THE director of Nasa’s Mars exploration programme said it “really warmed his heart” to know residents of a small Highland village will be celebrating the Curiosity Rover reaching its namesake destination on the Red Planet tomorrow.
Glenelg – population 300 – in north-west Scotland is hosting a day of celebrations marking Curiosity’s arrival at Glenelg on Mars. Events include astronaut Bonnie Dunbar, who flew on five space shuttle missions, unveiling a sign twinning the two places, a talk by Professor John Brown, Astronomer Royal for Scotland, and an announcement the village is seeking Dark Sky status to attract stargazers.
In an interview with The Scotsman, Nasa’s Doug McCuistion, a fan of science fiction writers HG Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs, said: “I’m glad the folks there are so excited. I really hope there is life somewhere else.
“As we find more planets it seems incomprehensible that there is not life out there somewhere.
“This is the most exciting thing I’ve been involved in. This is just the epitome. Every single day there is something new and exciting. We have just scratched the surface. Glenelg is going to be extremely exciting, the beginning of the real mission.”
Mr McCuistion claimed speculation about what Curiosity would discover and the efforts of Glenelg’s residents were providing a much-needed boost for morale during the recession.
“Thinking about the science fiction process… thinking that maybe there is life on Mars… take the mind off any personal financial crisis. It’s great to see a community act positively especially in difficult times.”
Emma Maclean, development officer for Glenelg and Arnisdale Development Trust, said the Mars-Glenelg link had “captured the hearts and imagination of people worldwide.”