Viewing The Martian Sunset
"Sometime in the 21st century, human beings will be standing on Mars and gazing (through visors) at the sun setting on the Martian horizon." If you find this statement plausible, you will find this presentation stimulating.
Might the Pathfinder image of the sun setting on Mars have the iconic potential of the Apollo image of the whole Earth? The first part of the presentation will consist of an analysis of a Pathfinder sunset image, focusing on (i) how this view came to us, and (ii) what this view means to us. For the latter, one analytical aid will be Frank White’s book, The Overview Effect.
The second part of the presentation will be a direct address, into the future, to those lucky ones who become the first humans to view the Martian sunset firsthand. Assume that the setting sun has put them in a somewhat thoughtful—perhaps even nostalgic—mood. We will take advantage of this moment to deliver a message intended to remind them of what we had to achieve in order to make their sunset-viewing possible. In particular, the message will remind them of some of the cultural resistances we had to overcome before the idea of humans-to-Mars could achieve currency among Earthly opinion leaders.
In other words, the second part will be a "retrospective" account of some of the varieties of anti-Enlightenment thinking still prevalent at the cusp of the Millennium. In many cases, "anti-Enlightenment" is probably too strong a term; if so, substitute "thoroughly Earthbound." More positively, it will be an account of some of the pro-exploration enthusiasms we need to nurture in order to enable humans to follow the path of Pathfinder.