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Mars or Bust: UFOs, Space Travel and My Son

So I am watching one of these UFO shows on either History Channel or Discovery. Like so many people I am duped into viewing these programs thinking I might learn something new. Of course, if there was something that important in a UFO program’s content I like to think that it would headline news everywhere. I guess I am optimistic on that sense. My 12 year old son is little more earthy than his old man.

A few weeks ago my son and I watched a similar program. Eyewitness accounts of UFOs, cattle mutilations, abductions, the full gamut. The show lasted an hour. When it was over my son turned to me.

“Nah,” he said.

“Nah what?” I asked.

“It’s the distance, dad,” my son said. “I can’t get past the distances. It just doesn’t work.”

Then he went on to lecture me about the nearest star to the sun (Proxima Centurai: 4 light years and change away from our sun), whether or not there were habitable planets near this star, and he argued the case that just because there may be intelligent life near that star it didn’t mean they were advanced enough to leave their planet.

“Four years, dad,” he said. “At the speed of light? It can’t be done.”

“Wormholes?” I threw out for his consideration.

“Get serious,” was his reply.

My son stuck to his guns regarding UFOs and distances between our solar system and a few of the nearest stars. He reads everything he can get his hands on regarding astronomy and space science. Put a young adult novel in front of him and he will grimace. Lately, he’s been telling me he wants to study astrophysics when he gets to college. If you are going to aim high you might as well keep the stars in mind.

I still hold out hope for the discovery of intelligent life somewhere in my lifetime. Perhaps live to see the day the proverbial UFO muffler falls out of the sky, as one prominent scientist whose name escapes me once said. That night after the we argued the validity of extraterrestrials traversing space I asked my son if he would want to travel to Mars when he is an adult.

“Oh, I have already figured out how old you’d be when I came home if I went when I am thirty,” he informed me. “Don’t worry, dad. You’ll be still be alive when I get back.”

Pretty heavy stuff for a 12-yr-old. When I was his age the Bermuda Triangle was all the rage (well, the Bermuda Triangle and sharks thanks to Jaws). Back then there were a few books on the subject and that was it. These days, our children have more information at their disposal. They can question everything because they can go straight to the source via the internet and find out for themselves. Some parents think this is not a good thing. I welcome it. Even if it means I have little authority over the subjects that holds my son’s interest. One day I’ll get him to pick up a novel and finish it from beginning to end without having to hear him bellyache about how would rather be reading a science book. And if not, at least he can take a few books with him when he boards a spacecraft headed to Mars. I hear it’s a long ride.

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