NASA rover Perseverance lands successfully on Mars to look for signs of past life. Plenty of signs of past lives in pandemic America.

by Bob Schwartz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A NASA rover streaked through the orange Martian sky and landed on the planet Thursday, accomplishing the riskiest step yet in an epic quest to bring back rocks that could answer whether life ever existed on Mars.

I am a big fan of science. I set out to be a scientist, but switched tracks in college. I have visited Cape Canaveral and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I appreciate both the heroic drama and the practical results of space exploration. I take nothing away from the awesome efforts of those who worked on this mission. Most of all, I believe that we as an American government and people can do many different things at the same time.

But the humanist and poet in me has no doubt been warped as we begin the second year of the American pandemic. And so when I saw that the point of the mission was to look for “past life” on Mars, I could not help thinking about almost 500,000 lives lost in America just this past year to Covid, many of those deaths avoidable.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be going to Mars now, or that money or attention is being diverted from our still unsuccessful mission to handle the pandemic. Although we have successfully landed on Mars, while we have not yet landed even a technical knockout on Covid.

I’m not sure what I’m saying. I hope that there will be a day, sooner than later, when we can see people enthusiastically raising their arms in celebration as Covid becomes a manageable disease. So we won’t find as many past lives here in America on earth.