Mars Spirit's Silence & Conspiracy Mongers

by Mac Tonnies

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Picture of Mars roverFrom Posthuman Blues:

The conspiracy-mongers are out in full-force after the revelation that the Spirit Mars rover has gone (almost) silent.

Richard Hoagland is going full-steam ahead with the colorful notion that the National Security Agency (NSA) knocked Spirit out of commission before it could discover alien artifacts. It almost sounds reasonable . . . until you look at the supposed "artifacts" Hoagland's talking about and take time to consider that Hoagland seems to have a never-ending stock of nefarious scenarios in store in case something unfortunate should befall a NASA mission.

If you make enough predictions, you're bound to be in the ballpark every once in a while. And if you're as charismatic and earnest as Hoagland, your audience will likely forget all of your past predictions that never materialized. In fact, they'll be falling all over themselves to ride the Belief Train. Sure, it's a fleeting ride. But like any good fiction, it's certainly fun while it lasts.

But what happens if JPL manages to get Spirit back online? There's a reasonable chance they might. Spirit didn't go utterly silent like Britain's Beagle 2; it merely stopped relaying science data. So if Spirit "wakes up" and hails Earth with a new stream of images, what happens to Hoagland's scheme? I suppose we'll be asked to believe that everything seen after the rover's silence is either fabricated and thus not to be trusted or that the "good guys" in the space/intelligence community beat the NSA at their own game. Whatever happens, Hoagland will have a nicely packaged answer. And it will sound weirdly logical, at least on first take.

And then the next probe will have landed and everyone will obligingly forget all about the malevolent NSA's plan to stifle Spirit. A new and better Mars conspiracy will be afoot soon enough.

Mac Tonnies

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"After the Martian Apocalypse": in bookstores July, 2004

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