A Brief (pre-)history On Mars

25 August, 2004 Ken Poetry & Prose

A Brief (Pre-)History on Mars

From ancient mythology to science fiction in the atomic age, Mars was unknown as little more than a red wanderer in the heavens of Earth. In the early electronic age, Man had taken no steps on Mars, save unmanned landers and crashed satellites, leaving Man with no more than debates over organic processes and theoretical microorganisms. Even the place of water in the cycle of geology and climate was not yet firmly established.

Mars had a secret, unknown to any observers on his sister planet, namely that he was between periods of visible life, a mass extinction that was perhaps a prelude to one of it's last periods of organic diversity before falling into a coldness and dryness that would never again sustain abundance. But this is not his story.

This story is that of Mankind, who strived abmitiously in it's ignorance and then denial that Mars could flourish on its own. The idea it could not recover from a mass extinction, once understood as the current Martian status quo, was a convenient assumption, as the new frontier was open and could not be closed. Ironically, the early scientific exploration of the rust, dust, and ice, instead of creating a voice for preservation that we learned almost too late on our own planet, was an unintentional fuel for the fires of colonization. Discovery that it could even be done, and with reasonable effort on the part of corporations (thanks again going to technology, the fruits of science), could not hold back the now rarely spoken true desires of Man — to see, to come, to conquer.

It did not matter that the concept of Malthusian Crisis fell into abstraction as a nothing more than a mathematical application to controlled enviroments. Man's social nature had always been counterbalanced by a need to be an independent individual, and off-Earth habitation would not be denied for its own sake, though consciously under the guise of a theoretical overpopulation of the homeworld.

The story of this book begins in a Martian Autumn, the better part of a Martian century ago, with one unnamed individual, representative of many others claiming the same fame. This as-of-yet mere visitor or migrant worker whose birthplace was across a slowly shrinking sliver of space travel, at post-dawn or pre-dusk, stood exposed under a smaller version of the sun he had always known. Without permission nor prudence, he was the first to remove his helmet under a blue-less sky, and breathe with his own lungs a liter or so of unsatisfying, but no longer lethal, air.

We breathe to you today and every day hereafter, dear sir, as a toast to you. Your folly is forgiven, as we now embark on another Terran century on a non-terran world.

– taken from the forward to “100 Years on Mars” (Herman Mitchner, 2418, JE Harper, Publisher)


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