The Morning File: As Curiosity comes, it can make Martians eager for better PR

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NASA's latest Mars rover, a mobile science lab called Curiosity, landed safely on the Red Planet at 1:32 a.m. Eastern time Monday. It was greeted by the Martian leader. They had the following exchange:

Martian: Greetings, Earthling. But why do you come in the middle of the night and wake me up? I was going to sleep a few more hours to be well rested for watching the Olympics. Now my schedule is all out of whack.

Rover: I'm sorry. I was in the control of NASA engineers, whose GPS sent me initially to Mars P-A by mistake. So everything's a few hours off.

Martian: I've heard of that Mars P-A. We consider it quite an honor to have such a bustling metropolis named after us.

Rover: If you say so, your eminence.

Martian: Well, now that you're here, you must be very tired. Jet lag can be difficult after an eight-month, 354 million-mile trip. Where would you like to rest?

Rover: No can do. NASA wants me to start sending photos within two hours. They're big on the whole travelogue aspect of the trip.

Martian (scanning the horizon): Pictures? Of this? But there's just dust and a little bit of gravel. Our convention and visitors bureau won't even send out these bleak pictures, for fear no one will come.

Rover: Yeah, but they need something back home to justify the $2.5 billion.

Martian: $2.5 billion? That's what they're paying you? I've got to get hooked up with your agent. I'll bet he could get me a nice contract for visiting Earth.

Rover: The money's not mine, actually -- just the cost to the U.S. Treasury of putting the whole thing together.

Martian: Well, you're worth every penny. I love how you stuck that landing after coming in at 13,000 mph. I gave it a 15.983.

Rover: I preferred the old Olympics gymnastics scoring better, when you would have simply given me a 10. It was easier to understand, even for a super-advanced robotic laboratory like myself.

Martian: Well, you did good, and that's all that counts. But where are the humanoids I thought were coming? We put some rocks together to make a bed of sorts and grilled some sulfur and nitrogen. That's a lot of trouble around here.

Rover: The president says no people will come for a few decades. He needs every vote he can get in the next election, I guess.

Martian: Well, that's going to make some pretty disappointed Martians. They were expecting Neil Armstrong and some memorable slogan like the Moon got from him. We need the PR. Everyone's always talking about what a war-like planet we seem. You'd be, too, if you always got slighted like this, while everyone thinks Venus is so loving.

Rover: I sympathize. But you're in the movies more -- that must count for something.

Martian: Ha -- but always portrayed as weird and menacing, like with tentacles and an oversized head. I want Brad Pitt or Leo DiCaprio playing me next time. Don't I look as good as them?

Rover: That's a little hard to say, your eminence. You just appear, according to my quick data interpretations, to be some kind of ancient, strange microorganism we may lack a specific match for on Earth. I'll see what I can do about your request -- you may have to settle for someone like Mickey Rourke though.

Martian: Hrmph. So what have you brought us anyway? You Earth robots always visit looking to find out about us, but you never bring anything to help us understand your planet.

Rover: NASA was sensitive about that after the last mission, after reading some of the blogs from Mars. So I brought a Justin Bieber CD, some Yuengling and a Honus Wagner baseball card. The Wagner card is very, very valuable -- a real prize you should treasure as a sacred gift.

Martian: Why?

Rover: Uh, I'm not sure. It just is.

Martian: I'll keep the Yuengling and my kids will love the CD, but just keep the card. Send it into space, for all I care.

Rover: I understand. Is there anything else you'd like me to tell the people back on Earth on your behalf?

Martian: Well, no disrespect, but when rovers like yourself come here, you should really clean up after yourselves. We don't come to Earth and clutter it up by leaving things behind. Leave the planet the way you found it. Capiche?

Rover: Capiche. Now turn to your left just a bit for a good photo.

intelligencer - science

Gary Rotstein: grotstein@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1255.


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