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Share Your Story • Mark A. Brown • August 1, 2017

Bound for Mars

In 1950 or so, an article about the Haydn Planetarium appeared (in the NY Times as best I recall), featuring a presentation currently at the Planetarium about the future of space exploration. As part of its promotion of that event, the article contained a reservation form, to be cut out and returned to the Planetarium. It offered a choice of reserving a place on the first expedition to the moon or on the first expedition to Mars. I signed up for Mars, and mailed my reservation in to the Haydn Planetarium; I’m waiting patiently.

At age 10, as I was then, I was already avidly reading about the red planet and its mysteries, initially attracted no doubt by the thought of “canals”, and our sister planet held more attraction for me than the bleak moon. I began my interest in physics and math, and concentrated on these in high school, in the belief (fostered by my science fiction reading) that these would be the critical credentials for any future astronaut. But as my high school career drew to a close in June 1957 I began to think space exploration was not likely to begin until I was far too old to participate.

Barely more than 3 months later, just as I had entered into my college program in physics, came the startling news: Sputnik was circling the earth. Then came Explorer I in January, 1958, the creation of NASA in October 1958, and the Mercury program soon thereafter. As the recruitment process for astronauts began to take shape, I was chagrined to realize that (1) I was too young, not too old, to be among the first astronauts, and (2) a physics degree was no very great credential at all and that what was most needed instead was experience as a test pilot.

Then just as I was graduating with my physics degree in May 1961 and beginning to turn my interests to logic and philosophy, President Kennedy declared our intention to send a man to the moon. But by the time John Glenn went into orbit, I was a married graduate student in philosophy. Who could know, then, how long it might it might be before the Haydn Planetarium’s promised manned expedition to Mars might come?

I’m now retired from a long career teaching logic and philosophy, still fascinated by the prospects and the reality of space exploration, still happily married to my bride of 55 years ago, a great-grandfather, and a little creaky in the joints. But I’m still waiting for the call from the Haydn Planetarium.

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