"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Mars Haiku Approved for Launch

Over 12,000 contest entries. Five winners chosen by popular vote. A handful of honorable mentions. In garnering 91 votes, which placed it in the top 10 percent, my poem earned the right to be loaded onto a special DVD that will fly with the MAVEN probe bound for Mars. The launch window opens in November. Here is the little bit of my mind now being copied and transferred for a rocket ride:
Lone wispy devil,
Spinning past the Valles rim,
May I have this dance?
I strongly encourage you to head over and read the winning entries and the honorable mentions. It is a delightful collection. And I am happy to see it includes another Haiku dedicated to the famed Valles Marineris.

Time for a fair question: What if any substantive connection does this offer me to the red planet? MAVEN will orbit, not land. MAVEN will not return to Earth. The DVD is on a one-way trip. Barring its acquisition by an alien race--who would assuredly single out my haiku from the other 1,100 or so on the DVD, resulting in my being the first intergalactic poet laureate--the official copy of my poem going to Mars is just a few bits of computer code that will never be accessed again.

As I wrote to one family member, who expressed frustration the contest website was preventing them from voting multiple times, my substantive connection to the mission is here and now. Thousands of people around the world pondered Mars and the upcoming mission. We celebrated exploration together. We cultivated a sense of affection for the cosmos and for Mars in particular. This is to say we generated enthusiasm for exploration and discovery. And in the most quantifiable sense, we poets drove a great deal of Internet traffic to the mission-sponsored website. We raised awareness.

Lastly, in a tradition dating back to the plaques mounted on the twin Voyager probes, the MAVEN probe will bear a literal mark of humanity on its robotic mission. It will carry a commemoration of life to the sky of another planet that may once have held, may still hold, life of its own making.