Colorado’s left-brain, right-brain contributions to the MAVEN mission to Mars

The Mars probe “MAVEN” launched from the Kennedy Space Center on Monday with lots of help from Colorado.

The unmanned spacecraft, which will study the Red Planet’s atmosphere, was designed and built by Lockheed Martin in Littleton. Centennial-based United Launch Alliance built the rocket that lifted it into space. University of Colorado professor Bruce Jakosky is leading the mission on behalf of NASA. And the University of Colorado’s Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Physics designed two of the instruments that will be used to measure Mars.

One Coloradan masterminded the right-brain parts of the mission –- art and poetry contests in which the winners’ work was burned to a disk that was Velcroed onto the spacecraft.

“We were looking for a way that offers a voice to everyone. We wanted to give earthlings a chance to think about the beauty of the universe and make a personal connection with Mars,” Stephanie Renfro, head of education and outreach for the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado’s Going to Mars Campaign, told The Independent last summer.

MAVEN entryOut of hundreds of submissions made from students throughout the country, first place went to an installation of eight Mars models made by kindergarteners in the Boulder Valley School District.

The DVD also is carrying more than 1,500 Haiku poems that Earthlings wrote about the mission. Renfro had hoped the relatively simple five-seven-five syllable Japanese style of poetry form would allow school-aged writers to compete with even the most accomplished bards. It also gives wordsmiths who may not have much knowledge about space exploration equal footing with science geeks who may not be as keen writing poetry.

Here are the five poems that received the most critical acclaim on the Internet:

[blockquote]It’s funny, they named
Mars after the God of War
Have a look at Earth
      — Benedict Smith, 
United Kingdom[/blockquote]

[blockquote]Thirty-six million
miles of whispering welcome.
Mars, you called us home.
      –Vanna Bonta
, USA[/blockquote]

[blockquote]Stars in the blue sky
cheerfully observe the Earth
while we long for them
      — Luisa Santoro, 

[blockquote]distant red planet
the dreams of earth beings flow
we will someday roam
      — Greg Pruett
, USA[/blockquote]

[blockquote]Mars, your secret is
unknown for humanity
we want to know you.
      –Fanni Redenczki,

Fly safe, MAVEN. We send Mars our best from Colorado.

A recovering newspaper journalist and Pulitzer finalist. Her criminal justice reporting includes “Trashing the Truth,” with Miles Moffeit, and “The Gray Box.”