Mars in first color image sent back by Curiosity. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech (via CNET)

Two Martians, let’s call them Big and Bug, are standing around the rover. Big kicks the machine. Why are you doing that, says Bug. The heat shield almost hit my ex-wife, says Big. But she’s been dead and dusty for years, says Bug. Well, says the other, that’s no reason to put up with the earth men sending us their garbage. It’s not garbage, says Bug, they’re trying. At least they’re still trying, it’s more than you can say about us. Look, he says, it’s called “Curiosity”. They are curious! What are we doing?  We just stare at the desert and wait. For some reason he feels defensive of the humans and the little robots. We do watch TV, says Big. Yeah, says Bug, where does the TV come from? Earth! I don’t think it’s right we don’t even throw them a bone. We were curious once, says Big, and look where it got us. At this point the rover makes a rattling noise. It turns one of its arms towards Big. We must go, says Bug. It will be 14 minutes until they can see this. All right, says his friend. They open the rover and replace its electronic brain by something that looks like a red stone. Peekaboo, says Bug to the camera, and makes the peekaboo gesture as he has seen it on TV. But they’ll never see it.

This one’s for Ray Bradbury. Curiosity, the latest rover from Earth, has landed on Mars. Terribly exciting news—see NASA’s mission pages for updates. No second chances here, millions of miles away from home: signal transmission from there takes 14 minutes…if only we could trust our own eyes.

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