Fictions and realities
Fictions and realities
Living on Mars: a mere fantasy or a soon-to-be reality?
compréhension de l'écrit et expression écrite
Intérêt du sujet • Après la conquête de la Lune dans les années 1960, le nouveau défi de l'homme est d'atteindre Mars. Sujet de nombreux récits de science-fiction, Mars est-elle à notre portée ou restera-t-elle une planète inaccessible ?
document 1Alone on Mars
Six days into what should be the greatest two months of my life, and it's turned into a nightmare.
I don't even know who'll read this. I guess someone will find it eventually. Maybe a hundred years from now.
For the record… I didn't die on Sol1 6. Certainly the rest of the crew thought I did, and I can't blame them. Maybe there'll be a day of national mourning for me, and my Wikipedia page will say, “Mark Watney is the only human being to have died on Mars.”
And it'll be right, probably. 'Cause I'll surely die here. Just not on Sol 6 when everyone thinks I did.
Let's see… where do I begin?
The Ares Program. Mankind reaching out to Mars to send people to another planet for the very first time and expand the horizons of humanity blah, blah, blah. The Ares 1 crew did their thing and came back heroes. They got the parades and fame and love of the world.
Ares 2 did the same thing, in a different location on Mars. They got a firm handshake and a hot cup of coffee when they got home.
Ares 3. Well, that was my mission. Okay, not mine per se. Commander Lewis was in charge. I was just one of her crew. Actually, I was the very lowest ranked member of the crew. I would only be “in command” of the mission if I were the only remaining person.
What do you know? I'm in command.
I wonder if this log will be recovered before the rest of the crew die of old age. I presume they got back to Earth all right. Guys, if you're reading this: It wasn't your fault. You did what you had to do. In your position I would have done the same thing. I don't blame you, and I'm glad you survived.
Andy Weir, The Martian, 2011
1. A sol is a Mars solar day: it lasts 24 hours and 39 minutes, the duration of the day-night cycle on Mars.
document 2An Interview With Elon Musk About Mars
The entrepreneur details his plan to send one million humans to the red planet.
In the year 2014 Elon Musk doesn't need much of an introduction. Not since Steve Jobs has an American technologist captured the cultural imagination like Musk. He is the inspiration for Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man. His life story has already become a legend.
He decided idle hedonism wasn't for him, and instead sank his fortune into a pair of unusually ambitious startups. With his automobile company he would replace the world's cars with electric vehicles and with his space company he would colonize Mars. And so I wondered, why space?
“I think there is a strong humanitarian argument for making life multi-planetary,” he told me, “in order to safeguard the existence of humanity in the event that something catastrophic were to happen, in which case being poor or having a disease would be irrelevant, because humanity would be extinct.”
Musk told me this first group of settlers will need to pay their own way. “My rough guess is that for a half-million dollars, there are enough people that could afford to go and would want to go. But it's not going to be a vacation jaunt. It's going to be saving up all your money and selling all your stuff, like when people moved to the early American colonies.”
A million people on Mars sounds like a techno-futurist fantasy. And yet, the very existence of Musk's space venture is fantasy.
Ross Andersen, www.theatlantic.com, October 3rd 2014
(abridged and adapted)
Compréhension de l'écrit 10 points
Answer the following questions in English, using your own words.
▶ 1. After reading the text, what can you say about the narrator and the situation he is in?
▶ 2. Focus on the following three clues:
“I don't even know who'll read this” (l. 3);
“Let's see… where do I begin?” (l. 11);
“Guys, if you're reading this” (l. 24-25).
What do they reveal about what the narrator is doing? Explain why he is writing that.
▶ 3. Focus on what is said about the Ares program (l. 12 to 21). In what ways do the three missions Ares 1, Ares 2 and Ares 3 differ?
▶ 4. After reading the text, what can you say about:
The reasons why he is famous?
His plans for the future?
▶ 5. What can you say about his vision of the future of humanity?
▶ 6. What are the conditions required to be part of the “first group of settlers” (l. 17)?
Texts 1 and 2
▶ 7. In your opinion, which text is the more realistic? Justify your answer.
Expression écrite 10 points
Vous traiterez en anglais l'un des deux sujets suivants au choix. Répondez en 120 mots au moins.
You are the commander of mission Ares 1. You have just come back from your mission and you are invited to give the opening speech at a press conference. Write your speech.
On a blog, you read three different reactions from people who have just read the article “An Interview With Elon Musk About Mars”. Which one do you agree most with? Why?
1. “Living on Mars? That is nonsense!”
2. “I'm going to start saving money immediately to pay for my trip to Mars.”
3. “Right now I can't imagine living on Mars but that could be a great idea for the future...”
Les clés du sujet
Compréhension de l'écrit
Comprendre les documents
Préparer sa réponse à la question 7
Le premier texte est extrait d'un roman de science-fiction, l'histoire est donc purement fictive. Néanmoins, à votre avis, certains éléments indiquent-ils la possibilité d'une telle scène dans la réalité ?
Le second texte est une adaptation d'une interview d'Elon Musk. Bien que son projet puisse sembler démesuré et improbable, il est cependant bien réel. Est-il pour autant réaliste ?
Key ideas. Be careful! The speech concerns the commander of mission Ares 1, not Ares 3. You have a few clues about Ares 1 in the text. It made history by being the first one ever to send humans on Mars. They got back to Earth where they were given a hero's welcome and were celebrated worldwide.
A few tools. The tone of your speech has to be rather formal (officiel); for example, don't use contracted forms. To gain the audience attention and interest, avoid (évitez) long sentences; use powerful words or expressions (such as superlatives) and a little humour if you can. You can start by thanking the audience for being there and the organisers for inviting you.
Sujet B • Key ideas and a few tools
Compréhension de l'écrit
▶ 1. The narrator, Mark Watney, was part of a crew that travelled to Mars. They were on the mission Ares 3. The crew and their commander have gone back to Earth but they have left him behind thinking that he was dead. He is now alone on Mars, convinced that he will die soon.
▶ 2. The narrator, the only human being on Mars, is writing a log to tell about his experience and his feelings. He hopes that, one day, someone will be able to read it, in particular his crew fellows.
▶ 3. Ares 1 was the first mission ever to send humans on Mars. They came back to Earth as heroes and were celebrated worldwide. Ares 2 was successful too but its return to Earth was almost unnoticed. As to Ares 3, it seems the crew had to leave in a hurry, leaving a member behind.
▶ 4. Elon Musk is an American tycoon. He is mostly famous for spending billions on a futurist (scientific) program whose purpose is to colonise Mars. He is also well-known for his electric cars company. His plan is to save humankind by sending a million human beings over to Mars.
▶ 5. He has a pessimistic vision of the future of humanity. Indeed, he thinks that humanity on Earth is in danger of extinction. Therefore, humans should colonise other planets in order to save humankind.
▶ 6. The first settlers will have to pay a half-million dollars for their trip to Mars. They will have to save up all their money and accept to get rid of all their belongings.
Texts 1 and 2
▶ 7. In my opinion, the second text seems more realistic. Indeed, there are already programs planning to send humans on Mars in a few decades. Besides, according to some NASA experts, it will be possible for humans to live there in the future.
As to the first text, it doesn't seem realistic that a commander would ever abandon a member of her/his crew alone on Mars. And if technology is advanced enough to send humans on Mars, how come the man can't communicate with his crew or with Earth?
Good evening ladies and gentlemen,
First, I would like to thank the organisers for inviting me tonight; my thanks also go to all of you for your presence and interest.
Who hasn't fantasized about coming one day face to face with a Martian? Well, ladies and gentlemen, tonight, your dream has come true! Except you may be a little disappointed this incredible adventure did not turn us into little green creatures...
to fantasize (about sth) : rêver de, fantasmer sur
a quest : une quête
a landmark : un événement majeur
an achievement : une réussite
Humans'quest has always been to go faster, to go farther and to conquer new territories. Our history bears so many extraordinary examples of what women or men have been able to achieve, including going to the Moon!
Yet, going to Mars seemed to be the ultimate unreachable goal. That is why this adventure will not only remain a landmark in the history of humanity but also the most phenomenal human achievement ever! As the commander of Ares 1, I cannot begin to tell you how honoured I am to have been part of it!
Today, my hero is not Elon Musk or any other eccentric billionaire. My heroine is Greta Thunberg; I totally identify with her. Indeed, we are the same age and I share the same convictions: we must protect our planet for the future generations.
So, personally, life on Mars doesn't make me dream at all. It is a proven fact that it is a very cold and hostile planet; humans would need very costly and sophisticated equipment simply to survive there. Not to mention the trip, which, at best, would take several months! And to what end? To slowly destroy Mars as we are destroying Earth?
proven : avéré
to endow (with) : doter (de)
a waste : un gâchis, un gaspillage
I have seen enough of Earth by myself or on pictures and films to know that it is endowed with countless natural beauties. So, really, spending hundreds of billions on a project to colonise Mars is to me pure nonsense and such a waste! We'd better concentrate our energy, intelligence and money to protect the treasures that we already have.