Planetary Radio • Feb 10, 2021

The Big Book of Mars: Our Obsession with the Red Planet

Please accept statistics-cookies to listen to this podcast.

Download MP3

On This Episode

Betts bruce headshot 9980 print

Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society

Kaplan mat headshot 0114a print

Mat Kaplan

Planetary Radio Host and Producer for The Planetary Society

Mars has commanded our attention and stimulated our imaginations for millenia. Now, as 3 more spacecraft arrive, we talk with author Marc Hartzman about his new book that documents the fascination and fancy generated by the Red Planet. Planetary Society Chief Advocate Casey Dreier gives us a taste of the Society’s recommendations for the Biden administration regarding space exploration. Bruce Betts provides one more opportunity to win a Planetfest ’21 t-shirt!

The Big Book of Mars
The Big Book of Mars Marc Hartzman’s "The Big Book of Mars" celebrates the Red Planet and its role in shaping popular culture.Image: Quirk Books
1912 Hoax About Life on Mars
1912 Hoax About Life on Mars Hoax about life on Mars originally published in the October 13, 1912 edition of The Salt Lake Tribune and included in The Big Book of Mars by Marc Hartzman.

Related Links

Trivia Contest

This week's prizes:

A Planetfest ’21 t-shirt AND a copy of The Big Book of Mars.

This week's question:

How many lasers are on board the Perseverance rover?

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at https://www.planetary.org/radiocontest or write to us at [email protected] no later than Wednesday, February 17th at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

To celebrate Perseverance, Hope, and Tianwen-1 reaching Mars, write a poem about one or more spacecraft at or arriving at Mars. Judging will be entirely subjective and capricious. Be profound or make us laugh.

Winner:

The winner will be revealed next week.

Question from the 27 January space trivia contest:

What person’s name has to do with both Earth’s and Mars’ prime meridian?

Answer:

Sir George Biddell Airy established Earth’s prime meridian that runs though Greenwich in England. The Mars prime meridian passes through crater Airy-0, named in Sir George’s honor!

Transcript

Mat Kaplan: The Big Book of Mars this week on Planetary Radio. Welcome. I'm Mat Kaplan of the Planetary Society with more of the human adventure across our solar system and beyond. That mysterious red planet has haunted us and inspired us for thousands of years. Now, as three new robotic emissaries arrive, a new book Chronicles are, Martian, Flights of Fancy and Fascination. We'll have a fun conversation with its author, Marc Hartzman. How will space exploration fare in the Biden era? The Planetary Society's, Casey Dreier will be here in moments to introduce recommendations, just submitted to the White House by the society. And down the line a bit, we'll check out the night sky with Bruce, our chief scientists, will also make a big announcement.

Mat Kaplan: Hope is in orbit. The United Arab Emirates has become only the fifth nation to successfully reach Mars. We congratulate everyone involved. Mission director Omron Sharaf will be one of our terrific guests for Planetfest'21 to Mars and back on Saturday and Sunday, February 13 and 14. We'd love to have you join this virtual celebration. You can learn more at planetary.org/planetfest'21.

Mat Kaplan: We'll know if China's Tianwen-1 mission is also orbiting Mars just hours before this episode of Plan Rad is published. NASA's Perseverance Rover will plunge down to the surface and it's seven minutes of terror on Thursday, February 18th.

Mat Kaplan: Turning now to headlines from the latest edition of the Downlink, our weekly newsletter. The lead story is about two new papers that cast further doubt on the discovery of phosphene in the Venusian atmosphere. One argues that what has actually been seen as just sulfur dioxide, observations continue. Space X will be sending for private astronauts to the International Space Station later this year. The flight was purchased by tech entrepreneur, Jared Isaacman, and we'll include a healthcare worker and the winner of a charity raffle. I wonder how much the tickets will go for. Another ground test of the space launch systems core stage has been scheduled for the week of February 21. NASA says a bad wire harness and overly conservative test parameters automatically halted the first test. As always you'll find much more at planetary.org/downlink.

Mat Kaplan: Casey Dreier is the Planetary Society's, senior space policy advisor, and our chief advocate for space exploration in Washington, DC. Casey, good as always to be talking to you, in between the monthly space policy editions. This time something that you gave us a hint about in the February SPE, these recommendations are out to the Biden administration. Congratulations on getting these out along with a terrific complimentary video from the boss, Bill Nye.

Casey Dreier: Absolutely. We are pleased to provide our recommendations regarding NASA to the new Biden administration and really the new Congress as well. It's always kind of a reset when a new Congress convenes every two years. And of course now we have a new presidential administration. It's a great time to really clarify our values, suggest opportunities for them, and really frame NASA, not as a problem to be solved, but as an opportunity. As a tool in their arsenal to really address their priorities for the country.

Mat Kaplan: I suspect that among the various requests and recommendations that the Biden administration is receiving right now, there might be, well, I don't know, two or three, other than ours, that not many of them express the kind of hope and optimism that this does.

Casey Dreier: That's one of the best spinoffs of space really is that it's optimistic by its nature. You have to plan for things in the future. You assume that your understanding of the cosmos is accurate. You have to aim your spacecraft where the planets will be, not where they are when you launch them. And you have to build and focus and collaborate together for these big peaceful expressions of human curiosity.

Casey Dreier: We acknowledged that the fact that we're making these recommendations in a very tough time for the country and the world. That we're still dealing with the pandemic, we're crawling out of this economic hole that we're in as a consequence of that. And we really say, NASA, this is something you need to think about now for the recovery. Obviously COVID deserves to be the primary focus of the administration, but these are things you can think about now for setting up the future. And again, that's that optimism aspect. And it's really important to think about the future when things are tough, because that reminds us why we're getting through the tough stuff in the first place.

Mat Kaplan: So of course, anybody can read this great document at planetary.org, but I'm hoping that you will at least give us the elevator pitch version of the five major recommendations made. And then the document goes into detail on all of these, but tell us about them.

Casey Dreier: The key items are, I think programmatically is to really deepen our commitment to NASA science programs. It's a science-focused administration. They declared themselves to be. So this is a great opportunity to not just invest in things like earth science, but all aspects of NASA science that all integrate together. Science is complimentary and the more you learn about other parts of the cosmos or a context for exploration, it helps inform your understanding, your models, your predictions for things close to home. We also of course take a very strong stand historically that we don't want earth to be hit by an asteroid. We think that Biden administration shares that, as I think most people do. But just again elevating that as a priority is something they can do. There's missions on the drawing board right now, they can invest in and prioritize like the Neo Surveyor mission that can launch soon by the end of his first term and start looking for hazardous asteroids.

Casey Dreier: We really emphasize, again, that there's no big need to change where we're going with human space flight, with the Artemis Program on a moon to Mars pathway. And that's just good to emphasize. We don't need to tear up the current plans and start afresh.

Casey Dreier: And then the last two are really kind of implementation and framework ideas. Again, what I said earlier that NASA doesn't need to be a problem to be solved, but it can be a tool in their arsenal to help the nation. And that would point out a number of relevant ways that NASA really invests in the US economy that drives jobs, good paying jobs across the country. Not just at NASA centers, invest in people and that's people in the university systems and the public education systems. And it's this pathway for people to come into the middle class around the nation, into the types of jobs that the US really needs right now, which is highly skilled, critical thinkers in skilled manufacturing and scientific work engineering, all these areas of STEM.

Casey Dreier: Of course, the value of NASA too can be international and strengthening ties with our allies and our friends around the world through shared projects like going to the moon, like going to Mars, with that Mars Sample-Return Mission. And you do this by investing in the space program. And this is where the five over five plan comes in, where we just recommending steady growth above inflation 5% per year. This is a little bit higher than what Congress has been giving NASA, but not really that much. Since 2014, Congress has provided about 4% average growth for NASA per year.

Casey Dreier: And we're proposing, let's bump it up to five and that doesn't sound like much, but it builds on itself. So if you do a five over five, you're close to a $30 billion asset by the end of five years. And that difference split between human space flight and science, really opens up the potential of new and exciting missions, pursuing the kinds of science we want to see, pursuing the kinds of human exploration we'd love to see. And then of course, that's all an investment into those key areas of the country, around the country that we point out in the paper.

Casey Dreier: So the big picture is that NASA is this huge opportunity for them to leverage, to advance and invest in the nation itself. It's not just throwing money out there. NASA is work that is done here on earth and in this nation.

Mat Kaplan: Well done, Casey, congratulations, once again to you and all of our other colleagues who had a part in getting these recommendations out, including the boss, Bill Nye, our CEO who helped create terrific video, which will compliment this document. I look forward to seeing whatever reactions it might get there from the Biden administration and across the Capitol, Washington, DC. Thanks very much for joining us for this. And, I'll see you at Planetfest.

Casey Dreier: Oh, looking forward to it, Mat. I can't wait to share that moment with you again.

Mat Kaplan: That's Casey Dreier, our senior space policy advisor, and chief advocate at the Planetary Society.

Mat Kaplan: ABC news has called author Marc Hartzman one of America's leading connoisseurs of the bizarre. And there is much in his new book that can definitely be described with that word, especially as you read about how Mars was thought about and written about in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The title is The Big Book of Mars: From Ancient Egypt to the Martian, a Deep-space Dive Into our Obsession With the Red Planet.

Mat Kaplan: The book also contains lots of great Mars science and exploration and speculation on humanity's future there from several great scientists, most of whom have been our guests on Planetary Radio. But it was that popular culture angle that made Marc's book so much fun for me. I invited him to join a conversation as those three spacecraft reach that ever popular world. Marc Hartzman, thank you very, very much for joining us on Planetary Radio and for this terrific book, which is such fun; The Big Book of Mars from Ancient Egypt to the Martian, a Deep-space, Dive into our Obsession with the Red Planet. It's true, isn't it? We are obsessed with Mars and we have been for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

Marc Hartzman: Yeah. We go back to the very beginning of humanity. I think just looking up at the stars and gazing and wondering what might be out there and ancient civilizations, seeing that red dot shining in the sky and wondering what that is and attributing it to their gods of war and bloodshed and all this violence based on the color red. And that's obviously where the name Mars comes from, the Roman God of war. And as you progressed through you find scientists, always just remaining curious about what might be there. And until you start to get things like telescopes and you start to get a better picture of what it is and begin to map what you're seeing, and all sorts of theories start to come to life.

Mat Kaplan: And not just scientists, of course, as we will discuss, and as you document in the book. Say a little bit more about why Mars ... Not too many of us think of it as a God in the heavens anymore, and yet that fascination continues. Why don't we have the same level of fascination and speculation regarding Venus, for example, I mean, well, I guess as you pointed out, it's not red for one thing.

Marc Hartzman: Yeah. Venus hasn't really, I think inspired the imagination as much as Mars has. Like I said, it goes back obviously to ancient civilizations, but then you just have all these different ideas about this neighbor of ours, it's so close, relatively speaking of course. And asking that question of, are we alone? Could there be someone else out there? And Mars is a pretty close option for that to be a possibility. So people have just wondered about it and it's worked its way into the cultural imagination from movies and books and all the incredible science around it. But you never hear about people talking about Venusians invading. It's always Martians invading. It's like, it's just part of what pop culture has put into our brains.

Mat Kaplan: Okay. I'll only differ with you on one point. And that is, I do vividly remember a movie starring Eva Gabor with the women of Venus who attack earth.

Marc Hartzman: Yeah. I do know that one.

Mat Kaplan: Who could blame them?

Marc Hartzman: There's a little bit, a little bit of Venus interest. Sure.

Mat Kaplan: Is all of this part of why you decided to write this book?

Marc Hartzman: No, I had a very strange way into the role of Mars. I like writing about a lot of weird history, it really fascinates me. Just odd beliefs going centuries back. So I run a site called weirdhistorian.com, and I was looking to write a story about Tesla in his attempts to contact Mars. And I remembered reading about this just somewhere kind of in passing. I thought that would be kind of a fun topic to write about. So I started researching some newspaper archives, looking for articles, headlines about what Tesla was trying to do, how he was trying to contact Mars and trying to find some new stories about it.

Marc Hartzman: And in my search, I came across another story from the 1920s about a man, a doctor in London whose name was Hugh Mansfield Robinson. He was in telepathic communication with a Martian woman named Oomaruru. And this was the headline. It was like Martians have big ears, says London lawyer, through telepathic conversation, some kind of crazy headline. And I just thought, "Wow, what is this story?" So I looked up a few other newspapers, just searching the guy's name and just uncovering this treasure trove of information about this event going on in the mid 1920s about telepathic communication with a Martian woman. Hugh said that she was over six feet tall and she had big ears and she wore a long flowing green dress. All these details, they drove cars, they smoked pipes.

Marc Hartzman: So then in 1926, when Mars was in opposition, this guy, Robinson tried to connect with Mars via telegram. So he had Rugby Radio tower in London, which was the tallest, most powerful radio tower at the time, send off a telegram. So then he was waiting for a Martian response so he didn't get any response, which he was upset about. And he tried it two years later when Mars was an opposition once again and again, he got no response and he blamed the scientist of earth for not being smart enough to understand how to receive Martian communications, it was our fault-

Mat Kaplan: No doubt.

Marc Hartzman: ... [crosstalk 00:14:42] getting messages from Mars. So this was just this whole ... and this was in newspapers, the New York times covering this, this was all over the world. The story was being covered. So I was just really amazed by the whole thing and thinking like, "Wow, what else was going on around this time?" And then I started uncovering all the other stories of obviously Tesla of course, but Marconi and William Pickering at Harvard and some other scientists of various universities with their own thoughts of how we might contact Martians. What a time to be alive?

Mat Kaplan: Absolutely. And of course today, as well, when we're finding out about the real Mars. But all of these wonderful headlines, I'm going to bring up one of them in just a few minutes and some of these other characters, but I want to quote what Planetary Radio guest, Pascal Lee said about the book. He's co-founder chairman of the Mars Institute. And of course at the SETI Institute. He calls The Big Book of Mars, a very well-researched, hilariously written and beautifully illustrated account of Mars and its exploration in human culture, some serious fun. Hartzman did Mars history, a great service. I cannot agree more as I told you a while back, if I had decided to write a book about Mars, it would have been this book, except that you did it better than I could have hoped to.

Marc Hartzman: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate the compliment. And I was thrilled to hear that from Pascal, he was a huge help with the book. He had so many amazing things to share and incredible stories. What an incredible guy doing amazing things right now.

Mat Kaplan: He's one of my favorite Martians. How long did it take to pull together all the material in this book? Because I'm thinking especially of the wonderful illustrations that include all those newspaper clippings from a 100 or more years ago. I mean, this is quite a huge research project, wasn't it?

Marc Hartzman: It was, it was a lot of fun to put together. I probably spend about a year. One of the really fun experiences was going to the Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona. And I'd reached out to them obviously in advance and organized the trip. And I just got to go back into their archives room. And the woman there brought out one of those rolling carts and just had it stacked with boxes of notes, from Percival Lowell, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, just a ton of stuff. And I sat there for the day going through it. I'm like, "Oh my God, this is just incredible. You're seeing his handwritten notes, scratching out comments on manuscripts and notes and scrapbooks, all these amazing clippings, obviously much of it about him. That was one great resource to get the real things.

Marc Hartzman: And then again, just finding stuff online, I mean, there's so much online now. It's really wonderful going through different newspaper archive services, find all these great scans. So yeah, it was really fun, and it's surprising.

Mat Kaplan: I'm so glad that you brought up good old Percival Lowell. How much of the belief that people developed in the late 19th and early 20th century, the belief that there really were Martians and entire Martians civilizations, how much of that can we point back to Percival?

Marc Hartzman: I think a lot of it. Certainly there was belief in intelligent life on Mars before he came into the scene, but he was just so vocal about it. And he was such an ardent believer. He kind of took the torch from Giovanni Schiaparelli, who was the one who first saw lines.

Mat Kaplan: The famous Canali.

Marc Hartzman: Yes. Canali, which got translated as canals. And then everything else happens from there, right?

Mat Kaplan: Right.

Marc Hartzman: If it's canals it's artificially made, versus channels, which is Canali, which could have just been naturally made. But no it's canals and all of a sudden, you've got all these theories just going kind of crazy. But also just taking the context at that time, you had the Suez canal, which just got completed around that time. And that took like 10 years of hard work.

Marc Hartzman: Percival Lowell was thinking like, "Wow, this is an entire planet covered in canals." These guys must be geniuses, amazing engineers and strong, huge people to be able to pull something off like that. So it's just fun thinking, how his imagination ran wild with it. As he's looking through his telescope, he built in 1894, Flagstaff, he's just seeing all these different lines and continues theorizing about it, writing books about it and lecturing all over the country. So like I said, he's very vocal. He's gained all the headlines and he had opposition, some people disagreed with him, but he disagreed with their arguments.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:19:06].

Marc Hartzman: Yeah. Then you had others finding their own theories. And again, ways to contact Mars, which are just incredibly amusing.

Mat Kaplan: They really are. We talked about these newspaper clippings, entire pages. Here's just one. And there are a ton of these. It's on page 47 of the book. It's a 1912 edition of the Salt Lake Tribune with great illustrations. And here's the headline. Mars people by one vast thinking vegetable.

Marc Hartzman: It's great.

Mat Kaplan: And some of the stuff actually, I mean, maybe with a little exaggeration by the newspapers, they were known to do that, some still do, but some of it actually originated with thoughts by scientists based on the best knowledge of the time, right?

Marc Hartzman: For sure. This one in particular, the thinking vegetable headline, so this one was the actual hoax. If your eyes are pretty good, maybe a magnifying glass you can read the whole article in the book.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah, yeah. I did that actually. Yes.

Marc Hartzman: But it's crazy because it puts it out there. Like, okay, they use a real professor observatory and they attribute all these different thoughts to him, which he didn't say. He got a little upset about.

Mat Kaplan: He was unhappy about that.

Marc Hartzman: Yeah, but they make it sound reasonable. Like, okay, well, here's what we know. Here's what others are saying. And here's these clouds they're saying, no, it's not cloud, it's a giant eyeball. They go through it in very scientific detail and it's completely absurd. But again, it's playing off of the fact that people were really obsessed with this idea at that time.

Mat Kaplan: There is example after example of this in the book. Even these great thinkers. You briefly mentioned Tesla, which was your inspiration led you into the book, Marconi, generally credited as the inventor of radio or wireless, as it was known then. Even Thomas Edison was willing to say, yeah, there might be something to this.

Marc Hartzman: Yeah. They thought it could very well be the case. I love the Marconi story. He had received a wavelength of like 100,00 meters or something, I believe in 1920, he didn't know how that could exist on earth. How could it have originated here? So he made the assumption that originated from Mars. I think studies of that went on for a few years until he finally realized several years after that, it was actually coming from a GE base in Schenectady, New York. And it was like a secret test that they were running. They were like, "Oh, actually that was us. Sorry about that Marconi." And I could just imagine the disappointment, like, "Ah, it came from Schenectady? I thought came from Mars."

Mat Kaplan: Really want a come down literally.

Marc Hartzman: Yes. But this did dismay everybody, people were like, "Okay, well that wasn't from Mars, but maybe something else is." One of the stories I really love is from a professor named David Todd from Amherst. And this guy was relentless. His efforts began in 1909 when Maurice was in opposition, pretty close to ... relatively speaking, pretty close to earth. And he wanted to create a hot air balloon that could ascend 50,000 feet into the atmosphere. And he thought then he could receive Martian signals without any interference. He's like, "I'll have nice clear path. I can get their signals. They probably think we're idiots for not having got them already." So maybe this could be successful. He was all in on this idea. He did a test run of 5,000 feet and felt pretty good about that. And then I believe he was planning to go up in September of 1909, and it never happened. It's hard to find why it never happened. There's probably some obvious reasons, but it didn't specifically say, this is what canceled the trip.

Marc Hartzman: It didn't happen, but he tried it again in 1920, he had the government backing him. He had a pilot from the US picked from the army. He was going to pilot and build the hot air balloon. And again, that sort of fizzled out the last minute too. And then they came back with some other studies in the mid 1920s. Still trying to talk to these Martians.

Mat Kaplan: A lot more fun with Big Book of Mars author, Marc Hartzman is still ahead. This is Planetary Radio.

Bill Nye: Greetings. Bill Nye here. Saturday, Sunday, a fleet of spacecraft, including NASA's Perseverance rover is arriving at Mars. Join our live online celebration Planetfest'21 this February 13th and 14th. I'll be there with explorers, including Jim Bell, Katie Mack, author of the Martian, Andy Weir, NASA JPL, chief engineer, Rob, many of my old friend Phil Plait, the bad astronomer. Get your tickets at planetary.org/planetfest'21. We are going to Mars.

Bill Nye: Matt, was that too much? I got into it there.

Mat Kaplan: No, you nailed it, boss. Another thing that I've always been fascinated with, with the attempts, not just to receive communication from the Martians, but to communicate with them. And prior to Marconi and Tesla who thought that maybe we can send a signal out to them. There were these attempts not using radio that at least that were proposed for communicating with Mars.

Marc Hartzman: Yeah. In the mid 1800s, you had a few scientists who thought we could carve giant structures that they could see from Mars. If they had telescopes, they could spot it. They wanted to use math as like a universal language. So let's create a perfect like Pythagorean triangle and be able to see that. Like digging ditches in the Sahara and then lighting it on fire. So it'd be a giant flaming triangle in the earth that they could see. And I thought, Oh, if they see, it's like the language of mathematics that they're seeing, they would know that there's intelligence here. It wouldn't just be a random shape. It would be something they could understand. So you had efforts like that, which was pretty amusing. And then even later than that, actually going back to 1909, that was a big year for outreach sound.

Marc Hartzman: And there was another professor from Johns Hopkins, I think his name was professor Robert Wood. He wanted to make a big wink. He thought earth could wink at Mars. Again, just doing this through giant fabrics out in the Nevada Salt Flats, the alkali sands. And he thought if we get these giant mile long, or I think four-mile long pieces of black cloth and put them on these automatic rollers, we can have these giant black spots that roll and unroll and then roll back up and unroll roll back up. It looked like we're winking and that they could see that and see it as a signal. So it was like a very low tech and low cost opportunity to make a connection with Mars and say hello. And that didn't happen, unfortunately, that would have been kind of fun to see.

Mat Kaplan: There was sort of a version of that, much more modest. It was in that first message that was sent by the great Frank Drake, now retired from the SETI Institute and others. I think Phillip Morrison was involved where they sent a grid of black and white. It was basically on, off, but it might have been assembled by the Martians or by that time they were thinking of people a lot further out across the universe into this grid of black and white spots or rectangles might just have, been the revenge a professor Wood.

Marc Hartzman: Well, that's a good point too. SETI does send signals out, that's something we've been doing, sending signals out into the universe to see if someone can receive them. It is pretty fascinating that you got to think that there is something else out there.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah. I'm still waiting lots of controversy of course, about whether it's a good idea to be sending messages to the Klingons that we happen to good eats right down here. Let's go on to speaking to Klingons, fiction, the role of fiction in Mars. And there's been so much of it. When did writers of fiction start to realize that Mars would be a fertile place to base their stories?

Marc Hartzman: You see a lot of it begin the latter half of the 19th century. I think a lot of that just goes along with the science that was happening. So again, you have the canal theories coming through in the late 1800s, and that sparks the imagination of these writers. Like, "Oh, if there's intelligent life out there, what might that be like?" And you get a lot of fascinating thoughts. Everyone knows, I think HG Wells doing the War of the Worlds, which was around 1897, 1898, which is obviously probably the most famous of all the stories. But before that, there were lots of writers thinking about what life might be like. And kind of projecting what an ideal world could be like. One of the examples I thought was really interesting that it's probably not well known at all is called The Unveil Romance, which has credited as being written by two women of the West, but they don't even get their names in the book. And that just speaks to the idea of what women's rights were like back then. Having very few of them.

Marc Hartzman: And so they projected onto Mars a much more utopian society for women, and[Earthling 00:27:49] earthly finds his way to Mars and meets with a Martian there whose sister is very busy because she has a job, basically like a CEO of a company. She's running the show and he talks about how the women receive three times the pay of men, they can vote. They have all the things that a woman would want. It's like a modern woman now, they were projecting back in the late 1800s.

Marc Hartzman: And then you have the Earthling making fun of the Martian for like, "Oh my God, here we tyrannize our women. If they vote, we discard it." So it's interesting how they use Mars to kind of project a better life for all women.

Mat Kaplan: Scandalous women running companies? My God, what will be next? Maybe a president or a vice-president.

Marc Hartzman: Right. And there's another one called Mars Reveal again from the late 1800s written by a religious guy, a spiritualist who talks about an experience he says he had where his spirit floated off Mars with a guy. Someone who came upon him one day while he was just sitting by a tree enjoying the weather and said, "Hey, what are you doing sitting here? We could go to Mars." It's all very bizarre. And so they float the Mars and he describes Mars in incredible detail about again, how wonderful it is. It's very advanced. And everyone there is really religious. It gets to the point where every paragraph he's talked about God and the glory of God. And everyone goes around a dinner table talking about God, and then they can look at God from their telescope and they see him on his own planet. And how wonderful that is. Everything is incredibly advanced. They've had electricity for thousands of years. They have pipes made out of diamonds. Everything is really wonderful and it's basically attributing it to their religious nature.

Marc Hartzman: So it's almost like, hey look how great Mars is because they have such a strong belief in God. If we could all be this religious here, we could have that too. From there, you also just get more of the science fiction stories and more traditional science fiction stories, which are wonderful, the War of the Worlds of course, and others. And those are all sort of inspired by the science that was going on and the possibilities of life again, what that might be like. And what's so great about that is that feeds right back into the next generation of scientists who read that stuff. And then they think, "Oh, wow, I want to make that story happen. Like, how can we actually escape the earth and fly? Tomorrow's like ... the stories I read about as a kid. So I've kind of loved how science influences science fiction and science fiction in turn influences science.

Mat Kaplan: That is a theme that it comes up over and over on this show, I hear it from so many of the scientists and engineers who are leading our exploration of Mars and the rest of the solar system in the universe. Have you read any of the Edgar Rice Burroughs, those tales about John Carter of Mars? I think they're very entertaining. And of course John Carter had super strength because he was in this low gravity environment of Mars.

Marc Hartzman: Right. Yeah, no, I read John Carter of Mars and that was, it was a fun, entertaining book, cliff hangers because it was sort of serialized, right?

Mat Kaplan: Yeah.

Marc Hartzman: Yeah. It's a lot of fun and again, I love the fact he starts off in the cave in Arizona, probably not far from where Lowell, had his observatory. So you can see there's these little influences like, "Oh, that's cool. This guy's doing this in Arizona. And they start with my character in Arizona and he'll go to Mars." And yeah, here's what I know. I know it has low gravity. What's that mean? Well, the guy can jump like Superman or something and have incredible strength. So it is fun to just see the things that they knew, what they could do with those facts with their imagination.

Mat Kaplan: By the way, did you happen to catch the movie? Which sadly bombed at the box office, but I actually thought it was pretty good. The movie John Carter, based on the Burroughs' tales?

Marc Hartzman: It came out like maybe like 15 years ago, right?

Mat Kaplan: Something like that. Maybe less, maybe 10.

Marc Hartzman: Yeah. I didn't see that one.

Mat Kaplan: I recommend it. If you could pick it up, I don't know where it is online, but it's worth a look. I think it actually just wasn't marketed very well, but it's a really fun film, much of what has been done over the years with the War of the Worlds. And I'm thinking of what Orson Welles did to take that story from HG Wells and turn it around and you report on this, of course. Did you get the impression ... I've always wondered because I've heard both sides of this, that Orson was just shocked. Shocked, I tell you to learn that people had thought that he was actually reporting the news about this Martian invasion or that maybe Orson knew all along that maybe he'd be taking a few people in.

Marc Hartzman: That's a good question. From all accounts, it seemed like he was a little surprised afterward when he heard that people were taking it seriously. Like, "Oh my God, really?" I don't think he was pleased about that. He, I think he was a little concerned that he had caused any kind of damage with people. There's a story I've mentioned in the book he offered to refund someone's train ticket that they bought. The guy sold a shirt to get a train ticket or something [inaudible 00:32:46]. Something crazy.

Marc Hartzman: I really do love the whole story around that broadcast. First of all, I think it's one of the things in culture that most people, whether you're into Mars or just science in general, you probably heard about that happening. Like the panic of 1938. And it's one of those things that you look and you think, I can't believe people actually believe that it's just seems crazy that people would think Martians were actually invading earth. But then when you think about the things we just talked about, all this stuff that was going on in newspapers, all these headlines from people like Tesla and Marconi and Edison, very well-respected people, some of the smartest people on the planet. And they're saying that there's life on Mars.

Marc Hartzman: So when this broadcast comes over the airwaves, it's maybe not that shocking and the way Orson Welles did it was just so genius. First of all, it was like early, early radio, right? So he was very creative with how he used the medium playing up the fake band which just sound like, turned a tuner and I hear a band and that sounds normal and you have the introductions of the bands, all sounds completely normal. And then the break in with the news reports.

Marc Hartzman: And these kinds of special reports and alerts were not uncommon. You have world War II brewing over in Europe. So breakings like that were kind of a common thing. So all of it felt very natural. And then they had people coming in late because people were busy listening to Edgar Bergen and his ventriloquist dummy-

Mat Kaplan: Charlie McCarthy.

Marc Hartzman: ... Charlie McCarthy, which is just ... that's a whole other story because I don't know how a ventriloquist was so successful in radio of all places, that amuses me a lot.

Mat Kaplan: I will drop in apropos of nothing that Edgar Bergen was better on the radio because he made no attempt not to move his lips when he was performing with Charlie McCarthy in person.

Marc Hartzman: [crosstalk 00:34:33].

Mat Kaplan: But anyway, back to Mars.

Marc Hartzman: So again, you have people coming in late, so they miss sort of the introduction that Orson Welles gave. And granted, he mentioned it a few times through the broadcast that, "Hey, this is just a dramatization of the HG Wells novel," But people had freaked out and missed it by then. I just loved the whole, you're putting the whole story in context of what was going on at that time. And maybe understanding why people may have reacted the way they did, but it was like a lot of crazy action. People running in the streets and truly believing that life on earth, as we know was over.

Marc Hartzman: Aside from what was going on in our country, this panic happens, which is crazy. And you think like, okay, so that worked once, but that's not going to happen again. But then it did happen again, which I love. It happened 11 years later in Quito Ecuador, two DJs wanted to drum up some publicity. So they thought, Hey, we should do that, War of the Words story. And we'll do it like Orson Welles, but we'll make it just like he localized it to America. They localized it to Quito to their surrounding area. Unlike Orson Welles, they didn't bother at all saying that this was a dramatization. They just went right into it. And they had people impersonating like the local politicians, local priests. So it sounded very legitimate.

Marc Hartzman: They had all the police, the entire police force was racing out to the next town to try to help. Everyone took it very seriously. And when word got out that this wasn't real, people got really upset. Understandably so, and they formed a mob and they marched down to the radio station and they started attacking the radio station. They set it on fire. The fire truck couldn't even get there because the streets were too crowded with the mob. 15 people ended up losing their lives. So, in a way the Martians did attack.

Mat Kaplan: Had its way of looking at it, isn't it? Wow. We got to mention Ray Bradbury. He of course appears in the book. In fact, I was interviewing Andy Weir for Planet Fest, which we'll talk more about in a moment as well. And, and we talked about Ray, and that Ray with The Martian Chronicles, which rocketed him to the real fame that he richly deserved. Those were stories which could have happened on earth. It just happened that Mars was a convenient place to put them. And of course, Ray had been looking up at Mars and he had read the Burroughs books and he wanted to go there just like John Carter. What are your impressions of Ray Bradbury?

Marc Hartzman: I agree. The Martian Chronicles is just great, again, projecting humankind and the fact that like, even if we go to Mars, we bring our humanity with us, right?

Mat Kaplan: Yeah.

Marc Hartzman: We bring our baggage and that's what's I think is really interesting when you read his book about, first of all, it sets up like Martian life. And it's very imaginative how we see Martians living and of course when we get there, we just ruin everything and it's very unfortunate. And he goes on and he talks about just the different ways that our human foibles just get in the way of things. And even if we go somewhere brand new, we have the same problems. It's an interesting way of talking about humanity and our faults, but he does it with this great setting of Mars and it's just brilliantly done.

Marc Hartzman: And I love the fact at the end when he talks about being the Martians that we humans are the actual Martians, which is such an enduring idea. And it's something that you can see happening, and in near future. Andy Weir gets into that a little bit, but with Mark Watney, basically being a Martian, talks about colonization. And if that can happen over the next, who knows century or whatever it might be eventually we'll be Martians ourselves.

Marc Hartzman: I really love the fact that Ray Bradbury got to be there for the landing of Viking, got to be at JPL and witnessed that. What a cool thing for him to have this vision years before and then to actually see humans, not humans, but humanity get to Mars via the Viking Lander. What a cool moment that must've been.

Mat Kaplan: I can tell you it was, you know how I know? because I was standing with him, at that moment. I was in college, a friend of mine and I had wangled our way into JPL, with our press passes. We didn't tell them that our radio station was [10 Watts 00:38:44]. I was standing in a group in von Karman auditorium at JPL with Ray Bradbury, the other great writer, Theodore sturgeon, Robert Heinlein was upstairs in the cafeteria and a bunch of other Mars fans as Viking 1 came down safely on the surface of Mars.

Mat Kaplan: And I can tell you, he was beside himself. He was absolutely thrilled.

Marc Hartzman: That's amazing. What a cool experience that must've been an incredible thrill for you, just all of that happening at one time. Very, very cool story.

Mat Kaplan: I definitely, I treasure it. You mentioned Andy Weir, and of course he and his hero from the Martian, Mark Watney, made it into the book. And Andy is also going to be, as I said, part of Planetfest, he's not going to be able to join us live for this session of Planetfest'21, that you are going to be part of with me. You and I are going to join Kim Stanley Robinson on this panel that we're calling Why I Make up Stories About Mars. Stan Robinson of course is also mentioned in The Big Book of Mars. He put together that great trilogy, a real classic of Mars settlement, Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars.

Mat Kaplan: Andy, who I talked to about this, he said that he thinks of it as almost a combination of taking the hard science of Mars and adding to it, the sociology and the psychology that the Bradbury brought to Mars in the Martian Chronicles. As you've talked about this, that our human foibles getting in the way as we try to settle a new world. Is that also the impression you get?

Marc Hartzman: Yeah. I read Red Mars. I think that's a great way to put it. He really did put a ton of science into it, from what I understand, he spent about 10 years researching and learning, which is very amazing and admirable. And then yeah, took what he knew scientifically and then drove a story around that.

Marc Hartzman: And you're right, what's beautiful about the book is he only has these first 100 who go there and kind of settle a society and then as more and more people come, it's just the same garbage we deal with here on earth. But happening now on Mars with different results in different consequences because of the nature of Mars. But he has a lot of great, just philosophical discussion in the book, which I really loved. Just talked about like terraforming Mars, and there's a great discussion I quoted back and forth in the book about what we should be doing. Like, should we be trying to terraform Mars? Is it really ours to control or should we just be enjoying another planet and not trying to change it? Like this is what it is and we're visitors here versus making it ours.

Marc Hartzman: I liked that he got to those discussions and just the pros and cons of these different attitudes towards how we envision Mars and what we might do there in the future. Beautifully done book.

Mat Kaplan: Brilliant. And we will talk with Stan about this, of course, during that live session, I'll just mention Planetfest, the 13th and 14th of February, a little plug here, and people can learn more at planetary.org/planetfest'21. We've barely mentioned the movies, indirectly the Martian of course, what a hit, what a brilliant film as well. And John Carter, not quite as successful. I want to thank you for including that marvelous classic of the cinema, Santa Claus versus the Martians in The Big Book of Mars.

Marc Hartzman: That too. Actually, it's not that one about 20 years ago, I think I saw that for the first time and it definitely stuck in my head. But yeah, that's just another crazy little movie. The title alone is pretty darn intriguing. So I love the premise of it that these Martian kids are ... First of all, they're just zoned out watching earth TV, and they have no joy at all, like expressionless. And they go to their elder who I call a cross between Yoda and Dumbledore. I called him the old Dumbledore. And like, "What do we do?" And he's like, "Oh, you need a Santa Claus to bring joy to these kids. So go to earth and get Santa Claus." Basically is the premise of the movie, the Martians zip over the earth they ...

Marc Hartzman: What I love is, they don't know which is the real Santa Claus, because they're all over the shopping malls and on the corners. And so they were like, "Which one is it?" And of course they find a way to North pole through the help of a couple of young kids and they kidnap Santa Claus and chaos ensues.

Mat Kaplan: Great literature it may not be, but, I guess it was fun for the time. And it has this credit, that it introduced the infamous Pia Zadora.

Marc Hartzman: That's right. She's one of the zombie kids.

Mat Kaplan: I also want to thank you for a still image. I don't know how many in the book, but one in particular that I was very happy to see because I have a fond place in my heart for this. It was a young Bill Bixby and his uncle Martin played by one of my all-time favorite actors Ray Walston. My favorite Martian.

Marc Hartzman: It was a great show. I used to watch it all the time when I was a kid. It was on obviously on reruns back ... probably I guess, early 80s watching the reruns, like every afternoon, because we had like four channels. I just loved it. So of course, yeah, I had to include that. And there's a lot of great moments, it's fun re-watching it now and having a better understanding of Mars and the pop culture that's proceeded all that. Captured by the government when he first crashed landed. Yeah. It's a great show.

Mat Kaplan: There's some decent science in the show as well, shockingly. Speaking of real science, I'm giving short shrift to your telling of the real history of Mars exploration in here, because we do so much of that elsewhere on this show other weeks, but it's here right up through the Curiosity Rover. How do you feel about the fleet of robots that continues to reveal the red planet for us, including the three that are arriving pretty much as we speak.

Marc Hartzman: I love it. It's so fascinating. It was so great talking to some of these amazing scientists at NASA and JPL about what they do. Getting on the phone with a few of them. Just for a quick background, my regular job aside from writing books is in advertising. I'm creative director at ad agencies. I would tell him your job is just ... you have the greatest job in the world. I'm jealous. The things you're doing they just boggle the mind.

Marc Hartzman: We have robots on Mars, it's populated by our machines and we can get it there and we know how to do that. I absolutely love it. So I love that science we're able to do with it. I love the fact that they can control these machines and the scientific devices they put on them and the plans they have. I know Perseverance Rover will start collecting rocks to eventually be returned to earth. There's just so much exciting potential. I'm hoping that at some point we get to a point where we can dig beneath the surface enough to see if there is some kind of microbial life. I think that they'll find something, I'm excited by the possibilities. Once you get away from the radiation and maybe a little bit of moisture down there, we know that there's moisture below the surface. So there's so much exciting potential ahead, who knows what we might find. I'm thrilled by the whole process.

Mat Kaplan: You and me both. And of course I think every listener to this radio podcast who cannot wait to get below that surface and see if ... even if there isn't anything alive up there now was there at one time? The book ends with a variety of experts, their thoughts about humans on Mars. And I think most of the people that you quote have been heard on this show. Do any of them stand out to you?

Marc Hartzman: Yeah. One of my favorites that does come in towards the end of the book was Jim Logan, who just had a lot of really fascinating ideas. And he talked about how horrible Mars is, and you get a lot of great colorful quotes about just what a horrible place that Mars is. He's like, "This is not a place for humans to be, it's ridiculous to want to go there." He has a great theory about going to Demois instead, he called Demois the most valuable piece of real estate in the solar system. And he believes we could go there and core out the center and put space stations in there with artificial gravity so that it could become like an Earth-like environment within a space station. And you'd have the protection of the shell of Deimos from the solar rays. So we'd be protected from all the radiation, which was a really interesting thought. And then we'd be close to Mars, but he thought that would be a better place to have off-road living.

Marc Hartzman: First of all, I said, how do we core out the moon? And he's like, "Well, Hey, if we can travel that far, we ought to be able to figure that part out." And I said, "Well, how long do you think something like that might take?" And he said, "20 years after people stop laughing about it." And I thought that was really interesting. It's a really interesting point of view when he goes on to kind of explain that he said, "Look, people used to laugh about flight, human flight when they stopped and they put math and physics to the problem, you have the Wright brothers lifting off the ground. And it's not long after that you have Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic. And then you have some 30 years after that you have Apollo 11 landing on the moon."

Marc Hartzman: So it's an interesting thought you're right. I'm like, "Okay, if we stop thinking it's a silly idea and we put some physics to it and some math to it, maybe we can make that happen." So I thought that was a pretty fascinating theory.

Marc Hartzman: One other quick theory I thought was really interesting was just maybe more of a question was there's lot of talks about colonizing Mars, but no one really talks about if that's even possible aside from being able to live on Mars. But the question is really, can we reproduce on Mars? Gravity is the one factor that hasn't changed on earth. Like we'd been through all kinds of changes, but gravity has always been a constant. So what happens when that constant changes to one third gravity? And no one knows, and no one's tested it other than maybe on tiny animals, but it's something that it's a pretty big unknown. So it's a pretty fascinating question of whether that will happen or not. And if it does happen, then we get back to the idea we talked about earlier that now we have martians. So it's a fascinating area for sure.

Mat Kaplan: I like to tell people that I have a $5 bet with my boss, Bill Nye, our CEO of the Planetary Society. I say that Mars will be Terraformed within 10,000 years. He says never, it's just too hard to place for humans to live. Did you detect a consensus among the people that you talk to regarding Mars as a place to live?

Marc Hartzman: I think in general, most would agree with what you said. It would take thousands of years to be able to do it. I thought Pascal Lee's take on it was pretty interesting where he thought, okay, it might be scientifically possible and it would take a very lengthy period of time, like you suggested, but he thought the bigger issue would be the politics involved. And could you really get a society to maintain the efforts for that long a time? Let's just say you're right. 10,000 years. Imagine 10,000 years of politics aligning people continuing the efforts and agreeing that we have to do this. So the efforts would not ever stop or get changed or goals would differ whatever it might be. So that he thought was kind of a hurdle. Again, that's humanity getting in the way. Could we actually accomplish this thing? So I thought that was a pretty interesting take and tend to agree with that.

Mat Kaplan: It's a nice ending for a terrific book, Marc. Thank you very much again, for talking to us about The Big Book of Mars, which is published by Quirk Books and it's available pretty much everywhere. I highly recommend it. It is more fun than I've had reading about Mars in a long time. And I have a lot of fun reading about Mars. I have to tell you.

Marc Hartzman: I appreciate it.

Mat Kaplan: I look forward to seeing it. Yeah, of course. And I look forward to seeing you at Planetfest and who knows, maybe we'll have a shot. I'll see you on Mars someday.

Marc Hartzman: That will be awesome. I would love that. And I'm looking forward to Planetfest. Thanks so much for having me.

Mat Kaplan: Time. Once again, for what's up on Planetary Radio. Bruce Betts is the chief scientist of the Planetary Society, which gives him many, many broad responsibilities, including something I think you were prepared to give us an announcement about.

Bruce Betts: Yes, we have announced new grants program, the STEP grants, science and technology, powered by the public. And people can learn more at planetary.org/stepgrants. But it's for science and technology research tied to what we do planets search for life and planetary defense from asteroids. Learn more at planetary.org/stepgrants.

Mat Kaplan: I think there's probably more to say about this and maybe we'll have a separate conversation next week, if I can tempt you to do that.

Bruce Betts: Pre-proposals aren't due until late May. So there's no hurry. We'll get into it more next week.

Mat Kaplan: You got some time. And these are open to everybody, right?

Bruce Betts: Open to everyone internationally.

Mat Kaplan: Excellent. So, the sky is open everybody what's up there?

Bruce Betts: Sky is open everyone, but you Mat.

Mat Kaplan: What? Locked out again?

Bruce Betts: We've close it down and you are over your house. So, we're largely devoid of planets, right at the moment, except for Mars, which is hanging out in the South, in the evening sky and to its left, you can find the very similar looking right now. Aldebaran, the reddest star in Taurus. And farther over towards the Southeast, you'll catch Orion. That's a good time to hang out with Orion to look for the winter hexagon, which you can find a little map online of, but includes the bright star in Orion. And then surprisingly enough, there are a total of six bright stars included in the hexagon, which is a very large asterism feature.

Bruce Betts: Good time to check out those stars and deep sky objects while we're waiting for the crazy morning sky full of planets to come at some point, but not really yet.

Bruce Betts: On this week in space history, it was 20 years ago, this week that the NEAR Shoemaker's spacecraft did something it was never designed to do. But the engineers figured out how to do it anyway, which was at the end of their orbital mission around the asteroid Eros, they landed on it and transmitted data back. Quite amazing.

Mat Kaplan: Such a great story.

Bruce Betts: Yeah, it really is. 2013 this week was the Chelyabinsk bolide atmospheric boom, over Chelyabinsk Russia that injured over 1000 people when a 18 to 20 meter asteroid came in and broke up high in the atmosphere sending a shockwave down to the surface.

Mat Kaplan: Wasn't bad for everyone. I mean, there's a silver lining to everything. The people who install windows we re thrilled.

Bruce Betts: Wow. You are good at looking for silver lining. I'll give you another one. Although it's a hard way to get it. It's a reminder and wake up call that Planetary Defense asteroid protection is actually important and not just an obscure thing that never happens.

Mat Kaplan: That's better than the glass one.

Bruce Betts: Unless you're working in glass and ... yeah. Okay. On to random split fact, energetic. The sample caching system on the Perseverance Rover, they will collect samples and set them aside for future spacecraft, pick up and bring back to earth. That system has 17 motors, nine drill bits and 43 sample tubes. It's not complicated at all.

Mat Kaplan: Not a bit. Wow. That's fantastic. It's all going to work, of course I have total confidence.

Bruce Betts: Well, they do great work.

Mat Kaplan: They really do.

Bruce Betts: All right. We move on to the trivia contest. And I asked you what person's name has to do with both Earth's and Mars' prime Meridian. In other words, what is agreed upon as zero degrees longitude. How did we do, Mat?

Mat Kaplan: An even bigger response this week and it wasn't just quantitative. It was qualitative. People loved this question and many of them thanked you for leading them into this little rabbit hole. They loved it. I'm going to let you give the answer because pretty much everybody, except for the guy who said it was President Charles Arthur, pretty much everybody has this.

Bruce Betts: Charles Arthur? Wasn't it, Chester?

Mat Kaplan: Chester, I'm sorry. Chester, of course. I'm sure he'll forgive me.

Bruce Betts: Probably. It was named after Sir George Biddle Airy, the British astronomer royal from 1835 to 1881. And it all starts physics largely having to do with optics that applies including to telescopes and other things. That's the name. Now, what are the items? Would you like me to discuss those some more?

Mat Kaplan: Yeah. Would you? Please

Bruce Betts: Sure. On earth is many people know zero longitude is defined by the Greenwich Observatory in England, and it's actually defined by a telescope that's named the Airy telescope after George. On Mars, it was initially defined as a crater that was named Airy. And then when they got more precise and better data and imagery, a crater within that crater, a small crater Airy zero was tied to the definition of zero degrees longitude. Airy. The answer's Airy.

Mat Kaplan: Here is the lucky winner among that big crowd of entries this weekend. It's not anybody I remember. I'm pretty sure first time entry, first time winner. Congratulations, Jonathan Rimjus, he is our winner in Illinois who said, indeed, Sir, George Biddle Airy, specifically Airy. And he talks about running through Airy zero, that crater. You have one yourself, a Planetfest'21 T-shirt. A T-shirt that we've come out with in cooperation with Chop Shop specifically to celebrate our Planetfest'21 celebration. It's Saturday and Sunday, you can learn more at planetary.org/planetfest'21.

Mat Kaplan: Michael Kaspol in Germany, he says as backyard astronomers of course know Airy mainly by his disk at Greenwich, when we're focusing a telescope on stars, always good to zero in on Airy, like Mars global surveyor tried to do on Mars.

Bruce Betts: I like zero, zero in.

Mat Kaplan: Yes.

Bruce Betts: I get it. It's cool.

Mat Kaplan: Darren Richie in Washington, I'd heard of Airy Zero on Mars, but didn't know the backstory for the name. This makes more sense. Since Airy is not an adjective, one would normally use to describe Mars.

Mat Kaplan: Rob Cohain in Massachusetts, I roughly estimate that if more opportunity that's Mars exploration Rover opportunity had lived another about 175 years, it might've had a chance to make it to Airy crater. You're going to like this one too. Laura Weller in the UK. Wow. I live surprisingly close to Earth's Prime Meridian, just 7.3, 10 trillions astronomical unit.

Bruce Betts: Definitely the most convenient unit to use.

Mat Kaplan: [inaudible 00:58:27] in the New Mexico. Great episode as usual Mat, during my research, I also learned something interesting. The nearest landmark to our moon's prime Meridian is Crater Bruce, I guess Dr. Betts is just too modest to draw attention to himself.

Bruce Betts: Well, it's rarely true, but in this case I did notice Bruce, but I couldn't figure out an excuse to mention that. So thank you for doing that.

Mat Kaplan: Finally, this from our poet Laureate, Dave Fairchild, George Airy was a British gent and stars and stuff were his niche. He built a transit circle scope in England's town of Greenwich while Airy Zero sits on Mars, a crater unprepossessing, they both marked prime meridians geographies addressing.

Bruce Betts: Is that light applause? Snapping, man.

Mat Kaplan: Oh, snapping snapping. Snapping. I'll do applause. There you go. Thanks Dave. I think we're ready to move on.

Bruce Betts: Back to the Perseverance Rover. How many lasers, how many lasers are on board the Perseverance Rover? Go to planetry.org/radiocontest.

Mat Kaplan: Well you can't have enough lasers when you're going up against Mars. You have until the 17th, that'd be February 17th at 8:00 AM Pacific time to get us this one. You could zap it right over to us at that ... I just had to, I had to [crosstalk 00:59:52].

Bruce Betts: Nice.

Mat Kaplan: You have one more opportunity to win yourself a Planetfest'21 T-shirt. You can see it in our [email protected] or planetary.org/store.

Bruce Betts: All right, everybody go out there and look up the night sky and think about what you would use a high powered laser for. Thank you, and good night.

Mat Kaplan: About the step grants could I get a grant to build a high powered laser? I mostly needed to buy a lot of D-cells.

Bruce Betts: No, you're actually one of the few people in the world who is ineligible for the grant.

Mat Kaplan: Shoot. All right, well anybody wants my blueprints write to me. He's Bruce Betts the chief scientist of the Planetary Society. He joins us every week here for what's up. Planetary Radio is produced by the Planetary Society in Pasadena, California, and is made possible by those earthbound Martians who are its members. Join us on the red planet at planetary.org/membership.

Mat Kaplan: Mark Hilverda is our associate producer, Josh Doyle composed our theme, which is arranged and performed by Peter Schlosser. Ad astra.