Mars: Making Contact – Rod Pyle

With Nasa’s new lander, InSight, due to launch in 2018, and the Mars 2020 Rover set to touch down just two years later, all eyes are on Mars. Rod Pyle traces the history of the Red Planet in this stunning new publication from Carlton Publishing Group.

519q2nj3sl-_sx258_bo1204203200_The universe can be a pretty lonely place. What are we but a pale blue dot, orbiting an insignificant star, in one of any number of solar systems, in an unquantifiable amount of galaxies that make up the universe? For generations humankind has hoped to one day discover life beyond our world, to finally know that we are not alone in the universe. Of all the planets in our solar system, there is one which will forever encapsulate the human desire to discover alien life, that dull red dot flickering in the distant night’s sky – Mars, our, not-so-identical, twin sister.

For millennia, Mars has held a special place in the human psyche, fascinating explorers enamoured by its dull red appearance and unusual celestial motions across the night sky. In the past, the relative closeness of the Mars to our own home seemed to hold the promise of hardy plants, animals equipped to handle long cold winters, and a whole new world of secrets and history. Over the years, however, we’ve come to learn quite a lot about our distant neighbour, and the truth is far from appealing.

Multiple flybys, orbiters and landers throughout the years have awarded us a deeper understanding of our sister planet, and opened our eyes to the truth of that which once lay just beyond our grasps. The first fleeting images of Mars, awarded by the success of the Mariner 4 flyby, revealed a hostile frozen desert – similar to Earth in terms of geology and physics, but cold, dry and lacking in any kind of atmosphere that would allow for the development of life.

Mars: Making Contact traces the history of Mars here on Earth, as the lonely red sphere in the night’s sky evolved from an otherworld entity, to a place, and as the secrets of Mars continue to unfold. Author Rod Pyle reveals the many human interactions that have occurred with our sister planet, and lays out the hope of more to come, as we move towards the first human mission to the hostile red sands of Mars.

This review was first published on online for E&T magazine

“It is quite possible–overwhelmingly probable, one might guess–that we will always learn more about human life and personality from novels than from scientific psychology” – Noam Chomsky

The making of a very thoughtful evening

The Little Prince ― Antoine De Saint-Exupéry

Image

First published in 1943 this sweet little novella is the most famous work of Antoine De Saint-Exupéry, and has been translated more time than any other book in the French language.

This is another book I found nestled cosily amongst our bookcases one evening. It’s a tiny little thing so I decided to spend the evening getting to know the Little Prince hidden within it’s pages a bit better.

The Little Prince seems at first to be written for children, but there is a very obvious philosophical message behind the story. I feel that on this level the story has appeal to both children and adults, anyone sat reading this book with a child on their knee is sure to enjoy it just as much as the little one.

Saint-Exupéry tells the story of a very thoughtful chap, who as a child learned only to draw boa constrictors from the inside and outside, and was terribly upset to find no one else fully appreciates his artwork.

Image

As an adult the voice of the story becomes stranded in the desert, and makes an unlikely friend. Someone who finally understands his drawings of so long ago – ‘the Little Prince’.

This charming little story traces the tale the Little Prince has to tell, of his travels across the universe, before finding his way to earth, and to our humble narrator.

The Little Prince visits many planets on his travels, mainly inhabited by a single person. Each character is more ‘odd’ than the last in the eyes of the Little Prince. A king – Obsessed with giving orders, A businessman – obsessed with money, A drunk – obsessed with drink and his own misery. The Little Prince continues on his travels, never fully understanding the people he has met along the way.

Behind Saint-Exupéry’s dear little story, there is an allegory of the human condition. The inhabitants of these planets are so preoccupied with the things that seem so strange to this innocent little mind. Not one of the people the Little Prince encounters is able to make a valid argument for the importance of his work. While the Little Prince cares only for doing what makes him happy, about asking questions, and caring for his possessions back on his own planet, including the love of his life -a beautiful rose.

Overall I found The Little Prince to be quite a satisfying read. It’s a short book, and can easily be enjoyed all in one go; in fact I found that once I started to read it I didn’t want to stop until it was finished. The book appeals to me on a many levels, I think it is a lovely little story for children ― I also think a fair few adults will enjoy the story for what it is ― but I also really enjoyed the allegorical side of the tale.