Friday, February 18, 2011

Mucking About On Mars

They say that this planet is all about war. I would completely disagree. Mars is all about survival. Survival in the extreme, survival of not just your soft flesh, but your mind, and your sanity. Oh sure, were it not for the First Interplanetary War we wouldn't be here now, but that conflict was between the Chinese held Glorious Lunar Settlement, and everybody they could drop a few rocks on. Including my beloved US of A. But, we're not here to debate history nor politics, no sirree. This particular tour guide is just happy to be able to take you on a small journey thru my part of the planet.

I know you all have signed the If I Die I Won't Sue This Stupid Tour Group Form, which I really don't give a plug nickle for, but even here we just have to have lawyers, don't we? What's that you ask? Well, it's true enough that until what was left of the United Nations granted us our sovereignty, we didn't need any damn attorneys, if you'll pardon my saying so.

Well then, since it looks like everybody has arrived here in the Porch, I'll need each of you to find a booth with your name above the curtain. Inside, you will find what looks like a diaper, and a couple of pairs of long johns. There's an instructional video to show you how to clamber into all these, and when you're done just meet out here. When you get back into this area, we'll fit you into your ExoSuit, helmet, and go thru all the checks necessary before we depart.We also have some very nice Wardrobe Assimilation Service Personnel, or WASPs,  that will wander by and give ya a hand if need be. So don't be bashful folks, that's what they are here for, to make sure you get the maximum possible enjoyment from taking a stroll on Mars. And believe you me, there's nothing more irritating than a sore spot rubbed raw by an ill fitting EnviroSuit! Unless maybe it's having a Glorious Lunar Meteorite dropped on your hometown and killing your entire family and neighborhood. Oh, oops, better to not go there, huh?

Since there are still a few good souls struggling a bit with the hard suit and helmet, I'll invite the rest of you wander around in here a bit, take a look thru the various view ports, and if you have any questions, please feel free to pipe up! Now, if you take a gander thru the portal just behind me, that's the real Mars, in all it's wonderful glory. The temperature is a balmy well below what it would take to freeze dry your working parts, and the atmospheric pressure is far less than when my dog farts. In other words, you ain't on Earth anymore, and it really takes us an hour just to get ready to go check the mailbox. Hey, does anybody even have an actual mailbox anymore?

Right then, if you all will step this way, you've been cleared for your first walk on the Red Planet. Which you will see is not really red, but then what can you expect from a bunch of nincompoops a few million miles away? Oh, oops, I meant highly respected dead guys that were persecuted and tortured by the Church. Oh whatever, everybody into the Cargo Resultant Atmosphere Pressurization of Personnel Routine, or what we fondly refer to as the CRAPPeR. Just a little joke there folks, step right in and please have a seat in the buggy. Once the techs have secured your safety straps, the obligatory Safety Video will display on your individual monitors and the sound will come thru your helmet. If you're looking for a barf bag... well let's just say that I seriously doubt that you will really want to vomit in this comet, since you'll be wearing it for the next two hours or so inside your helmet. Ewwww.

Alright then, let's go! Your first sojourn on Mars! Takes me back a few decades to mine, except our buggies were only four seaters, and had a very limited range. Oh, and we didn't get any fancy TV's or rest stops. But you my friends, you get nothing but top of the line today. Course, for what you gladly paid for this trip, you deserve a bit of luxury. So anyways, we have us about one third the gravity that you had back on the home world, or about twice what you get on Luna. Seems just enough to keep our bones healthy, and with some dedication to working out, your muscles will be too. Believe me, playing baseball here is a real treat, unless you happen to play outfield, that is. And as for water, fuggedabouditt, we're really close to the Northern Ice Cap, so we got all we need. In fact, you will see actual snow and ice on the ground up here! Not so lucky all our settlements in the middle of the planet, you know the Valley Marineris and the Tharsis Bulge? They hafta work a whole lot harder to continually recycle each and every drop of this precious stuff. But up here, we actually get to shower in it! And yes, that is true and real luxury on this planet people.

Now that we've been toddling along for a good few miles, I think it's about time we all got out, and stretched our legs a bit. But before you even think about moving, I release the safety straps from up here in what passes for a cockpit, and then each of your seats will swivel to face outside, at which time you will notice a rather wide running board to step down upon. Our two techs will be there for anyone who needs a hand in getting your feet under you, so don't feel bashful. And yes, I have fallen quite a few times, and not all of them due to Brown Bottle Swallow, if ya know what I mean. but if you slip, don't worry, you really won't crack your helmet or tear your suit. Cause if you did why then you'd look like a fountain of watermelon jetting up thru the cracks, ha! Oh, um, never mind.

So yes everybody, there's a reason I brought you to these coords. We are going to approach, on foot, the very site that, well, actually that I discovered many decades past, where I found what is commonly referred to as The Skeleton. A billion, that's with a B not an M, years old, and just stuck out in the desert. Now, the real one is locked up in a lab somewhere, and no I don't where and I don't want to, that's way above my pay grade. But what we have here is a mold of the actual item, painted to match exactly. Anyways, you can imagine just what was running thru my mind when I quite literally stumbled over this thing! Let's face it, an old, ex mil type with too many years in, and basically put to pasture here, and what do I do? I fall on top of the as yet only proof that there really is some other sentient life in this galaxy! Yup, right over there it is, go ahead and slowly amble around it. Remember, any fast or sudden move usually means one thing, you get reintroduced to Mr. Ground again. As you can see, it looks like the head is pointed South, and made of bones of some type, and the legs and such are up above it, and appear to be a mesh of various fibrous wires? I was glad that Fido, that's my personal nickname for him, wasn't alive when I came around. I imagine that just one chomp from that ugly beat would seriously ruin your day! Gawd what I wouldn't give to see Fido's spaceship!

Alright, listen up folks, if we've all had a chance here to see the only specimen of life from Somewhere Not Home, we're gonna get back aboard the buggy, and go to our next destination, The Enclosed Sea Of Mars! Keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times, and here we go. Now, no matter what you've heard about The Enclosed Sea, it really lies in between two ginormous ice rifts here at the Northern Cap. What some of our bright boys discovered was that this here terrain actually sits on top of a volcano, that could provide enough heat to melt the water, if only we could keep it there. So then some other bright boys came along and figured out how to make genuine glass from the materials we have here, namely the aforementioned water, and all this sand, and so keep the sea from literally evaporating into the sky! Well sir, that worked quite well for a good long time, and then some really bright gals decided that we could actually extend the enclosed sea, and make it a tiny ocean. Now, don't ask me what the difference is, except that part is under glass, and part isn't. And why the part that isn't, is, well I just don't know. But I never pretended to be an egg head, so I just admire it for it's beauty.

Now if you look forward, at about the 1:00 position, you can see where the last Mars Rover, Desperado, yeah they were running out of names then, finally came to it's last resting spot. Our little friend there made a lot of important discoveries in it's day, and as we drive close to it, you can actually view on your monitors the last image it took. If you remember your history books, does anyone read books anymore? Anyways, that last image is what decided that we could build the Enclosed Sea, something to do with the particular silicates in this area.  Now, as I said, I'm just an ex mil type with a flat top haircut, and just enough nanotech to keep my gizzard running, but even I can see why we want an open sea on Mars. I just don't know how that picture told the nerds and geeks down in Marsdome is all. You can see right away it's a False Color Image, and I reckon that all those false colors musta meant something to somebody, cause our next stop is the sea itself folks. You are in for a very real treat, yes sirree, you good folks are going to watch the sun set over that same sea, and it is a sight you will never forget. So let's drive to our next set of coords, and then we can all get out and unkink our backs again, what say?

So yes ladies and gents, I decidedly did save the best for last! Sunset on Mars, over the Eternal Sea, which is what they're calling it now, stupid name if ya ask me, is a memory you will take with you to your grave. You know here on Planet Four, or just Four, our day or Sol, is just about forty minutes longer than on Planet Three. Yes young lady, that would be Earth, very good! We'll make Martians of all you folk before the day is done by golly. Oh yeah, we get an additional forty minutes here, and it's my decidedly unscientific opinion that those same forty minutes come at sunset. It just seems that the sun hangs above the horizon, which you notice is quite a bit closer than back home, and truly is magical. I'm no poet, gawd knows, but if I was, it would be for those incredible moments of beauty then. Now you might just have noticed that we miraculously have gone around the entire ring of Hab Modules, and are right back where we started. I assure that this was in fact our intended Flight Plan, and you goodly folk have kept me quite entertained on our tour. I do hope that you take full advantage of your time on this planet; whether you're here on holiday, as my Brit buddies would say, or business or even planning on becoming a neighbor of mine. Once Mars gets under your skin, you realize that this is a frontier, and hopefully not our last. Now, lets all go enjoy that sunset, then we can go in and have a barbecue that will knock you outta your boots... Martian style!