The Curiosity rover is roving Mars, taking pictures! It landed on August 5.
Right now, Mars looks like this:
NASA wants to figure out if and when Mars ever looked like this:
I’m not a space buff, but we cover this type of thing extensively at the magazine where I work, and in doing so I’ve discovered something that I weirdly kind of love about NASA: its website. NASA’s been hit with some huge funding cuts that have killed a lot of future projects, but they don’t necessarily edit mission descriptions as plans change. The archive is a graveyard of breathless, optimistic outlines of missions that are no longer being planned, instruments that were never developed, technology that didn’t get funded. And yet! They still post about future plans and projects in the works, eternal optimists.
When I decided to blog about becoming a parent, it seemed only vaguely problematic that I have no idea how long it will be before I’m actually a parent. But now I’m realizing with slightly more clarity that it could be months or years until Sir Mix and I have a baby…it might not happen at all, in which case all this thinking and writing and emoting I’ve been doing about starting a family might seem just really painful. But then I think, hell, if NASA can do it, so can I.
So. Here we are. The babymaking train is inching ever closer to the station. Mix and I are thinking the ‘all aboard’ — which is to say our first try at insemination — may be as close as just a few months away. There’s a lot to think about in the meantime, especially because the process is so controlled, so deliberate. Are we waiting too long? Not long enough? And then I skim right over the whole it-may-take-years-to-even-get-pregnant thing and go straight to, We haven’t totally settled in in New York — what if we never do because we have a baby and then are too busy to make friends? What if we’re utterly alone in raising our baby? What if we both lose our jobs and become homeless the day before the baby is born? What if I lose touch with my writing and blame it on the baby and become a bitter, horrible person? What if I’m a bad mother? What if I don’t love the baby? What if the baby doesn’t love me?
But now I’m thinking: What would NASA do? NASA would continue blogging optimistically. NASA would focus on the present, which does exist, and not on the future, which doesn’t. NASA would remind me that there’s no Curiosity mission until there’s a Curiosity rover, and there’s no Curiosity rover until there’s a plan to build it, and there’s no plan until the scientists have the wherewithal to make one, and wherewithal, by god, was never got by fretting over worst-case scenarios.
The Curiosity mission was 12 years in the making, from conception to landing. “It was a long, long pregnancy,” a former chief scientist said. I love the bald human aspiration of a Mars mission, even one that never happens: someone has an idea, and people set about pulling off amazing feats of creativity and technological expertise to see it through, all so they can piece together the story of a planet. Humans are at our best when we throw caution to the wind. When we’re like, “Fuck it, I’m going to plan this Mars mission/write this 600-page epic poem/love this person/try to make this family.” Onward and upward, dudes…
Katie and her wife, Sir Mixalot* live in Brooklyn, where they are charging into the great unknown of fertility, sperm banks, at-home insemination and (hopefully) pregnancy and parenthood, all on a shoestring budget and without a freaking clue what they’re doing. Read all of her posts here.
*totally her real name