The votes are in and we're heading back to decrepit old broken-down Earth! Perhaps my future as a travel brochure writer is in jeopardy. Regardless, off we go!
You wake up in a tiny spacecraft. You're in a chair molded to your body. Stars are visible in all directions. To your left and slightly behind you is Saturn with its spectacular rings. To your right is Jupiter. Its famous "red" spot has broken into three flecks of orange, but its four largest moons are as prominent as they were to Galilelo when he discovered them long before you were born.
Directly ahead is a red-hued planet -- Mars. You must be close to it, because it looks brighter and larger than Jupiter even though its diameter is twenty times smaller.
Beyond Mars is another planet. The large moon near it tells you that it must be Earth, but it doesn't look like the Earth you remember, with the swirls of white clouds over blue oceans and brown-and-green-hued land masses. The entire planet is covered with thick gray clouds!
Has the sun stopped shining on the Earth? Is its total cloud cover the result of the "greenhouse effect," caused by the increase of carbon dioxide in the air? Scientists warned that this might happen back in your own time.
Why does Edward Packard hate America?
Could you stand to live on such a planet? It's a horrible prospect, but where else can you go? Mars, perhaps. Maybe there's a colony there, and Mars is quite close by. You look at the instrument panel and control levers. It may take a while to learn how to steer this craft, but the computer will take care of the hard part. Why not take control and head toward Mars? If you see signs of a colony, you could land; otherwise continue to Earth.
Phrases like "the computer will take care of the hard part" strike terror into the soul of this former Dell technical support guy. "Coming in for a landing now, Cap -- BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH!" But hey, maybe by the future Windows will be less buggy. The question is, do we continue on like stalwart, stubborn adventurers of old, or are we more of the freelancing, take a chance as it comes kind of guy?
I'll try to let this vote go for just a few hours then go with whatever's ahead then, so we can try to get in more adventure today.
(Text and images ©1985, 2010 by Edward Packard.)