office of the Division of Student Affairs directly. In the interest of responsible journalism, perhaps in the future you could get information more current than two years ago and talk directly with CU officials before quoting them. We are open to questions from reporters.