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Written by Jayant Narlikar, this chapter tells the story of a space mission to find out whether or not there is life on Mars. Inspired from the Viking Mission conducted by NASA, this story gives a fictional account of how people on Mars respond to this intrusion on their planet. It is a fascinating story that makes one wonder if there actually is life on Mars.
Tilloo lives on the planet Mars where the people of his community live underground because the climate conditions on the surface are not suitable for them. The air on the surface is too thin and the temperature too low for the Martians to survive. This is why they are forced to live underground in artificial conditions.
These conditions are maintained by the use of power generated by machines installed on the surface. These machines use solar energy to produce power and it is the job of a few people including Tilloo’s father to ensure proper functioning of the machines. This is why, his father’s job requires him to wear a special suit and carry a reservoir of oxygen while going up on the surface through a forbidden passage.
Tilloo’s curiosity once makes him steal his father’s card and enter the passage but the security checks prevent him from reaching the surface. He is brought home and scolded for the mischief, and his father explains why it is dangerous for him to go up. He also tells Tilloo that their ancestors lived on the surface but the conditions worsened due to climatic changes. The other creatures like birds, animals and fishes became extinct because they could not survive the harsh conditions and Tilloo’s community withdrew underground for survival.
One day, a spaceship visits Tilloo’s planet and members of his community observe the machine from their Control Room. The President informs them about two space crafts that are headed towards the surface of their planet. The first spacecraft lands and its mechanical hand begins to collect soil from the surface.
But Tilloo does another mischief and presses the red button which causes the hand of the alien spacecraft to stop briefly. Tilloo’s father restores the button to its initial position and the hand resumes its task of collecting soil samples. They decide not to make any movements and quietly observe the machine from underground.
This is how the Martians choose to remain passive observers and give the impression that there is actually no life on their planet. Based on the collected samples and photographs, the scientists on Earth conclude that there is no life on Mars.