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December 10th, 2013

The Mars Walk

In 2005, a year into a mission that lasted five years, the Mars rover Spirit reached the top of a hill and shot a 360-degree panorama. What do we see there? We see a horizon only a few miles away. Hills. Mountains. Plains. Rocks: thousands and thousands of rocks. None of which have had humans on them yet, so we don't have that sort of context. It looks huge; a properly suited-up, oxygen-provided person could reach those hills in an afternoon.

And then could keep walking. Mars is far smaller than Earth, but with none of its surface covered by oceans (at least now), it has about 75% of Earth's landmass, which is still a big chunk of land. It'd be easier to walk Mars than to walk lots of Earth; no tectonic activity means far more flat or gently rounded parts of Mars, with no thrust-up mountains like, say, the Rockies or the Andes. Yes, there's a canyon as long as the United States, but we'll deal with that when we get there. (We won't be building a bridge. Call it a guess.) Like Earth's Moon, erosion from above has long been a more powerful force than any force below. Once we were surprised that the Moon wasn't jagged the way it was portrayed in so many films, even 2001: A Space Odyssey which came out only a year before we landed there. What will surprise us about Mars?

Me, I'd like to walk to, or some other way get to, anywhere within sight of Olympus Mons. It's the largest volcano in our solar system, almost exactly the same size as Arizona. It's 16 miles high. (Mt. Everest is a little under six miles high.) The view might be like the view of Mt. Kilimanjaro, on steroids.

And then where could we walk to?

Actually...whoa. I just had a brilliant idea. What if the zombie apocalypse happens? Then round up the zombies, strap cameras onto their bodies, load them into spaceships, launch them to Mars, open the ships, and watch them go. Hey, they're walkers, they don't need oxygen (right?), they won't feel any pain if they fall into the Valles Marineris, and the footage would be AMAZING. We'd learn so much! And be rid of zombies.

This...this entry didn't go where I thought it would go.