Life on Mars

NASA scientists recently announced that life on Mars is possible.  At the very least, they’ve determined it’s not impossible.  We’re still a long way from finding actual Martian life, either in bacterial form or as some kind of prehistoric fossil, but this is a big step forward in Mars research.

Four View of Mars In Northern Summer

Source: Hubblesite.org

I happen to believe that anywhere in the universe that life can develop it inevitably will.  I don’t have much scientific evidence to back that up, other than the extremophile species here on Earth and the mold that keeps spontaneously evolving in my fridge.  But that’s okay.  I’m not a scientist.  I’m a science fiction writer.

The story I’m currently writing is about an ancient civilization on Mars.  This being the Tomorrow News Network series, you can bet something disastrous is about to happen to that ancient civilization.

And for the record, if NASA had announced that they’d proven life on Mars was impossible, I’d be writing this story anyway.  A good motto for any science fiction writer is, “Never let science get in the way of a good story.”

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We’re Going to Mars!

Well everyone, I’m back after an unplanned, two-week hiatus, and I am once again hard at work on Tomorrow News Network short stories.  This month, we’re going to Mars, so I figured this is a good opportunity to talk about some of the latest news concerning the Red Planet.

Mars -- March 10, 1997

Source: Hubblesite.org

Several weeks ago, the Curiosity rover did something amazing: it dug a hole on Mars.  Okay, that doesn’t sound impressive, but Curiosity is searching for evidence that Mars could support life, either currently or at some point in the past.  We’ve never tested the soil beneath the surface layer.  It is possible that some form of bacteria live there, or maybe they don’t.  Either way, it’s a place we’ve never looked before.  So although digging a hole may not sound like much, it is a truly historic moment.  Click here to read more about it.  Click here to see a picture of Curiosity proudly standing over its work.

Also, a brand new non-profit organization called the Inspiration Mars Foundation has announced plans to send a married couple to Mars in 2018.  Sounds like the perfect, 501-day honeymoon to me.  Despite all the dangers (boredom, claustrophobia, radiation exposure and increased risk of cancer) it almost makes me want to run out and get married.  The Inspiration Mars crew will not get to land on the Red Planet.  They’ll just fly by, but another non-profit wants to send four colonists to Mars in 2023.  To read more about these Mars missions, click here.

The upcoming Tomorrow News Network story will focus on future colonial civilization on Mars and the relationship the colonists have with the Martian bacteria crawling around underground.  Of course this is not the first time the Tomorrow News Network has been to Mars.  In last year’s story “Death to History,” TNN reporter Talie Tappler covered a presidential assassination on Mars.  Some of the characters and concepts from “Death to History” will be back in the new story.

Click here to start reading “Death to History.”

Obama and the Space Program

President Barack Obama has begun his second term.  Good luck to him.  He has a lot of problems to deal with.  But my primary interest and concern is science and space exploration.  Some would dismiss these things as expenses we can’t afford right now; I would point out that space has many untapped natural resources that could rejuvenate the global economy.  So what is the future of American space exploration?

The President’s second inaugural speech made no mention of the space program.  Other than a few words on renewable energy and the importance of teachers, he made no references to science at all.  Still, I have hope that in the next four years and in the decades that follow, American space exploration will grow rapidly.  In his first term, Mr. Obama changed the focus of US space exploration from government run organizations like NASA to private companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic.  It was a surprising, free market solution that should have pleased Republicans.

Though NASA’s role in space exploration has diminished, they are not irrelevant yet.  Their latest Mars rover, Curiosity, has been a huge success, providing soil sample analyses in unprecedented detail, giving us new clues about whether or not Mars could support life.  There are also rumors that, following the President’s reelection, NASA might announce new plans to send humans to the Moon.  Click here for more on that.

So President Obama has officially begun his second term, and he still has to deal with a Republican controlled House of Representatives.  I expect things will continue to be messy in Washington, and at times I’ll probably do a face-palm and feel embarrassed for my country.  But I remain excited for the future of space exploration.  How about you?

Guns in the Future

I’ve worked in the news business for a number of years, and I’ve seen some pretty horrible stuff.  To be honest, I’m a little jaded when it comes to gun violence, but what happened in Connecticut stung me deeply.  If you can picture a grown man sitting at his desk at work crying, that was me as I edited video of the funerals for those children who died.

So what is the future of gun control in America?  President Obama has put together a special commission to come up with a solution.  According to the President, “This is not some Washington commission.  This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside.”  I may be a bit cynical here, but whenever I hear a politician overemphasize a point like this I expect the opposite to happen.

However, politicians in Washington do seem eager to do something to prevent another mass shooting like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary.  Several politicians who opposed gun control laws in the past have apparently changed their minds, and the Republican Party seems hesitant to embrace the proposal by the NRA to put armed police in every school.

But even if all the Republicans and Democrats get together and agree to new gun control legislation, will that really stop gun violence?  With new technology like 3D printers, it will soon be possible for anyone to simply download schematics for a firearm and “print” them as plastic parts.  Once assembled, these plastic guns would be just as lethal as the real ones, and metal detectors wouldn’t be able to detect them.  Although 3D printers are not yet household devices, at least one website already provides the schematics.  Click here to read more about that.

So what is the future of guns?  I suspect the President’s “Washington commission” will publish a report which will be read and pushed aside, but maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe they really will try to do something.  But whatever happens, I expect that in the future, for better or worse, guns will still be readily available.

What do you think?