Dear Mrs. Angrum:
I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate you for successfully sending the Curiosity probe to our neighbor planet of Mars. I am sure it must not be an easy task to undertake, after all there is a lot of math involved and many factors have to be taken into account before one delves into building rockets and roving vehicles to explore other planets.
I pray that when this letter reaches you, you all have sobered up from the unavoidable celebrations that must have followed the successful marsing. Do you say “marsing,” as in “landing”? I guess you know more about that than I do. I would appreciate if you could answer this first question in your response letter.
I loved the panoramic pictures that you took of the surface of Mars. They are a lot like some pics my girlfriend and I took when we went to the Grand Canyon on vacation last summer. Obviously, mine are much prettier. Have you been to the Grand Canyon? It’s awesome, isn’t it?
Truth be told, even as it seems that parts of the images were replaced with black patches, I have to admit that your pictures have much more merit, because Mars is a bit farther away than the Grand Canyon. Although, the one day that I drove 10 hours to get to the Grand Canyon National Park, it seemed that it was at least as far away as the red planet.
Having made the mandatory salutations, I address the main concern of my letter. Some friends and I have found, much to our despair, that there are two very serious mistakes in the disc you sent aboard the Voyager spaceship.
It all began when a friend of mine found out that you, along with Carl Sagan and a bunch of other very intelligent people had complied a number of images and sounds from humanity and had put them aboard the Voyager space probe.
I was moved to tears when I saw the picture of a smiling man, with a caption that read “Man From Guatemala.” It is a 25-or-so-year-old man, his forehead beaded with sweat and a sincere and ample smile. He has a machete in one hand and a staff in the other. I don’t know why, to me, he resembled a tropical and postmodern Moses.
This friend of mine, a sassy, curious-natured young man, decided to find this “Man From Guatemala.” He is a prosecutor and I guess this natural curiosity that has led him to experiment with this and that, with these and those and so forth also comes in handy in his line of work. But I digress…
The thing is that this friend, and another friend of his, an astrologer in Mexico, decided to find this guy, see if he was still alive, see if he had any opinion on the fact that you decided to send his image aboard a spaceship thousands of millions of kilometers (they are a bit like miles, only shorter) from Earth and find out if he wanted to claim any copyrights for his image. My friend is a lawyer; it was his idea to suggest to the Man of Guatemala to seek copyright payments. You know how nasty things get when lawyers get involved.
So, because these friends of mine were not making any progress, I decided to investigate and found that the Man from Guatemala is not Guatemalan. He is from Nicaragua! The picture was taken by a Japanese photographer that used to work for the U.N. in the ’70s.
I never had any ill feelings toward Mr. Carl Sagan. Despite his polyester turtleneck sweaters, his half-forced smile, and how ugly the set of Cosmos looked, I always had faith in Mr. Sagan.
I don’t know, since we found out this mistake, it’s not the same. You know? It’s like when one finds out that one’s spouse goes over one’s wallet when she thinks one is asleep, takes some cash and spends it on lottery tickets. Things are definitely not the same after it.
And since then we launched a country wide alert in Guatemala. It was really more on Facebook, and almost no one in Guatemala has internet. The alert was to find more mistakes in the pictures. Among the multiple responses we got there is one to which we must give some credit. The rest were kind of interesting but a bit shaky. As you probably know by now, I tend to wander off…
We were told that there is a picture that you identified as the “Girls from Los Andes” that are really girls from Guatemala.
It was never our opinion that you or Mr. Sagan were out to confuse the global and interstellar public or cause any offense to the proud Guatemalan people and land, home of the Quetzal, the banana-leaf-wrapped tamales; the near constant rain in Coban; and Erick Barrondo, 2012 Olympic racewalking silver medalist. It was a national honor seeing him win the medal, and a thrill that he defeated the Russian and a Chinese runners. In Guatemala there’s general a distrust of Chinese and Russians; I guess it is a remnant of the Cold War.
A national movement to get you to correct those mistakes was brewing when Barrondo won the Silver Medal and the idea kind of fizzled. That gives us and you more time to find a solution to this mistake.
I am no rocket scientist, but I suppose that it might be a bit late to bring back the voyager and correct these and other mistakes there may be in the disc, right? Another possible solution would be that when the appropriate technology becomes available, this correction be included as one of the top 10 priorities of NASA. I think that would appease Guatemalans.
I can think of other solutions, like finding the Man of Guatemala and coercing him to become a Guatemalan citizen so that technically he is from Guatemala. The same could apply to the girls from Andes.
Anyway, remember: time is running out.
Juan Carlos Llorca