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Mars mission launch ignites imagination of sci-fi writers

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-08-03 07:20
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People watch as China's unmanned Mars probe, Tianwen 1, blasts off on a Long March 5 rocket from Hainan province on July 23. MENG ZHONGDE/FOR CHINA DAILY

SHANGHAI-When Fang Zeyu, a Chinese science-fiction writer, looked up yet again at the red planet, a different emotion welled up inside.

As China's first Mars mission, Tianwen-1 ("questions to heaven"), blasted off successfully on July 23, marking the country's first step in its planetary exploration of the solar system, it has inspired Chinese sci-fi writers and artists.

Yu Jun, an astrophotographer and astronomy blogger, says he has been following the human explorations of Mars extensively.

"It is these explorations that have brought us psychologically closer to Mars. Now we talk about things on Mars as if we were talking about a neighboring village," says Yu.

The exploration could help improve our ability to go deeper into space and provide firsthand data for significant scientific research such as the origin and evolution of the solar system and life itself.

Last month, Fang completed the first draft of a short story about Mars, but he is yet to revise it, as he thinks the draft lacks novel elements. He believes the successful launch of Tianwen-1 may elicit new material and help yield different perspectives for his work.

"The advancement of science and technology can further broaden our horizons, and I'm looking forward to it. It is a brand-new start," Fang says.

The prospect of upcoming works inspired by the Mars mission has thrilled many Chinese sci-fi fans.

Yang Chenxi, 27, who has loved science fiction since childhood, thought the mission would increase public interest in Mars, leading to a surge in the creation of Mars-themed sci-fi works.

"I look forward to reading a story someday where astronauts on Mars find key resources to save Earth when our planet is in danger," Yang says.

Unlike other planets in the universe, the environment of Mars has the closest resemblance to Earth in the solar system. Thus, the exploration of Mars emanates a sense of mission and responsibility in terms of finding a new home for future generations.

As part of the goal of building a community with a shared future for mankind, Chinese sci-fi writers and scholars believe that the implication of China's first journey to Mars will go beyond science itself.

Through the eyes of Zhang Xiaobei, director and screenwriter, many leaders in the commercial space industry, such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, spent their childhood under the influence of the Apollo program, which caused them to embark on a journey to space when they grew up.

"I believe that the future of mankind will be in space, and I hope future generations can look up at the starry sky from their childhood," says Zhang. "These are the sparks. One day, maybe a few of these little sparks will have a chance to put a shine on human civilization."

Li Zhaoxin, a sci-fi critic and partner of the Future Affairs Administration, an incubator for sci-fi writers, says that stepping off Earth and onto other planets is a crucial and realistic goal for humankind.

"Everyone should be aware that we live in a fragile ecosystem. The more people realize it, and the more we understand it, the better the world will be," says Li.

As the world is facing unique challenges this year, the Mars mission reminds people that some major undertakings require the cooperation of all mankind.

Zheng Yongchun, a researcher at the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, emphasizes that no matter what the international situation may be, people should never give up international cooperation in space exploration, which is the hope of humanity.

"China's Mars exploration will also become a part of human space exploration. I hope that a new Cold War in any form doesn't dim the brilliance of the achievement," says Wu Yan, a sci-fi writer and professor with the Southern University of Science and Technology.

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