To the 1983 Science Department of East Lyme Junior High: This was the year my sixth-grade science teacher was being quite literal in his critique of my “Life on Mars” poster project. His excoriation of my Martian — dubbed the “Bat-squito” — was swift and annihilating.
The competition, which I spied along the walls on hand-in day, left me confident. Garfield the cat in a flying saucer jumped out most to me, as if Garfield would surrender cushion comforts and lasagna for space flight. This, somehow, passed muster. But my alien life-form with attributes of both bat and mosquito — seemed destined for death by the full bank of phasers.
Implausibly — my science teacher wrote in his review — wings would not function in a Martian atmosphere, and thusly, the basis for “Bat-squito” resoundingly failed! “D’d” may be more accurate. I think my efforts merited a “D” — with an option to revise the project.
This affront to both me and “Bat-squito” so baffled my mother that — in slightly tiger-mom fashion — she took on this re-do herself, crafting a lengthy narrative for a bacterium-like micro-organism that lacked any pizazz — but wholly was plausible, as much as life on Mars could be.
The overwhelming minutia of information — in handwritten lettering that seemed the size of telephone book font, and teamed with a “zoom in” rendition of this minuscule Martian — all merited some better grade. Quite possibly too my science teacher simply tapped out from his arrogant stance. Either way, this was mission success.
But what has lingered, even to this day, was that my theories and creative imagery —embodied in “Bat-squito” itself — were flawed failures. And I’ve carried this, subtlety, on my back since then. Until today.
I was surprised to find NASA has several robots in stages of development it intends to deploy on upcoming missions to Mars — the very same planet as my project. And one in particular, named “Dragonfly,” relies on rotary blades to fly through the atmosphere of Martian terrain. ROTARY BLADES — which, like “Bat-squito” wings, require some kind of atmosphere for the craft to propel itself in.
So, ladies and gentlemen of the jury — it is with this new and alarming testimony that I write today, seeking a full and quivering apology from the braintrust of the 1983 East Lyme Junior High School Science Department — for their stifling of creativity and the muffling of what surely was not only plausible, grounded and documented scientific theory by me as an 11 year-old, it turned out to be the same basis for atmospheric robotic propulsion on Mars now implemented by NASA. You may begin your groveling...
Sincerely...on behalf of a younger me,
The Writer Jason James
Jason James is an award-winning essayist and journalist. Follow his work on TheGroncho.com and at prattlon.com. He has neither been approached by NASA nor SpaceX following the revelations from this essay.