Mothers on Mars

Who Will Go to Mars?

A NASA view of the future of Mars exploration; a scientific and technical vision where humans explore another planet.

This past weekend I was a guest speaker at Denver’s StarFest con, where I talked with people about the future of Mars exploration (in one talk) and how to get involved in Citizen Science (in another talk). In between times, I spent talking one-on-one with people about Mars and the space program and what we can all do as concerned citizens: parents, voters, professionals, whatever we are, to bring about more interest and investment in the space program.

It’s been shown time and again that the more highly educated we are, the more science we understand, the better we are as a species and a culture to cope with the cosmos. Unfortunately, there are elements in our societies (including many who wrongly style themselves as “leaders”) who don’t want us to be educated or scientifically literate.

Thus, we get sad events such as the defunding of science and education in the U.S., the kidnapping of young girls from their SCHOOL to be used as “rape bait” in Nigeria by fanatically religious groups who insist that education is evil, and the insistence by other fanatics (who really should know better) that science is somehow against religion (not true and never has been). Of course, not all religious people are like that, but enough are that they are making it worse for those of us who wish to co-exist amicably.

I mention those as issues that popped up today in the news feed, but amazingly enough, also got mentioned by people who attended my talks and wanted to talk afterwards about what they can do to bring more science to their kids in the face of overwhelming ignorant pressure by “leaders” who (for some reason) don’t want to take science seriously. These are people who care about the future, not the misused and misapplied dogmas of the past, who find ways to mix their beliefs with their wish to move us a species forward by using the gift of scientific understanding.

The future of our societies is going to be in space. It may be that societies other than the American one (in which I live) will get to space first. Those societies that look forward, not backward, will step forward first and make the giant leap. We did that once. We could do it again. And, maybe we will.

I am friends with many people in science education and outreach who want ALL our kids (and parents) to go to space; to have a chance to learn more about the cosmos. These friends are across the political and religious spectrum, but what we all agree on is that we have to move forward. That anything impeding progress is unnecessary.  Whatever we need to do to teach science, to share the universe, that’s what will bring us to the next stage in human evolution: humans who go to space.

Who has gone to space in the past? Moms. Dads. Sisters. Brothers. Spouses. Cousins. Religious folk. Atheists. Gays. Straights. Blacks. Whites. Asians. Native Americans. Japanese. Canadians. Arab princes. Senators. Men. Women. And many others.

You see a pattern here?  Look at the list again. What makes them all the same?

Yes. They’re human.

You know, 200,000 human beings signed up to go to Mars through the Mars One program. It’s one of several programs hoping to send people to Mars. Those people aren’t all the same, other than they’re human.

Interested in Mars? Whether you want to go or just stay home and support others who do, there’s are ways for you to show your interest. One of them is through a group called Uwingu.com — a group of people looking around for ways to raise money for space science education and research. One of their ways is to name a crater on a map of Mars. You pay a few bucks, you name a crater on the Mars map. It’s easy. I’ve done and so have thousands of others. My few bucks is going to help a science educator or scientist do his or her work. I think that’s very cool. It’s very forward-looking. Not backwards. Not hateful. Not “old school” or anti-this or that. It’s a step forward.

This week, the Uwingu folks are running a lovely Mother’s Day special to name a crater on the Mars map for your mom. You help education, she gets  a crater with her name on it. And, the Mars One mission planners, who have promised to use those maps when their people get to Mars, get a few bucks for their research. So do Mars scientists, and teachers and anyone else who applies for grants to help their work along.  So far, Uwingu has funded groups ranging from Mars One and Astronomers Without Borders to the CU Students Space advocacy group CUSEDS.

It doesn’t get any cooler than that, and you get a unique Mother’s Day gift. So, check it out. Pay it forward. Stop the backward “progress” that is keeping people from becoming full citizens of the cosmos.

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