It is not often that I look up at Earth. The steep sides of the valley obscure the view, which means connecting to the telescope at Olympus Mons. But today I thought I would check it out to see if it was still there. And yes, it is still there. Pale little twinkle, letting me know that there is something to go back to when my work is finished here.
There is an assumption that Mars is a hostile planet. In fact, there’s little to worry about as long as you follow the rules. Go to the storm shelter if there are meteorites or a dust storm. And… make sure you correctly fit your eco-suit if you go outside. It really is no more dangerous than working in the Antarctic (which is where I was before).
There are no little green men or space monsters waiting to attack us. There is little seismic activity and no chance of a heat wave or a flood. What is really weird though, is adjusting to the lower gravity and different time clock.
The Acheron Fossae Dome accommodates twelve of us in a world of twilight, controlled air flow and constant temperature. Botanics is the only section to have the luxury of bubble shaped windows. The Science Lab is completely separate, away from the Dome, sunk deep in the hill side.
So, one of the things I really enjoy is the daily commute, along the covered walkway between the Dome and the Lab. The rust coloured boulders, dusty sky and deep shadows of the gorge remind me that this is actually Mars and I really am living on an alien planet and not just in a tin box.
The Lab is a strange mix of noisy and dirty mining activities alongside pristine secure testing facilities. Rock makes its way from the bowels of the escarpment into my workstation. Currently, a promising seam of blueberry dotted prehistory is under my microscope and is being slowly dissolved in various types of acid.
Yet again, there is no sign of any biological activity, no fossils, no DNA, no organic markers, nothing but a sample of blue-black sludge destined for my growing filing system. I look back at the pale little twinkle again and imagine what is going on there today. A small diversion while I ponder what may have been happening here in the past.
The blueberries are intriguing. They look as if they should be something but the data keeps saying they are actually nothing, just a geological phenomenon. For a moment, my mind wanders to thinking of blueberries on Earth. Blueberries with muesli and yoghurt. Blueberry muffins with coffee. Blueberries with ice cream.
I examine again the rock they were attached to. Again I scan it. I stare at it. I lay it carefully back in its storage crate. I tilt my head. Shining in artificial light. There it is, the pattern of how someone once placed each of the blueberries.