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Martians about to get a lesson in haiku

A poetry contest open to "anybody on planet Earth" yields a surplus of Mars-loving haiku set to head to the Red Planet aboard a NASA spacecraft later this year.

The MAVEN spacecraft, during electromagnetic interference/electromagnetic compatibility testing. Lockheed Martin

Unless the Mars Curiosity rover has, unbeknownst to us, been writing poetry in addition to singing "Happy Birthday" to itself, haiku has yet to reach the fourth rock from the sun.

That's about to change.

More than a thousand three-line poems will travel to the Red Planet aboard the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft later this year, the University of Colorado Boulder announced on Thursday. MAVEN's mission -- coordinated by NASA and led by CU-Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics -- will explore the planet's upper atmosphere, ionosphere, and interactions with the sun and solar wind. And, of course, collect data on Mars' reaction to poetry from its adoring public.

The poems evolved from "Going to Mars," a public campaign to collect names and haiku for a DVD that will hitch a ride aboard MAVEN. As my colleague Eric Mack pointed out when announcing the contest, it's unclear why martians would have a DVD player over a USB port or SD card reader, but Going to Mars has still provided a fun creative outlet for poetry-loving Mars fans.

Children and adults from around the world submitted some 12,530 valid haiku entries between May 1 and July 1, with a public vote determining five winners, posted below. (See more entries, including a couple that fall into the humor category, here. Calling Mars "rusty"? Ouch.)

The spacecraft for the MAVEN mission arrived in Florida last week to prepare for its scheduled November launch and study poetry with a 5-7-5 syllable pattern. And if you missed the chance to be the Elizabeth Barrett Browning of Mars and count the ways you love the planet, you still have until September 10 to get your name and message on the space-bound DVD.

It's funny, they named
Mars after the God of War
Have a look at Earth

--Benedict Smith, United Kingdom

Thirty-six million
miles of whispering welcome.
Mars, you called us home.

--Vanna Bonta, U.S.

Stars in the blue sky
cheerfully observe the Earth
while we long for them.

--Luisa Santoro, Italy

distant red planet
the dreams of earth beings flow
we will someday roam

--Greg Pruett, U.S.

Mars, your secret is
unknown for humanity
we want to know you.

--Fanni Redenczki, Hungary