In his 1950 book, The Riddle Of The Flying Saucers (previously blogged here), Gerald Heard argued, using an inexorable chain of logic based on the available evidence, that the then-newly-reported phenomena of "flying saucers" were actually vehicles from Mars piloted by super-intelligent Martian bees, come to Earth to observe Humanity and possibly warn us of our impending doom.
Most at the time scoffed at this idea. Little green men were one thing, but Marsbees? Nonsense! Even today, Heard's theories are given little credence, or even note, by mainstream Ufologists.
However, Heard may have the last laugh, as NASA has recently announced a new Mars exploration proposal using robotic Marsbees:
The objective of the proposed work is to increase the set of possible exploration and science missions on Mars by investigating thefeasibility of flapping wing aerospace architectures in a Martian environment. The proposed architecture consists of a Mars rover that serves as a mobile base and a swarm of Marsbees. Marsbees are robotic flapping wing flyers of a bumblebee size with cicada sized wings. The Marsbees are integrated with sensors and wireless communication devices. The mobile base can act as a recharging station and main communication center. The swarm of Marsbee can significantly enhance the Mars exploration mission with the following benefits: i) Facilitating reconfigurable sensor networks; ii) Creation of resilient systems; iii) Sample or data collection using single or collaborative Marsbees.
While The proposal's author, Chang-kwon Kang, doesn't acknowledge Heard's work, the use of a rover as a sort of mothership from which the Marsbees go on missions is straight out of Riddle, as is the general concept of small apiforms being more robust than traditional hypertrophic robots.
But is this purely a case of mimicking Heard's theorized Martians to optimally explore their native habitat, or is there more going on? Could NASA's interest in sending swarms of robotic bees to Mars, ostensibly in the name of "enhanced aerodynamics and a low power design", signal that Heard was right all along -- there are intelligent bees on Mars and NASA is keeping them secret? Were these robotic Marsbee simulacra actually chosen for their ability to make contact with the indigenous Marsbee societies, meeting them at their own scale in a form they can relate to?
In Riddle, Heard proposed that we should study the dance language of Earthbees so that we could one day communicate with Marsbees, who seemed to have difficulty comprehending humans. Might these robobees be that means of communication, translating our human speech into robotic waggles that Marsbees could finally understand?
Heard also foresaw the creation of robobees. In the last chapter of Narcissus: An Anatomy Of Clothes, where he theorizes on how fashion trends will ultimately shape the very physical form of humanity, Heard envisions us one day whittling our bodies down so we can enter robobee-like "clothes":
...we see a world about which fly swarms of bright little clock-work organisms, opening like small watches their cases, spreading iridescent wings, closing and settling. There will be no Brobdignagian naturalists then, but could such net a specimen, at the centre he would find, at the heart of the springs, a small, opalescent body.
If NASA is about to make contact with Martians using robobee avatars, will this be a first step to Heard's desired hymenopt-humanoid symbiosis and eventual sartorial transhumanism, or the prelude to a bee-scaled war for the conquest of Mars?