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The search for life, and an environment in which to thrive, should start here


If we landed on Mars and met aliens, what would they think of us, asks Rebecca Levingston.

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Human beings with hairy chests and purple brains who occasionally kill each other. What would extra-terrestrials make of the way we live?

The Perseverance Rover parachuted onto the Red Planet last Friday. Here on Earth, the delighted squeals of the world’s most adventurous nerds rang out and we all geeked out seeing and hearing another planet.

I spoke to an astrophysicist who was still adrenaline addled and described the landing using a combination of words I could tell she was choosing so that mere regular humans like me could understand.

“Super exciting… six wheeled SUV selfies… complicated fancy chemistry… jets fired… parachutes released… red deserts…astonishing.”

I get it. And then the professor said to me “It’d be amazing to know we’re not alone.” Whoa, even the people with really big brains wonder about alien life forms.

It took 8 months and cost close to three billion dollars to make the 471 million kilometre trip through space.

The rover landed in a crater, thought to have been a huge lake billions of years ago. Now, it will look for life. Let’s just imagine they find it.

Reverse the trip, they can use the helicopter drone that was strapped to Perseverance to hurtle back towards us at 1500 kilometres per hour and touch down in Australia.

Perhaps they’d go straight to the place where our leaders gather – Canberra. The aliens would discover that there are four separate investigations into alleged assaults occurring in the house that’s supposed to set standards for decent behaviour. They might be bewildered by the fact that no one outside of Canberra has faith the investigations will change the culture.

Next the aliens would find out that if you’re a human who can’t get a job, you need to be able to survive on $44 a day. Meanwhile a slightly alien looking guy who started something called Facebook is worth $100 billion dollars but he’s promised to give all that money away. Humans haven’t figured out how to share money.

We have figured out how to fight a pandemic, but not every colony on Earth has followed the science to stop the virus. Now close to 2.5 million humans have died. 500,000 of those deaths are in the country that claims to be the leader of the free world. Eventually, we’ll all stick needles in our arms and survive.
But when our older humans start to break down we sometimes won’t treat them well. We’ll live longer than ever, but won’t necessarily learn from the experience of elders.
We understand that wars are destructive but we keep fighting.
Sometimes when humans say we love each other, we treat each other like enemies.
We weep. We despair. We laugh. And we care.
Humans are capable of breathtaking kindness but we don’t always choose to show it.
We have flashes of brilliance but that intelligence eludes us regularly. We can land a rover on Mars safely, but we haven’t figured out how to give every human kid a safe place to grow up. Perhaps we need a little more perseverance here on Earth.

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