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Fantasy findings from the final frontier.

Byline: Sid McKeen


So, OK, we have this machine on Mars called Curiosity that started scooping up samples last week from that planet's surface. Scientists say they hope it will help us find out if people ever lived there.

The thing is well named. I've spent the week in curiosity about Curiosity, known in contemporary literature for having killed the cat. Now I want to know what it`s doing to American pocketbooks. The two-year project is costing us 2 billion, 500 million smackers, which we'll probably have to add to what we already owe China, and that is considerable.

Now, here's the thing: On the very first day of NASA's scooping exercise out there, according to news reports, the job had to be suspended when Curiosity turned up a tiny shiny object nobody could identify. That's what I'd call a real curiosity.

The Curiosity crew wondered: Was it a piece of Curiosity itself? That was one speculation, and enough to postpone the scooping, at least temporarily. My curiosity took over where NASA's left off.

1. Could it by some fluke be one of my wife's earrings? She misplaces (loses) them all the time. In her dresser-drawer collection, there must be more than five dozen pairs - and more than a half-dozen singles. But then how did one of those singletons make it all the way to Mars? She often asks, "Where ON EARTH do you suppose that other earring could be?" Well, maybe it's not on Earth at all, but lying around up there on Mars, just waiting to be scooped up by the rover.

2. Is it by any chance my old Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity pin sent on a shirt to a Chinese laundry circa 1948 and never seen again? If they really have had humans on Mars, it's possible, I suppose, that Chinese have been among them. They did invent gunpowder, after all, so who's to say they couldn't have been out there all this time, maybe making out bills to send the U.S. government?

3. Or is the shiny object a diamond or a tiny nugget of gold, raising the possibility that what remains of the American space program is on the verge of striking it rich and turning a scientific mission into a bonanza for our Treasury Department? Will that discovery end all the consternation about our mounting deficit and put our people back to work mining the Red Planet? Maybe that's what they mean by hope and change, who knows? Take that, China.

4. Is it perhaps a contact lens that will force the Mars mission to call a long timeout like they do in the National Basketball Association while everybody scrambles around on all fours seeking to retrieve the lost object so the game can go on as scheduled?

5. Maybe it will turn out to be the World Series ring Red Sox ex-manager Bobby Valentine never received for converting his baseball team from a clump of chumps in 2011 into a clamp of champs in 2012. No, strike that, you can only take fantasy so far.

6. Or it could be just one thin dime? Possibly left there by the gods so that when NASA's rover got that far, it would be telling the scientists to stop on a dime, sober up, go home and quit wasting money that could be better used for helping folks back here on poor old Earth.I give up, I don't know what it is. Maybe just an optical illusion. A balanced budget, say.

Reach Sid McKeen at
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Title Annotation:COMMENTARY
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Oct 14, 2012
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