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I Want to Walk on Mars

TALK-STORY/Blog - Feb. 2020...

It was the summer of 2012, this is how thousands of hours of calculations, hundreds of scientists, one television on Maui, a little girl from Kansas, and a 1966 Martin D-18 came together, including myself, to write this song . . . I WANT TO WALK ON MARS.

On August 6, 2012, I was watching our television in Hawaii as were millions around the world when NASA's Curiosity Rover successfully landed on the surface of Mars! It was a moment for the ages and reminded me vividly of the July 1969 Moon landing. There was a feeling of excitement and uncertainty so palpable you could cut it with a knife. The mission that had been in progress since its launch 255 days earlier from Earth on a 354 million mile journey to “the red planet” was about to succeed or forever be a crumpled mass of dreams left unrealized and invisible on the face of a distant planet.

The silence at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory during the time of the descent seemed to drift on endlessly until the confirmation that Curiosity was in fact safe on the Martian surface, decelerating from 13,200 mph to 0 mph in 7 minutes! It was the most complicated and precise landing ever undertaken by NASA. Like the scientists at mission control, I too jumped for joy when the announcement was made that the landing was successful. All these years later Curiosity is still operational and carrying out its amazing extended mission daily. Curiosity’s success also serves as the basis for the design of the Mars 2020 Rover Mission which will be launched this summer. I can only imagine all the devices beyond a television set people around the world will use to view the 2020 launch. Such is the pace of progress in our modern world.

On August 6, 2013, in honor of Curiosity’s one year anniversary of its Martian landing, “Happy Birthday” was audibly played by Curiosity. As “Happy Birthday” played it was the first time a song had been played on another planet and the first time music was transmitted between two planets! I believe music is a "connecting" element and it’s over due to be played “out there” as well as “down here.” I’m also thinking of future streaming possibilities for songwriters beyond Spotify, Apple, Amazon, and the old work- horse terrestrial radio …who knows?

A NASA panel selected the name Curiosity following a nationwide student contest that attracted more than 9,000 proposals via the Internet and mail. A sixth-grade student from Kansas, twelve-year-old Clara Ma from Sunflower Elementary School in Lenexa, Kansas, submitted the winning entry. As her prize, Clara won a trip to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where she signed her name directly onto the rover as it was being assembled!

Clara wrote in her winning essay:

“Curiosity is an everlasting flame that burns in everyone's mind. It makes me get out of bed in the morning and wonder what surprises life will throw at me that day. Curiosity is such a powerful force. Without it, we wouldn't be who we are today. Curiosity is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives. We have become explorers and scientists with our need to ask questions and to wonder.”

These beautiful words from a twelve year old inspire me as well and “make me get out of bed in the morning and wonder what surprises life will throw at me that day” and it never disappoints, if I’m paying attention!

One way I try to “pay attention” is to write songs and this day back in 2012 was no different. I was so jacked up by the Mar’s landing I picked up my guitar and got lucky that day. My fingers, my mouth and my heart all aligned for a moment and "I Want to Walk on Mars" started to roll off my tongue. I’m no Clara, but I found my own words to express how the whole experience impacted my view of our solar system and the mystic universe beyond. Here’s to the women and men of NASA, the adventure into the knowable and unknowable, and the miraculous ..."the firefly in a jar!"

Take a listen to "I Want to Walk on Mars" inspired by the incredible Curiosity Rover collaboration and participate in its expansion as NASA launches the next Mars mission in the summer of 2020! . . . Tom B

(click on the link below to listen)


w/m Tom Benjamin

I want to walk on Mars

Out there among the stars

I want to gaze across at Venus

With the Earth there in between us

Like a firefly in a jar…

I want to see the wondrous sites

Of worlds beyond the dimmin’ lights

Of this city in the winter

Where hope is just a glimmer

Fading in the night…

There are miracles in this world

There are miracles in this world...

From the perfect curve of space

To the elegance of dawn

Stars drift across the night

Who knows what’s beyond

All these miracles….

As I turn back toward my home

The only one I’ve ever known

I see an outpost on the edge

Of the universe it’s said

Whose fate is still unknown...

There are miracles in this world

There are miracles in this world...

I want to walk on Mars

Out there among the stars

I want to gaze across at Venus

With the Earth....

there in between us

Like a firefly in a jar....

Like a firefly in a jar....

Tom Benjamin - music/lyrics Cosmic Circus Tent album

Graphics by Suchi Waters Benjamin

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