Christmas Poems for Mars
Twas the Night Before Christmas – Mars-style
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the stars
Not a creature was stirring, not even on Mars.
The rovers were driven by drivers with care,
In hopes new discoveries would soon be found there.
Earth children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of dust devils danced in their heads.
With Oppy at Marquette, and Spirit in a sandtrap,
We just had to settle our brains for a long winter’s nap.
When out on the dunes there arose such a clatter,
And Odyssey watched to see what was the matter.
All the way to Earth, flew a new data flash,
JPL opened the files and threw out the trash.
The fines on the rovers from new-fallen dust
Gave the objects below the colour of rust.
When, what to my computer screen should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than rockets his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
“Now Viking! now, Phoenix! now, Pathfiner and Sojourner!
On, Rockets! On, Airbags! on, ‘Chutes and Retroburners!
From the red of the sky! To the rocks in the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”
As dry soil that before the dust devils fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
And up to the ops-room the engineers flew,
With the drivers full of tricks, and new software too.
And then, in a twinkling, they heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
They drew in their heads, and turned right around,
Down the corridor St Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with red dust on his boot.
A bundle of rocks he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.
His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin were as white as Mars’ snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And they laughed when they saw him, in spite of themselves!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave them to know they had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But they heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas on Mars, and to Earth a good-night!”
YES VIRGINIA, OPPORTUNITY HAS REACHED SANTA MARIA
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say that the Mars Rover Opportunity will never reach the crater Santa Maria. Papa says, “If you see it online, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is Opportunity at Santa Maria?
– Virginia McGregor
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.
All minds, Virginia, whether they be adult’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, humans are mere insects, ants, in our intellect as compared with the boundless worlds about us, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, Opportunity has reached Santa Maria. She got there as certainly as the love and generosity and devotion of the Rover Drivers exists, and you know that they abound and give their life its highest beauty and joy.
Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no craters like Santa Maria! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in limited sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Opportunity reaching Santa Maria! You might as well not believe that a Rover could reach Endurance or Gusev or Erebus or Husband Hill or Victoria or Home Plate. You might get your papa to hire men to watch all the computer screens on Christmas eve to catch sight of Santa Maria, but even if they did not see Santa Maria images coming down, what would that prove? Not everyone will see Santa Maria, but that is no sign that Opportunity did not reach there.
The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor adults can see. Did they all see dust devils dancing on the dunes? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable on Mars.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love and the romance of space exploration can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond.
Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else so real and abiding. Behold Santa Maria crater! Thank Opportunity! She lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, she will continue to make glad the heart of childhood and the Spirit of exploration.