Last week I caught the tail-end of a Nova episode
featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson on the possibility (fraught with danger) of a mission to Mars. Imagine that moment, he said, when someone steps onto another planet. I lost my focus at this point, cosmic radiation and wayward meteoroids suddenly less significant than the hypothetical sight of Olympus Mons. What would one of the tallest mountains in the solar system look like? Everest, just shy of nine kilometers, is surrounded by other peaks. Much of Mauna Kea, more than a kilometer higher when measured from its base, is underwater. But Olympus Mons is solitary, plateau-like in its glory, more than twice as tall as its closest earthly rival and deserving of its name, though any gods calling it home, I suspect, would be wiry and thin-lipped and ferocious, as harsh as their surroundings. When I think of Olympus Mons, my imagination grasps, just for an instant, what it would be like to leave behind everything I love — out of love.
After an astronomy-crazy childhood, I have mixed feelings about space travel. We treat this planet so poorly — we treat each other just as badly — that we hardly deserve another chance to make a mess of things. Shouldn't we forego interplanetary exploration in favor of making sure everyone has enough food, a place to sleep comfortably, a reason to live and to want to keep living? Of course, my position assumes that those in power would dedicate the unspent space money to humanitarian efforts, not defense (or, worse, offense). Drummond's approach to Mars is brave, sustainable, utterly humane, not rushed or exploitative, as the very image of the title suggests: a peace offering to the god of war in the form of one of us, our hope and faith in the future. Beautiful, elegant, eloquent, brief. This is a small-run chapbook full of big ideas, deserving of a larger audience.