Home Sweet Mars

Photo Credit: @deirdredenaliphotography on Instagram

Day 6 of the 7 Day #writingsprintchallenge offered by @tuftin.reads on Instagram. Today’s prompt is the photo above. The red hue in the upraised rock reminded me of the Red Planet and the little patches of ice, snow and green growth cast my thoughts towards the terraforming of Mars, a process that will take anywhere from 50 years to 100 million years, depending on who you talk to. It all begins in earnest before this decade passes. I’m a huge fan and so, my entry today is called, “Home Sweet Mars.” Enjoy!

I stood on the tarmac watching the Stella Rose flip and begin its graceful arc on her way to the surface. It never ceases to amaze me, the beauty of a well engineered rocket designed to traverse the space between Earth and Mars, stop, unload, load, refuel, repeat. SpaceX had grown into the most powerful and wealthy company in the solar system by the simple virtue of being the first to perfect the process. They are not the only show in town. Bezos pulled off his own version and has given Musk a run for his money.

But for me, today is not about rockets, except this one, the Stella Rose and not because she is a thing of beauty, something not only a space engineer could appreciate. No, this rocket is beautiful because within her bowels is my family, whom I haven’t seen in a decade. I could have made the return trip, but my work here is critical. I am in charge of Operation Green Mars. And today, all that hard work has paid off for me personally. 

The issue that has been kicked around and argued about for decades wasn’t about whether or not we could terraform Mars, but a question about how long it would take. We understood the process fairly well, but change takes time, as they say. But Musk, in one of his usual cavalier and ingenious moves, decided it was a question of scale. He decided that if you simply increase the inputs on a massive scale, you could speed up the process of converting the Martian atmosphere into a true atmosphere, one that humans can breathe in freely. 

Today I stand on the tarmac, without a spacesuit. I drove my Tesla here with the windows down. I do have an oxygen breather, developed by the folks at AlphaSpace. It is clipped to my belt, and consists of a plastic tube that terminates with a nasal insert clipped to my nose. Inside the small device on my belt are oxygen tablets the size of chlorine tablets used in swimming pools. It is really just an oxygen-enricher designed to make up for the thinner Martian atmosphere.

Around me, the sides of Jazero rise in the distance, behind the Stella Rose as she touches down gracefully. They are covered this morning with ice and the green of lichens and moss. We are not there yet, but we have worked a miracle in the 25 years since our first manned  mission. 

I move forward as a crowd begins to form by the gated fence designed to keep us all a safe distance from the rockets. It doesn’t happen often, and it hasn’t happened now in over 12 years, but sometimes things go wrong and a rocket will explode after touching down. This one does not.

Soon Marie and the kids will be making their way down the gangway and we will be a family again—a Martian family! Welcome, I think, to home sweet Mars!

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