People could land on Mars in the next 20 to 30 years provided scientists can find water on the red planet, the head of NASA’s surface exploration mission told reporters on September 15. I can’t even find water service at the head table when I’m on a panel at the Worldcon, so I have no idea why they expect to find it on Mars. Yet NASA is busy checking for it with two Mars Exploration Rovers. The rovers have looked everywhere within 3 miles of where they landed without finding any sign so far, rather reminiscent of the way fans were forced to search for Noreascon 4 registration. Perhaps they will eventually luck out. I did.
Astronauts need Martian water to drink, because they can’t haul along enough bottles of Dasani no matter how eager the Coca Cola company might be to paint its logo on the side of first manned spacecraft to Mars (though wouldn’t that make Delos Harriman proud?) More surprisingly, NASA says they’ll need the water to make the fuel needed for the return flight.
Martian life was an obsession of science fiction writers until unmanned probes revealed the hostile conditions of the planet’s surface. It still is, the scientific discoveries have simply changed the rules that inventors of new Martian civilizations must play by. Larry Niven wrote his own stories about underground Martians and their murderous ways, and how Protector-instigated genocide put an end to them. Other writers would crash those water-bearing comets and asteroids onto Mars to start life, like Bruce Sterling (“Cicada Queen”). Still others hope all the water you need is just under the surface, like Kim Stanley Robinson.
Whatever way the writers want to go, fans will always have a soft spot in our hearts for a good yarn about the planet Mars. After all, didn’t War of the Worlds and Marvin the Martian just finish 1-2 for the Best Dramatic Retro Hugo?