Sunday, August 21, 2016

After reading this, our first footstep on Mars will not mean the same!


...It is a world that will surely one day leave breathless not only its explorers but the artists who try to interpret its magnificent desolation. It is a land that defies imagination, a kingdom of rusty petrified Titans - home to the biggest known volcano in the solar system, standing three times the height of Mount Everest, and to Valles Marineris, a scar on its crust that dwarfs Earth's Grand Canyon. There time is as fine as the dust that has silenced its history and a grave to the remnants of what could've been once a living massive ocean; perhaps awaiting us to read in its pages of imaginable fossils the greatest story about the origins of life. And still, a deceiving solitude could know of creatures that lurk in its underground as we speak, protected from the abrasive radiation that fries its surface. Because with caverns which should be colossal, a result of a gravity 0.38 times that of Earth, who knows what secrets rest in its depths. Certainly, Mars is a land worth the odyssey we've entrusted upon us - to conquer it. 

Nevertheless, what's so amazing about Mars starts before! the moment we understand how grandiose it would be to conquer not the world but the space that separates us from it... because to understand the "incomprehensible" which underlies the distance involved, becomes no less than an epiphany.

That's the purpose of this story: to inspire the fascination which deserves what will be humanity's greatest odyssey.

Let's begin.

you think you know Mars...

you've seen astronauts landing on its rust red surface, on the big screen
Mission to Mars (2000)

or taking off under a tarp...

The Martian (2016)

and where it is, with these cute representations of our solar system

Yet, the above, greatly downplay the magnificence of

because, even when you think about the first Moon landing with these in mind...

the Moon doesn't seem that far way, does it?

This is the real scale, though.

...but still pretty close, isn't it? if we understand the immensity of space.


on the other hand

is hard to put into perspective

because even observable in the night sky

It is very


F A R   A W A Y

And this is what landing there would really mean for us...

Let's go back to October 12,1492 and to San Salvador island in the Bahamas (the first place where Columbus landed in America)

 Christopher Columbus and his crew had sailed three small ships for more than two months

displacing themselves some 6,499 km from Palos de la Frontera in Spain, their port of origin.

Now, to compare Columbus' odyssey with a manned mission to Mars in terms of scale, you should first know the following:

still from Nat Geo TV's 2016 'Mars' series 

about every two years Mars makes its closest approach to Earth in what's called the Mars oppositions

The perfect time to pack you bags for the shortest trip possible!

credit: SpaceX

One of these oppositions will occur in 2025 (separating us from Mars by "only" 96,266,229.8 km

 And that's when Elon Musk, the mind behind SpaceX plans to send permanent settlers there, some six years before NASA.

 And he is not to be taken lightly!

Considering these 3 things...


SpaceX recently made history by achieving what was once thought impossible: landing vertically a 14-story tall rocket down from orbital space, and with incredible precision, on a platform wobbling on rough seas!


It launched Dragon, the first private spacecraft to reach the International Space Station! also making history


Today, SpaceX tests the "Raptor" rocket engines that will launch the ginormous Interplanetary Transport System.

A hurra for Elon and his plans to take us were no man has gone before!

And yet...

Even if we passed the 2025 deadline and settled there some years later...

a martian panorama taken by one of NASA's rovers

it would still be humanity's greatest odyssey! the day we become a species of two planets

a black sand dune captured by one of NASA's rovers

and to realize just how fracking grandiose that would be, requires a little imagination and going back again to Columbus' voyage


and that's a very big BECAUSE

if the distance he covered across the Atlantic

represented the distance between Earth and Mars in 2025

then Columbus' largest ship, the 19 meter long Santa María, would turn invisible in this picture...

given that a simple rule of three multiplying the ship's size in km times the distance Columbus travelled divided by the distance between Earth and Mars mentioned earlier

would render the ship so small...

it would be impossible to perceive even this up-close...

but it would be there, 1.28 mm long, perhaps trapped inside a bubble of sea foam!

with every 59 cm wave being as high as Mount Everest.

Just imagine that!

And if it is impossible for a bee to fly solo across the Atlantic, realize that your ship would be some dozen times smaller

and you around 0.12 mm tall, or slightly larger than a grain of pollen

so if you could walk amongst pollen

if you were that small

imagine shuttling yourself from Spain to the Bahamas

inside a SpaceX's Interplanetary Transport system, which would be 3.3 mm long or the size of three grains of sand

and replace that immense ocean surrounding you

with the unforgiving darkness of space

that's the distance to Mars.

so if you ever see humans setting foot there
or if you are one of them

remember the grandiosity of such a day

because not only would we become an interplanetary species but that will be the day we built incredible machines that, like grains of sand blown in the wind, 
crossed oceans with Everest sized waves. 


  1. It's settled then...we will call the first craft Columbus.

    1. I was thinking more along the lines of Podkayne, in memorial to Robert Heinlein ( Podkayne of Mars).

  2. No...The earliest people who crossed the Bering Strait were first.