We've all heard and seen the expression: “Well, now I've seen and heard
Most of us have used it, usually when addressing small children
who've done something that defies gravity or any other natural law.
I remember my mother practically making it a mantra during my boyhood,
beginning about the time I thought it practicable to jump off the barn roof with
I've never used it. I'm saving it for the day I see and hear a politician
say: “Well, we may have lost the election, but you fools are on your own and I'm
keeping the bus.”
I did come close, recently, when I heard and saw retired NASA engineer Jim
McLane's proposal that we send a manned spaceship to Mars. This is nothing new.
We can all agree that sending a human to Mars is somewhere in our future but
isn't really realistic, not until we've first advanced our earth-based
technologies enough to provide us with some other basic needs: like how to
travel at the speed of light and make a truly squirrel-proof birdfeeder.
I'm not romantically-minded enough, however, to only see the pioneering
grandeur of going to the Red Planet in person. We've already been there with an
unmanned explorer, and the first legacy we left behind was a junk car.
We did this before on the lunar surface, and since then, I can't look up into
a moon-bright night sky without seeing lost golf balls and an abandoned buggy on
what is now our earthly satellite's biggest sand trap. For me, the man in the
moon is now a duffer with a dead electric car.
Engineer Jim claims that we do have the capacity to set out for Mars today,
but with one sticky caveat: The Martianaut pilot would have to stay there. Well,
this is like saying that a parachute is not necessary to jump out of a plane
unless you want to do it again.
To this end, check the message boards. I love the message boards. They are
those meeting places on internet news websites, where readers respond to a story
by giving their opinions on the writer and the story, but mostly inject
expletives on how they feel about other message boarders:
“Oh yeah? Well, Crazy Cyber Boy can go (expletive) his (expletive) if he
thinks that voting for that (expletive) will make us (remaining message
deleted)!!!! Signed: Sane Cyber Girl.”
For this story, I found more people out there ready to fly off to this
interplanetary cul-de-sac than you might think. One woman wanted to know how to
volunteer her husband. Another said he'd go if he could bring his Game Boy and
junk food. One guy said he'd be glad to live there, because it was the only
place he'd never run into his ex-girlfriend. My favorite was from a reader
named: “Already A Martian In Manhattan,” and I think you know all you need to
know about him.
I'm holding with Woody Allen on this one. He once wondered why on earth
anyone would waste time trying to find the secrets of the cosmos, when it's
impossible just finding your way around Chinatown.
But, I'm willing to go starry-eyed for a moment and don my scientist's cap.
One warning: My technological prowess is limited to still wondering how
scientists can make toothpaste come out of its tube pre-striped, so don't quote
Engineer Jim also suggests that we could send TWO Martianauts on this
historic flight, which “might even consist of a male/female team.” For this
journey, it's estimated that the couple will need a million pounds of supplies
(fuel, food, instruments, a hair dryer and one humongous beer cooler).
Okay, imagine a young, adventurous Adam & Eve planning a comparable
honeymoon trip to Disneyland:
They'll first need to agree on a “launch window.” For this trip, one comes
around approximately every 26 months. This has something to do with what
scientists call an “apogee,” which also makes striped toothpaste possible, and
is not enough time for the average couple to agree on what not to pack or when
If, by some miracle, they do make the launch window, they'll have to travel
non-stop for a year without ever leaving their car, while towing the equivalent
of 13 tractor-trailer shuttles. This doesn't allow for the extra time needed
when the male (driver) Martianaut ignores the female (passenger reading the map)
Martianaut's directions, and they then find themselves having to back up and
turn around as they zoom over what looks like West Neptune.
If, by some further miracle, they do finally get to Mars, they'll be stuck
with only each other's company for eternity in a bleak, unforgiving environment
cold enough to make ice freeze, or as we rookie New Hampshire scientists call it
Meanwhile, Houston, standby. The Eagle has birdied!”
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B. Elwin Sherman still won't play golf on this planet or in his home town of
Bethlehem, N.H. He can be reached via his website at:
elwinshumor.com. Copyright 2008 B. Elwin Sherman. All rights reserved.
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