VIC COLUMN: Life on Mars


I’m of the generation that watched man launched into space. With all the goosebumps of excitement and lump-in-the-throat tears of what that means. People of a certain age know what I’m talking about.

So, why wouldn’t I slip off my camera-image tennis shoes, walk over in my stocking feet, and tread on Mars. The map was sitting right there, on the floor, and others before me had walking on it (also, sans shoes) so, why not?

After all, I’m too old to be the real “first man on Mars,” so I might as well do it this way.

“This way” was the presentation last month of a huge map of Mars presented to Clinton Elementary School. Just like showing a round Earth on a flat surface, the Share Space map of Mars shows the “continents” and “oceans” – although no water has yet to be found, unlike Earth which is covered mostly with water – and the mountains and the locations of probes landed on Mars so far.

Jim Christensen led the CES 4th graders on an exploration of Mars. He conducted the lesson after a few introductory remarks by Andy Aldrin, son of the second man to step food on the Moon, legendary astronaut and engineer Buzz Aldrin. “Every one of you, if you want to, can buy a ticket and fly in space,” Aldrin told the 4th graders of their future. “Any one of you, you’re just about the right age, can be the first man or women to live on Mars. I personal ly think you are the most exciting generation ever.”

Part of Christensen’s lesson:

Space is a fascinating thing to work with. The moon is about as big as from Los Angeles to Chicago. The Earth is known as the blue planet; 7/10 of Earth is water. Go out tonight and look at the moon, and take your thumb and cover up the moon, the ratio works. Moon = gray; Earth = blue; Sun = white or yellow; Mars = orange. The Earth is 1 million times smaller than the sun; the Earth takes 365 days to go around the Sun, and we have a name for that (one year). It takes 14 minutes for a phone call on Mars to reach the Earth; how long is recess, 15 minutes, so think about it, a phone call from Mars and one minute, recess is over. It takes almost your whole lunch period to have a conversion with Mars (30 minutes). Pizza leaves Earth and six months later it lands on Mars and “that’s one small bite for man …” Olympus Mons on Mars is 13 miles high (500 miles across) – Mt. Everest on Earth is 5 miles high – and here we have three volcanoes. Look up Mars Rover and you can see pictures from Mars. The Rover has a laser on it and that laser can vaporize a rock, and from the smoke that rises from the rock, they can tell what it’s made of. When you walk on the map, find something that tells a story to you. There is room out here to learn new things that nobody knows, yet; read well, communicate, and be curious.

Wow, this is a super-great gift to School District 56 by community benefactress Emily Bailey. To walk on another planet AND it takes “only” six months to get there, if only we had the technology to do so. Alas, maybe not in my life; but, just maybe, in the lifetimes of 4th graders.

Just, Wow!


Vic MacDonald is editor of The Clinton Chronicle. The views expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chronicle. MacDonald can be reached at 833-1900 or

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