The beauty of Barsoom…

Mars offers us beauty on many scales. Stand on Mars with me now, beside Curiosity, in your imagination, and take a look around. Look up and see the huge, wide open butterscotch-hued sky…

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Look down at your feet and see the chips and shards and jagged broken pottery-like fragments of stone covered in the ever-present ochre dust…

ground

Look up again, and sweep your gaze around the horizon, taking in the view of the floor of Gale Crater, with its rises and hummocks, ledges and outcrops, dust dunes and boulders, with thousands, no, tens of thousands, no, hundreds of thousands, no, millions of rocks and stones scattered all around…

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pano dec 18n

Now take a look over there, yes, over there, on that flat plate of rock. What is that? Go over and take a closer look… kneel down, slowly in the low gravity, and stare into it through your helmet’s dust-streaked visor… what is that…?

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What happened there? Was that a dome of rock that somehow fractured and collapsed in on itself like one of Oswin’s soufles? Or was it once a bubble of gas rising up from beneath the surface which popped, leaving a broken shell of thin rock behind? Or were there once dragons on Mars, great noble Barsoomian beasts with wings that stretched for hundreds of metres to allow them to fly in the thin martian air, and this is the fossilised remains of one of their eggs? Whatever it is, whatever it once was, it’s beautiful, and how you wish you could take off your helmet and see it properly, without the glass of the visor in the way, withoutt it being dimmed by dust outside and the mist of your breath inside… Then it would look something like this…

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That, my friends, is the beauty of Barsoom…

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