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#1 2012-01-27 18:28:46

From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 7,208

Life on Mars - A Short Story Part 1 [Reprint of lost post]


It’s sometimes difficult for people on Earth to visualise how people live their lives on Mars.

Here we take a look at a fairly typical day for someone living in the colony Humanity.

It is only a few decades since the President of the United States announced We intend within the next decade to establish the beginnings of a permanent presence on Mars and create there, in due time, a second home for humanity. At the time it seemed an impossible dream, an absurd and potentially costly diversion from present concerns. But commentators were surprised by how enthusiastic the public became for this project. Congress was reassured to learn that by reordering of space budgets and abandonment of a number of robot missions, the costs were not going to spin out of control. A Mars Consortium was formed involving a number of dynamic  space companies and other space agencies including those of Japan, Canada, India and Brazil who contributed significantly as well, added to which space philanthropists gave more than 10 billion dollars to the effort. 

Humanity as you probably know was founded in 2020 when the lander “Arrival 1” touched down on the Northern Plains.  Who can forget those first words of a human being walking on the planet? - “This is humanity’s new beginning. And this - is the first step on our new path.” The initial crew of six were successful in establishing a human presence on Mars. In particular they were able to establish an extensive solar power field comprising ultra thin photovoltaic panels which provided an abundance of energy with an average output of 75KW.

With the following ten landings, the colony began to take shape, around five separate bases, strung along a crater edge over a distance of about three kilometres.

We are going to follow the day of one colonist, Sylvie Valery. She’s been living in the colony for just over a year.  She’s aged 25.  On earth you might think of her as an intern. She’s attached to the Governor’s Office.  Her official title is “Governor’s Special Representative”. It’s a rather grand title that makes her feel good about herself.  Not many 25 year olds can boast such an impressive job title. 

Her job is essentially to progress chase on construction projects and report back to the Governor. 

She lives at Arthur Base, not in the central dome but in the Governor’s complex, an attractive building constructed from adobe earth-bags and finished with smooth plaster, home to the Governor, his family and about 30 officials. A trench tunnel connects with the main dome of Arthur base. 

Her alarm goes off at 6am.  She wakes feeling rested.  The Governor’s complex is a quite corner of the colony at night.

The Marsnet radio station switches in automatically. It’s not compulsory to listen in but it’s surprising how many people do.  The morning radio programme is hosted by Janis Jane – one of six full time broadcasters.  She has a warm, velvety reassuring voice.  Sylvie met her at a party a few weeks ago at the Governor’s office, so now she feels it’s almost like having friend talk to her.

“Hello. This is Janis Jane here and you’re listening to the Morning Call show on Radio Mars. In a moment we’ll have the news but first, an announcement.”

The announcement cut in: this was much more businesslike. “Don’t forget: It’s your duty to report to your nearest health centre if you suffer any signs of ill health, whether it be a cold, congestion on the lungs, muscle weakness. Remember: it’s no shame to be ill on Mars, but it is an expulsion offence not to tell someone.”  Another voice then trumpeted more loudly than was strictly necessary: “That was a Governor-Approved Public Announcement for your education and welfare.”

The station jingle followed and then:

“This is the news from Radio Mars. 

Risk of solar flare activity remains high. Please be attentive to announcements on emergency systems especially if you are working EVA. 

This is a big day for Mars. The Governor’s Information Office has announced that Mars’s population officially passed 1,000 yesterday with the arrival of Mercy Obdila, a 35 year old nurse who will be working in Arthur Central Hospital Facility.

The Governor has issued a new order. Order No. 325 requires the Resource Allocation Office to issue points for allocation of sports equipment.

Advice to store users.  It’s good news for coffee lovers.  The points cost of coffee has been decreased thanks to a good harvest at the Olympus Base Tropical Farming Zone.  Said Zone Manager Brian Askill: “We hope Marsarians appreciate the success we’ve had these last few months.”

In sports Cargill Base beat Arthur Base 89-76 in this year’s Basketball Final.

And that’s -  the News on Mars.

Now the weather.  Winds will be light. Mars Weather Centre gives a risk of 2% for dust storms. Temperature: A high of minus 28 and a low of minus 54.Visibility is forecast as good to excellent.  And that’s the end of the bulletin.”

A loud fanfare followed by the dulcet tones once again of Janis Jane.

It is amazing how fit one feels on Mars – the body is really relieved of 60% of its work. Like a lot of young woman, on earth she felt she could do with losing a few pounds.  But on Mars the weight has little bearing on how good she feels.

Sylvie takes off her tee-shirt and enters the compact shower. Water is plentiful within the colony. Mined from the permafrost, melted in microwave tubes, filtered and delivered hot and cold to the Governor’s complex water is one of the great joys of life on Mars – it seems almost a miracle that it should be so plentiful in what looks very much like a desert.  A hot invigorating shower is certainly a delightful start to the day.


Her shower over, Sylvie emerges and puts on her simple work clothes – white tee shirt and loose slacks.  There are no pockets (clothing manufacture on Mars is pretty basic) – on Mars people carry their personal belongings in knitted pouches on fibre string belts, or in over-the-shoulder bags. Weather-related clothes choices are not a problem for a woman on Mars – at least as long as she is indoors.   The temperature never varies much from 20 degrees Celsius and it certainly never rains! 

She puts on her work watch. All residents of the colony wear the watch daily. It provides them with reminders of their daily routine and their work duties. It is also their medical monitor: taking residents’ temperature and pulse, and analysing breath.
The work and exercise reminder messages are generated from a central computer.  One of Sylvie’s friends, Emma, works in the central IT suite located in the Arthur Base dome which manages the master program.

Sylvie’s work day does not start until 9am. But the work watch reminds her that she is due at the Arthur base gym by 6.45 for a 30 minute work out (slightly longer than a 30 minute work out on Earth – we’re talking Mars minutes here).   

It’s a short walk from the Governor’s complex along the translucent connecting corridor that leads to the main dome.  The gym is located near the entrance to the dome and offers a pleasant exercising regime.  Sylvie goes through the weights and running exercise demanded by the work watch.  She logs in with the work watch as she uses each piece of equipment. 

One can see through the dome’s plexiglass onto the Mars landscape.  The Northern Plains have a rather melancholy quality at first light. The ground seems to swirl with colours as the rising sun’s rays play on the desert-like surface.  The sun, smaller than seen from earth, is now a red disc above the horizon of crater outlines.

Her work out over, Sylvie has a choice.  Either she can breakfast at the canteen (the buckwheat pancakes are excellent) or pick up something at the Arthur Base store and go back to her room.  She decides to visit the store and picks up an energy bar and drink (50 points off her points allowance). But then instead of heading back to her room, on a whim she pockets the energy bar and visits the Sanctuary, a room set aside for religious observance and meditation.  Occasionally she likes to sit there and absorb the quiet and centre herself.

But the ever-present work watch, doesn’t allow for quiet time out.

“OK Sylvie your work day starts now. You are due at Zhou Lin Base by 09.30 to meet Base Leader Felipe.  The meeting is to discuss Base Construction Work schedule for Sol 200-300 with special reference to Farm Zone extension project.”

The Mars year was divided up into hundreds of days, plus a special end of year division for the last 47.  Some people referred to the hundreds by their formal names such as, Solocent,  Tricent, Octocent – but they tended to be the geeky enthusiasts . Most people were happy to use the day numbers.

Anyway, it is time to get to work.  The work watch says so!

Like most people living on Mars, Sylvie’s feelings towards the work watch are ambivalent.  It’s a useful gadget but it is a little bit like having your mother nagging you all the time, thinks Sylvie.  But she can see it’s needed.  Work on Mars does not feel like work on Earth.  On Earth you tend to be working for personal gain.  People here on Mars are there because they want to be part of a big enterprise that is taking humanity to a new planet. But living in this strange enclosed space, part air terminal, part office complex, part hotel, part paradise is a little weird (honestly, people do get a “heaven complex” on Mars – a psychologist had noted that people returning to Earth often experienced a depression known as the Eden complex, since they felt like they were being expelled from the Garden of Eden).  She can see that people need the discipline of the work watch to prevent what some people call “space float”, that dreamy slightly disengaged state of being that people can fall into.

The inter-base shuttle arrived after a few minutes wait: a sleek attractive-looking wheeled craft that glided smoothly over the metal and concrete  pathway.  Sylvie entered via the air lock. She always enjoys this part of the journey. Visibility through the vehicle’s windows is good. There is a real feeling of being “outside” although of course she and the other travellers are anything but outside: they are encased in steel and plexiglass and are being kept alive by the artificial air and pressure in the vehicle as it moves from Arthur base to the adjoining Zhou Lin base.  She can make out through the shuttle’s windows the Japanese garden and statue park which at night are beautifully illuminated.

The meeting with Base Leader Felipe, a charming long term resident of the colony, goes well.  The Governor has for some weeks  been concerned that completion of Zhou Lin Base Farm Zone No. 2  - which was originally supposed to be producing an important bamboo and oil crop by Sol 425 but had now been switched to food production (quick growing buckwheat) -  was lagging behind.  However Tim Barnes from the Construction and Building Maintenance Division, who is also there for the meeting, is able to reassure people that now the dust storm had abated he will be able to put a second team to work on the project.   Pierre Loudon, accessed through the video conference connection, confirms that the allocation of the second team had been approved by the Resource Allocation  Section of the Planning and Infrastructure Division.

Felipe thanks Sylvie for her interest in the project and asks her to assure the Governor that he is giving the project top priority. He understand its importance to the Infrastructure Plan. 


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