Pinky Pie

The Great Planet Swap & Me

Posted on: April 18, 2011

The Great Planet Swap collection of Matt

Mr. Martins,

A search crew and some scientists you know and don’t know found a spacecraft about the size of a state buried in some ancient Egyptian ruins. It is so big that it will take hundreds of people to unbury it completely. We want you to come to Egypt and help the crew unbury the craft and study it to maybe find out where it came from and when it came and other facts about the large craft the search crew found.

Your ticket is already payed for. You should be getting it in the mail in about a week. But you have to go on this trip, there’s no way of getting out of it. The reason you have not heard about it is because the ship is kept in great secrecy to every country but Egypt where this takes place.


Secretary of Genral Nelson

(From The Great Planet Swap by Matt Hessel-Mial)

Walking this morning to a Fresh Air podcast about potential life on Mars, and potentially some Martian life that came to Earth brought me back to our son Matt’s signature story, The Great Planet Swap, which was published in a collection of his work as The Great Planet Swap and Other Stories.

Eight-year-old Matt wrote this story in 1985 – before the Internet – about Earth and Mars exchanging planets eons ago via spaceship without realizing the other was doing it. It is only after this discovery of that buried spaceship that this comes to light. When it does, there is a need to defeat the aliens.

I am Matt’s mother but I thought this story was the most creative way of explaining that we are all aliens – but don’t tell the Immigration Nationalization Service. I wouldn’t want any INS raids on my house in the middle of the night.

On Fresh Air, science writer Marc Kaufman was interviewed about his book, First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth. 

As Kaufman began his book, “If it’s just us in this universe, what a terrible waste of space. But it’s not. Before the end of this century, and perhaps much sooner than that, scientists will determine that life exists elsewhere in the universe. This book is about how they’re going to get there.”

In that book,  he describes efforts to find life on other planets, including Meteorite ALH84001, which was found in Antarctica in 1984. According to NASA, it is one of a dozen meteorites found in the world that appear to be from Mars.

A scientist named David McKay published an article in Science magazine in 1996 about that research that appears to show that the meteorite was formed billions of years ago on  Mars AND had characteristics of life similar to that on Earth. If you want more to the science you can either read Kaufman’s book or go to

My point is less about the science and more about how much fun Matt was and certainly how creative. Without the Internet, he researched Egypt and its landmarks. His stories often included places that we traveled through to get to St. Louis, where I grew up. His character, Mr. Martin, flew to Egypt from Davenport, Iowa, where we often stopped to get our favorite burgers at Steak n Shake – a favorite growing up –  “to get in the mood for St. Louis.”

I actually called an airline about how one would get from Davenport to Cairo and Matt and I laughed hard afterwards about the agent trying to sell me a ticket. Matt would have turned 34 this year.

It is incredibly fun to me to think that although Matt died of leukemia nearly 25 years ago, his ideas still are “advanced.”

I’m wondering if Marc Kaufman wrote stories as a little kid like Matt did.

I don’t mean to be a plot spoiler, but I assure you that Mr. Martin escaped from the Great Sphinx, where he was trapped for a chapter. And we Earthlings – or Martians, whoever we are – survived on this planet.

A relief, for sure.


1 Response to "The Great Planet Swap & Me"

Good Evening, I found this blog post by googling “The Great Planet Swap” this evening, I was looking for my copy around the house and was having difficulty finding it, so I thought I’d check and see if there were any listed on ebay or amazon, and not having luck I just typed in the title into google and the first listing was this blog.

I just wanted to let you know how much your son’s stories captured my imagination when I was a young boy. I’m not sure how or when my mom picked up your son’s book, but it was many years ago, (I’ll be turning 32 this year) and I still enjoy picking up my copy and reading his stories. What a vivid imagination he had and such a gift to put his stories to words. I’m excited to share Matt’s stories with my boys as they get a little older. I know this particular post was posted a while ago but I just wanted to send this thank you from a huge fan.

Chad Carlson

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