Humans are always reaching for the unknown, sticking out hands, feet and brains into uncharted territory trying to learn what’s out there. The names of some explorers are recorded; Columbus, for example. There is no record of others, such as whoever first found and populated the places Columbus “discovered.” Our own country’s expansion was made possible by people like Lewis and Clark, whose trek into the ‘wilderness’ was recorded. Of course the people they encountered on their exploration were already there but in the absence of recorded history their own history remains a mystery to us.

This week humans from Earth landed mechanical emissaries on Mars again. We seem to have populated most of the acreage on our planet so now we are sticking out mechanical hands, feet and brains into uncharted space beyond our atmosphere in search of whatever we can find out there. Common sense tells us if there are billions of planets we can’t be the only one with life.

Mars seems like a good destination for our exploration. There is evidence that it could sustain some form of life similar to ours. The moon, the closer celestial neighbor we’ve already walked on, cannot. Or so we think. Remember, we once thought the earth was flat and if you reached the edge you’d fall off. We also thought the Earth was the center of the universe.

If there IS life on Mars or the moon, what does it look like? Is it flexible and fragile like Earth life forms? Or are Martians metallic like the devices we sent there to explore. Maybe what we call artificial intelligence, computer bots that think for themselves, aren’t artificial at all. Maybe metal is a living thing elsewhere. But our robots are mostly built to resemble human forms. What if intelligent life forms on other planets aren’t ambulatory like us; what if grains of silica, as the latest rover found on Mars this week, are thinking beings? It looks like wind moves them along but maybe grains of silica move on their own.

Another thought spelled out by some sci-fi writers is that life forms on other planets might live beneath the surface. Humans couldn’t live on the surface of Mars because our fragile bodies can’t survive those meteorological extremes but maybe Martian humanoids live miles below the surface.

I love that the current Mars rover is named Curiosity. Our human desire for exploration is rooted in a curiosity about how things work and a desire to understand why we exist. Maybe discovering life on Mars would help us find meaning in our own lives. It parallels another human characteristic: a search for God. Some people believe they find God on faith; others want physical proof of God’s existence and definition. Maybe one day we’ll discover that God is a Martian. You never know what you’ll find when you reach for the unknown.