The Suitcase Lady


May 14, 2013, 10:04 pm

Don’t plan any vacations to Venus. Despite being named after the goddess of beauty, Venus is far from a beauty spot. With 800 degree plus temperatures, sulphuric acid clouds, a crushing carbon dioxide atmosphere and hurricane force winds, this planet can make hell look desirable.

I always thought that our other neighbor, Mars, had vacation potential, but I have learned otherwise. Mars only looks promising because Venus is a complete nightmare.

For unknown reasons, Earth had the Great Oxygenation Event and turned lush, while Mars had the Great Desiccation Event and became arid. More graphically, one turned green, the other red.

Visitors to Mars would find a pinkish atmosphere composed mainly of carbon dioxide and air pressure one-hundredth that of Earth. Winds are sufficient to stir huge dust storms which can envelope the planet for months. Days are about a half hour longer than ours, but months occur in a matter of hours. Mar’s two small moons, Phobos and Deimos, are fast orbiters.

Sightseers on Mars should be prepared for cold weather in all seasons. The average annual global temperature is 40 below zero (Earth’s is 59 degrees Fahrenheit).

Lovers of the extreme are perfect candidates for a sojourn on Mars. A Martian mountain, Olympus Mons, is the highest in the solar system. Just imagine the Alps on top of the Himalayas on top of the Rockies.

Mars also has a giant canyon that makes the Grand Canyon look like a hole in the backyard dug by a kid with a Tonka bulldozer. Valles Marineris (Valley of the Mariners) runs along the Martian equator and is 2,500 miles long, 125 miles wide and 4 miles deep. Be forewarned: no donkeys are available to carry tourists to the valley floor.

Thrill seekers are eager to sign up for future missions to Mars. Most of us, however, should heed the words of advice from John Grotzinger, the chief biologist on the Mar’s Curiosity mission. “You look at enough pictures from Mars, and you really start to appreciate the Earth.”

But you can go to Mars; at least your name and your poem can. NASA is sponsoring a Mars Haiku contest. The three winning poems and the names of all who submit poems will head for Mars on the upcoming MAVEN mission. Here is a link to the details.


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