A World of Speculation

I never thought I’d see the surface of Mars.

I’ve read about it often enough in the SF dreams of the authors I’ve admired: Ray Bradbury’s rocket-strewn skies in The Martian Chronicles; C.S. Lewis’s intelligent and spiritual lifeforms; the explosions seen on the planet before The War of the Worlds; and too many more to count or name.

The dreams are all of a busy place, bustling with men and machines, with native creatures either hostile or friendly, usually more advanced than we are.

And now come back these photos, which someone jokingly said were a hoax, actually taken in Afghanistan. Empty, quiet, lifeless. The only marks on its still surface are the ones left by the landing craft bouncing across the landscape.

And yet it’s still the Red Planet. Red in our sky, and red on its own ground–red dirt, red rocks, its own red horizon.

It’s like looking into a mystery, and in a way, the emptiness and silence are even more mysterious than if the craft had sent back photos of an eyeball peering back at us.

We go further and further out into the worlds upon worlds, and everywhere we go, we find only ourselves, Rover shooting its own feet with the camera.

I wonder what Ray Bradbury thinks about all this. Does his hair stand on end a little bit, the way mine does?