Percy – God of Landers, Rovers and Probes

Percy – God of Landers Rovers and Probes © H. Hudson-Lee 2021

It surprises many people to learn that there is still a place for religion in the normally rational minds of the scientists and engineers who explore the universe. It turns out that when you are attempting to land equipment worth $2.7 billion on a hostile lump of rock 33.9 million miles away which is hurtling through space at five and a half thousand miles an hour, even the most hardened atheist REALLY needs someone to pray to. Percy is universally worshipped by the members of space programmes all around the world, and as a result has many different names such as Chang’e in China. Percy is believed to have first originated in the former Soviet countries in 1957 where he was known as ‘Nik. In those early days there wasn’t so much a “word of god” as a “pattern of bleeps of god”. This could be detected for three weeks until the batteries ran out. Kind of like an orbiting celestial smoke alarm.

Whilst any space enthusiast may worship Percy, achieving entry into the high echelons of the faith is tough. Other than a scientific mind, the three character traits that you are required display are curiosity, seizing opportunity and perseverance.  These senior members are the ones who design, build and guide the missions, lead by their High Priest, J. Peal. Worshippers of Percy consider the first probe sent to any planet to be a sacrifice. It’s first purpose is to appease the god and secondly to send back just enough data before it’s hard landing to enable his followers to build a second probe which is able to survive. It took many sacrifices before mankind was able to come in peace rather than coming in pieces.

Despite their intrepid nature, there are some corners of the solar system which followers of Percy fear to explore. The planet of Venus was considered cursed after its acidic atmosphere, high temperatures and atmospheric pressure destroyed mission after mission. When potential chemical signs of life were eventually discovered there, excitement had to be tempered, as scientists realised that these organisms may well have been carried from earth on the first failed probes. From this we can infer two things. Firstly that some bacteria are evidently more resilient that our early space engineering, and secondly that humanity may have inadvertently created a completely new kind of venereal disease. The other planet in our solar system that the worshippers of Percy have never sent a probe to is Uranus. The sole reason for this is that they know the world’s press would be unable to resist calling the project an “Anal Probe”, and no one feels like giving them the satisfaction.

One of the driving ambitions of the followers of Percy is to find evidence of life elsewhere in the universe. To this end the priests of Percy inscribed a gold disc with sacred sigils which, if decoded, will guide the reader to earth. Then they sent it forth on a voyage through the universe. It may be a very long time before any alien race gets in touch as a result of the information on that disc. Partly because of the astronomical distances involved and partly because it will take even the most intelligent species about a millennia to decode it*. When, finally, we do find evidence of other life in the universe, we may need to broaden our definition of a living thing. Who knows? Maybe some of the bodies we thought were just lumps of rock flying through space are actually living entities! If so, let me be the first to raise my voice to campaign for meteor rights.

The priests of Percy don’t have much truck with the idea of an afterlife. They believe that when they die, their papers will be secured by the government and kept secret for thirty years. “

*If they manage to listen to what’s on the other side, they may arrive on Earth saying, “Take us to your leader, Johnny B. Goode”.

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