What Are We Bringing To Mars? 1,100 Haiku.

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Aug. 9 2013 2:18 PM

We’re Bringing 1,100 Haiku To Mars This Fall

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IN SPACE - JUNE 26: NASA's Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope took this picture June 26, 2003 of Mars. (Photo by NASA/Getty Images)

Photo by NASA/Getty Images

More than 1,000 haiku will accompany NASA's spacecraft MAVEN—an acronym for the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN missile—on its journey to the red planet this November, thanks to a contest put on by the University of Colorado.

Jennifer Lai Jennifer Lai

Jennifer Lai is an associate editor at Slate.

Back in May, the Going to Mars competition invited the public to submit poetry that would be included on the spacecraft during its mission to study Mars' upper atmosphere. All entries had to follow the classic three-line structure of the haiku: a first line of five syllables, a second line of seven syllables, and a final line of five syllables. Here’s the first-place entry, with 2,031 votes, from the United Kingdom’s Benedict Smith:

It’s funny, they named
Mars after the God of War
Have a look at Earth
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The original rules of the contest stipulated that only three lucky poets' haiku, chosen by reader vote, would be included on the DVD that would be carried aboard the craft. But due to the overwhelming response to the campaign—more than 12,530 poems were sent in from all around the world within two months—the organizers of the contest decided to bend the rules a little. Yesterday, the project announced that all of the poems that received two votes or more—over 1,100 haiku—would be included on MAVEN's epic orbit around Mars. That’s a total of 18,700 syllables floating up in space.

 “The contest resonated with people in ways that I never imagined,” said Stephanie Renfrow, MAVEN Education and Public Outreach leader and the Going to Mars campaign leader in a press statement. “Both new and accomplished poets wrote poetry to reflect their views of Earth and Mars, to share their feelings about space exploration, to pay tribute to loved ones who have passed on and to make us laugh with their words.” 

One common theme was a longing for the Red Planet:

Thirty-six million
miles of whispering welcome.
Mars, you called us home.
By Vanna Bonta, United States
Mars, your secret is
unknown for humanity
we want to know you.
By Fanni Redenczki, Hungary

While other poems brought in humor:

Mars, oh! Do forgive.
We never meant to obstruct
Your view of Venus.
By Anonymous
Writing poems, Mars,
I’m a little bit rusty
But then so are you
By Clay Graham, California

And some made us think:

Maven’s engineers
write in binary while we
count some syllables.
By Craig Houghton, Connecticut
The migrant Rover
Unfolds a slip of haiku
And dabs its lens cap
By Anonymous
 

Although the haiku-writing portion contest is officially over, you can still submit your name and a message with MAVEN to Mars. This is what we'd imagine Marvin the Martian would have to say if he had to respond (in haiku, of course):

My view of Venus
Obstructed by the Earthlings
Death to the humans
By Christopher Nakagawa, California

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

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