Not so long ago people imaged Martians to be little green men with mushroom-like heads and octopus-like legs. That belief may have faded, however, Earth's next-door neighbor in the solar system is coming into sharper focus. Mars is making its closest pass to the earth in about 60,000 years. To mark the closer encounter, the International Astronomical Union has named August 27 World Mars Day. And back on Earth, a play called The Mysterious Mars in 2103 is entertaining children with its out-of-this-world theme.
The play tells the story of three robot animals and their journey to Mars in 2103. The mechanical trio have to use their knowledge of science and technology to cope with difficulties brought by the new environment. Simple scientific experiments on the atmosphere, air pressure and electricity are performed to give the young audience a better idea of the unfamiliar planet. When the robot dog suffered from power failure, his companions made a simple battery from a carbon rod, tissue, salt water and tinfoil paper. And all the young viewers joined in to help the team realize their mission.
The get-together was also a chance for one astronomer to brief the youngsters on the upcoming favorable opposition of Mars.
Li Jing, research fellow of National Astronomical Observatory, said: "If the diameter of the Mars was one at the beginning of the year, it is 7 now. And it is also 75 times brighter compared to eight months ago. Now it is the second brightest star in the night sky, only dimmer than the moon. It is really a once-in-a-lifetime sight."
The play ended in laughter and applause. It sounds like this just the beginning of many young minds' fascination with life beyond the Earth's atmosphere.
(CCTV.com August 29, 2003)