Nasa is looking for haikus in the form of a 'message for Mars' that will accompany their Maven mission in November.
'Like a stone orange among the stars' … Mars. Photograph: ESA.
I have not entered a literary contest since I was 11, when I was utterly convinced my poem was going to win (it didn't). But I think I'm going to have to brush up by poetry skills after learning that Nasa is looking for haikus in the form of a "message to Mars", and will take the three best, on a DVD, on board its Maven spaceship, due to begin a mission in November to study the upper Martian atmosphere.
I have said before that I'm a little obsessed with Mars exploration and Martian literature – Kim Stanley Robinson, Ray Bradbury, Philip K Dick, Robert A Heinlein.
I'm not sure that Robinson's descriptions of Mars can be beaten. Here he is as the 100-strong crew of the Ares approach the red planet:
The red crescent grew to the size of a quarter, and the feeling of tension grew as well, as if it were the hour before a thunderstorm, and the air charged with dust and creosote and static electricity. As if the god of war were really there on that blood dot, waiting for them ... Mars hung directly overhead, gibbous and quite distinctly spherical, as if a stone orange had been tossed among the stars. The four great volcanoes were visible pockmarks, and it was possible to make out the long rifts of Marineris.
After they land, the crew finds, "The sky was a pink shaded with sandy tans, a colour richer and more subtle than any in the photos." I'll just have to hope he doesn't have time to enter the Nasa competition. My crappy eyesight and lack of scientific genius means my childhood dreams of space exploration have long been set aside, but sending a haiku to Mars? That'd almost make up for it.
For the rest of the story: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/may/03/message-mars-nasa-haikus