04 July 1997 the Pathfinder re-entry vehicle, cradling in its womb the Sojourner remotely piloted vehicle, violated frigid tenuous Martian atmosphere. It fired rockets, popped a parachute, and at the last moment tumesced a tessellated tetrahedron of politically correct air bags to absorb the touchdown jolt. CNN showed an acceleration graph of the Mars landing. The thing bounced 15 meters into the air with an 18 g jerk, bounced rattled and rolled some more, and annihilated untold First Martians and their artifacts in the process. If I were Sojourner or Scavenger or whatever it is called, I'd be holding my rear wheel under my neck and screaming "Whiplash!"

19.17° north latitude, 33.21° west longitude in Ares Vallis, a flood plane anticipated to be strewn with miscellany from a wide area of the highlands, was the theatre of action:

"We are here with the NASA whizbang of the week, trampling and alpha-irradiating fragile and endangered dry land ecology of Ares Vallis. First order of business is political, the renaming of Pathstomper to the 'Sagan Memorial Station.' Try saying that three times fast on camera. Unless somebody brought coins for the meter, NASA is in for one hellacious parking citation and fine. Impoundment fees will be brutal! If they try cutting the Boston boot off Scavenger, we're talking Martian jail time."

Gigabytes of telemetry confirm that Mars is climatologically indistinguishable from Minnesota and possesses richer cultural and aesthetic options. Add some terraforming to allow ice fishing plus a liquor store and you have it all. Mil-Spec mosquitoes and deer ticks can be imported later.

NASA missed a bet by not having a little ink jet printer head on the mobile Scavenger (whatever) Mars rover:

  1. They could have slathered the NASA logo on every rock,

  2. They could have slathered the Coca-Cola logo on every rock.

  3. They could have claimed Mars for Queen Isabella, er now Secretary of State Clitler and put down the legal text to make it stick (30 days and the Federal Register has the power of law with none of the inconveniences of legislation or due process),

  4. In slow moments they could have sprayed the first extraterrestrial graffiti - "Swagelok Rules!"

The Sagan Memorial Station sent back tourist snaps of every rock, hillock, and dust grain from its meter-high camera. Scavenger, with the perspective of a pussycat, was also snapping away. It did not run into a fossilized mound of doggie do, nor has it imaged an ancient crumbled space suit draping a non-humanoid skeleton - and a weapon of indeterminate but apparently really nasty function lying nearby. NASA will not be peeing all over themselves to get man back into space and the goodie back to DoD black labs. Not yet, anyway. There will be slide shows...

Speaking of soiled panties, Scavenger went to looking at rocks over a bunch of weeks and - if the Great Bird of The Galaxy had any caprice at all - a little bit of limestone would not have been out of place. All I desired was ONE TINY UNAMBIGUOUS FOSSIL, and a Vatican press conference thereafter. "Genesis, while generally considered by the rabid faithful to be the literal word of God written in His Own hand, is really an amazingly flexible allegorical treatise extending to all the planets and their species' (that have never evolved) salvation..." And the One True Church has been putting forth a trifling humorous burlesque these past 2000 years with all our hellfire religious dogma, holy wars, inflicted interminable human suffering, and unsparingly conferred God-mandated carnage.

NASA engineers initiated an anal retentive frenzy of naming Martian rocks and, being engineers, they weren't very good at it fetishwise. A boffo transplanetary petrocultural incursion, Barnacle Bill, promptly degenerated into Yogi, drifted downhill to Casper, Scoobie-Doo, and Flat Top; then suffered Shark, Wedge, Hippo, Couch... One might posit that they are nicknames of Chinese lobbyists to the Clinton Administration. A notable exclusivity of masculine monikers will no doubt elicit cutting edge feminist displeasure followed by strident burbles from morbidly obese Andrea Dworkin when the going is safe. Who will be the first harpie to carpe diem? My bet is on Camille Paglia cinching up her bronze-studded leather garter belt preparatory to putting the mons back in Olympus Mons (also renamed). I fulsome tremble with critique, dialectic, and paradigms for further study.

If I were NASA I would have mounted a chain gun on Scavenger. One cannot be too careful. And if there were a single discarded Martian refrigerator or TV set lying about... Heaven!

(After a year of remote traipsing over the Martian landscape, our two spiffy Martian rovers Goiters and Yaws have sent back so much telemetry thet NASA managers are planning a meeting to consider diversity hiring a privileged minority pregnant single mother scientist with AIDS to look at it all. The acquired summation of Martian knowledge to date is... wait for it... more studies are needed. Mount the chain gun plus six spinners for bling bling and let one loose in urban Washington, DC. Data will zero in of its own volition.)

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