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Nina In New York: To Mars We Go

A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York.

By Nina Pajak

Say what you will about NASA, but I've always had a thing for space exploration.

If I'd been smarter and more motivated in math and science, I would have loved to have been an astronaut. I mean, I don't think I would have enjoyed being cooped up with a bunch of smelly scientists for weeks and weeks, and I'm not super into the idea of pooping in a space suit, and I tend to get very severe motion sickness, plus I was like the only kid who never actually liked astronaut ice cream (I know, weird). But space! And aliens! And moonrocks and Harrison Ford and the final frontier! It's all very exciting, and as long as we're playing pretend, I'll say I wish I could have been an astronaut.

More: NYC's 6 Best Spots For Stargazing

So, I'm pretty stoked about Curiosity landing on Mars successfully. Perhaps it's hype from a cash-strapped agency which needs to revive dwindling public interest and support, but this mission sounds like it's going to be the one that might change the way we see things. The Curiosity is already a step ahead of many of the other rovers which have failed before or upon even landing, and it has sent back a color image that hit the social media airwaves yesterday.

I think that deserves a moment's pause.

Let's rephrase that: Two days ago, an unmanned rover landed on Mars. A day later, every schmuck on the planet with an Internet connection got an actual, color photo of a Martian landscape. THIS IS RELATIVELY AMAZING. Okay, it's "murky," but that's because the camera is covered in Martian dust. So really what we're seeing is a real picture of what it looks like to be on Mars, because you'd probably be covered in dust if you were there too. To me, seeing Martian dust is pretty much as cool as any other aspect of this.

Who knows what we'll learn from the Curiosity mission? Maybe we'll discover that Mars was once habitable to life forms as we define them. Maybe we'll see a potential for a future regeneration of life on that planet. Or maybe we'll find out that somewhere within the craters and amid the dust and atop the mountainous forms, hidden to us for all these years, lies a colony of little men with giant eyes who wear helmets topped with brooms and weird Roman skirts and basketball sneakers and who walk around talking about blowing up Earth in nerdy voices that sound like the Sargento cheese guy. They sound mean and all anti-Earthling, but their dogs are gree, which is cool, and really they're quite ineffectual and sort of cute, in their way. As long as nobody brings up a certain rascally rabbit. That really gets their Mars-goat.

It's a big universe! I prefer to believe in these things until they're proven false. Onward!


Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I'm always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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