Little red rocks

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Well the Spirit Rover has landed on Mars and I guess by now most of you have seen the images that are coming back.

I think it’s neat that we can see the planet close up, but at the same is it necessary for us to be on Mars?

Many of you can remember the 1960’s when space travel was on everyone’s mind. We were constantly talking about the great space race as we attempted to hurry to get a &uot;man on the moon.&uot;

Admittedly, it was a fascinating time and it seemed the more they talked about space travel the more exciting it got.

As a child, I sat beside my grandfather as we both watched in awe as these little black and white animated images were put on the screen and voiced over by news announcers as they gave the so called play-by-play of what was taking place during the early Apollo flights.

My grandfather, Grove Jenkins, would sit there looking at the television, rubbing his hands on the arm of his wooden rocking chair, and every once in a while you’d hear him laugh a little under his breath as the announcer would make comments.

Then, as if prompted by something on the screen, he would had his only commentary and mostly it was something to the effect of, &uot;We don’t need nobody going to the moon.&uot;

He was totally convinced that by putting a man on the moon, we were disturbing the earth’s gravitation pull and that all that controlled the tides and rains would be forever altered.

As the first landings on the moon took place, the idea of man messing up Mother Nature’s plan became more widely discussed around the Jenkins home.

My grandfather blamed every rain we had on the moon landings, and whenever something went the slight bit wrong from what his Almanac said; it was the astronauts’ fault.

It was no doubt if you heard word of a rocket being launched, the next words out of Grover’s mouth were, &uot;Uh-oh, look out for bad weather.&uot;

Walter Cronkite did his best to calm Grover down, but it wasn’t as much back and forth discussion as you would think listening to my grandfather’s side of the conversation.

You see, back in those times, my grandfather depended solely on two people to tell him what was going on in the world and why. They were Cronkite, who spoke to him along with the rest of the nation every evening at 6:30 eastern; and Jim Woods, a local weatherman for Channel 9 in Greenville who faithfully predicted the forecasts for eastern North Carolina whether he was wrong or not.

But as moon landings and other space travel became more frequent in the late-60s and early 1970s, my grandfather – like so many others in the nation – began to take each trip with a little less enthusiasm and eventually less concern.

By the time we were sending up Shuttles, the real thrill was gone and the day Challenger fell from the sky, I personally was finding it hard to justify our need to keep going.

And that brings me to the current status of the Spirit Rover and our landing on Mars. You remember we did this back in 1997 and again in 1999, with the latter proving to be more of a bloopers event than anything else.

In all honesty, it’s not fair to knock the space program, but why are we spending millions and nearly billions of dollars to go to Mars? Am I the only person that feels that money would be better spent fixing the problems here on earth?

What can we possibly fix here by going to Mars? We’ve all grown out of the thought that there are little green men there and if there was ever life of any kind, it’s long gone and I’m not so sure we even need to know.

There is a thinking in the science world that if there was ever water or life (not specifically human life) on Mars we might be able to tell the future of our own planet – bologna!

Just my opinion, but man is what’s going to be the end of the world as we know it. Sure, it may be by God’s will, but it will be the human race that destroys it.

Here’s my very unscientific approach, let’s take the money we’ll spend on the newly proposed return to the moon program and launch a search for a way to rebuild the educational programs in the country. Can you imagine what a billion dollars would do?

If nothing else, it’s something to think about as we look at all those little red rocks on Mars.