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Mars

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"Aspirational" SpaceX poster selling the wonders of package holidays to Valles Marineris, which isn't in the Canary Islands.

Mars is in space. After Earth and the Moon, it's the most tourist-friendly destination in the Solar System. The fourth planet from the sun, it is significantly smaller and colder than Earth and has a lot less infrastructure. But if you're looking to go way off the beaten path, Mars is hard to beat.

Understand[edit]

Martian bookworms - much more than just a parasitic infestation!

There are many non-fiction books that first-time visitors to Mars will find helpful. Below are a selection of the most informative and entertaining works by both Terran and Martian authors, each of them experts in their field.

  • Invaders from Earth!, or How to be a Respectful Human Tourist on Mars - Prof. Vicky Voyage, human fellow at Mars University
  • Watching the Martians - Kate Phox, the celebrated Martian-American sociologist
  • Notes From a Small Red Planet - Bill Bruson, bestselling humorist
  • Travels with Zoraxl - John Steenbeck, author of The Apes of Wrath
  • Mick Steves' Mars - companion to the hit television series
  • Is There Life on Mars?: A Speculative Work of Astrobiology for the Gentleman Naturalist - Dafydd Attenborrow, the famous bunny hugger. Also look out for its sequel:
  • Yes, There is Life on Mars (And It Wants to Eat You): A Survival Guide to the Red Planet for the Gentleman Naturalist - Dafydd Attenborrow
  • Some Martians Are Man-eaters - Get Over It! - Splörg the Magnificent, one of the planet's finest chefs of native gastronomy

Mars is popularly known as the Red Planet, not as is often thought for its distinctive colour, which is more of a rusty brown anyway, but due to the popularity of left-wing politics among the native inhabitants. The Communist Manifesto is still compulsory reading on the school curriculum, and many a Martian field trip is made to Marx's grave on Earth.

Foreigners (meaning Earthlings) should be aware that the gravity is much lower on Mars. Mars, being a planet, is huge, and it is unrealistic to expect to see all of Mars in a short period of time (no matter how many of your friends claim to have "done Mars, got the T-shirt"), although it is possible to view half of Mars through a telescope. Generally, areas along the equator are the most hospitable to Earthlings (at about -15 degrees Celsius) as it is much warmer than the rest of Mars (the poles are colder than Yakutsk).

The amount of gravity on Mars is significantly lower than Earth's. Cities on Mars are built around this fact. Unlike Earth, "bounding" is a common way of locomoting, and is very efficient. Inside most structures on Mars, gravity is artificially created for many reasons, mainly to keep muscles from atrophying and also to keep things tidy.

History[edit]

Mars once was pretty much like the Earth with water, air, forests, fields and everything. One day the evil Plutarkians from Pluto, hunting for natural resources to rob, arrived by space ship and wrecked everything and this is why Mars looks as it does today. Three Martian heroes; Throttle, Modo and Vinnie, colloquially known as the Biker Mice from Mars eventually managed to chase them away (the Biker Mice are known for visiting Chicago every now and then, where they like to ride their motorbikes). Martians hope that they eventually will be able to rebuild their planet like it once was.

Landscape[edit]

If you like neverending desert, you'll love Mars. The ground can be rocky and ever so slightly hilly underfoot, so sandals are not advised. Some regions are inexplicably said to resemble human faces when viewed from above.

Flora and fauna[edit]

  • Buggalo – cattle-like giant insects with spotted shells resembling Frisian cows from Earth and ferocious-looking but harmless pincers.
  • Spiders – Scientifically known as Theraphosa zigistardusta, Martian spiders are naturally drawn to the soothing sound of glam rock. Arachnophobes are advised to leave their T.Rex LPs at home.
  • Rock Snakes - Rarely encountered, but it's a unique form of life on Mars.

Climate[edit]

The Mars equatorial regions are the warmest, most densely-populated, and least sparsely-populated part of the planet. They are characterised by warm deserts, with daytime temperatures not unlike the tropical regions of Earth. Most of the northern hemisphere is cold desert, and the southern part of the planet is also mostly cold desert, with seasonal and indeed nightly variation in both. The southern hemisphere is mostly above sea level, except for the large Hellas Sea and Argyre Sea, which are below sea level ("Down Under"). These seas are not real seas anymore, and are now both swathes of cold desert. Many places in the south are uninhabitable, this region being mostly cold desert, which is not unusual on Mars.

Time[edit]

Mars has a different time system from the Earth. A day (known as sol, don't confuse it with the currency of Peru!) is 24 Earth hours, 39 minutes, and 35.244 seconds. While a Martian day is made up of 24 Martian hours, just like on Earth, Mars has just 12 time zones. Some consider the additional 39 minutes a 'witching' hour when odd things may happen.

One year is approximately 669 sols or 687 Earth days. So in order not to lose count of time, set your smartphone to Martian mode right upon landing, or alternatively buy a local watch and calendar.

Get in[edit]

Travel Warning WARNING: Due to the somewhat fragile nature of the Martian eco-system, and the insistence of "First Species" groups, Mars is kept under a strict bio-security and quarantine regime. Any Earthlings who have experienced the common cold in the 180 days prior to arrival on Mars must submit to probal disinfection upon arrival, as the cold virus is extremely harmful to the native life. There are many things that you cannot bring into Mars, for the customs are even stricter than those in Australia and New Zealand, and even Singapore. No fresh foods, rotten foods, pets, can be brought in and there are complex restrictions on many wooden, plastic, metals, oil-based, starch-based, cotton, and polyester-based items. If any banned products are found beyond the customs/quarantine perimeter, the death penalty is mandatory and you will be killed by electric chair in front of the entire planet on Martian global TV, MTV1 (similar to Earth's CNN).
A spaceship approaching Mars

Visa[edit]

All human scum foreign guests are required to obtain a visa before entering Mars. Whilst it used to be the case that such applications could only be made in person at the Embassy of Mars in Antarctica, postal applications will become possible "real soon now". There are currently no plans to implement fast-track 'e-visa' due to the complexities of vetting potential applicants. Penguins are the only Earth citizens permitted to enter Mars visa-free, due to the Antarctic-Martian Free Trade Agreement.

Martian Immigration can be brutal and if you arrive without a visa, be prepared for them to fling you out into deep space, with little discretion applied.

When applying for a visa, you will also need to declare if you've had a history of psychotronic disturbance, or psychic sensitivity. This was enacted at the insistence of "First species" groups native to Mars.

By spaceship[edit]

Spaceship is the best way for getting in. With 21st century technology it takes at least 10 months one way, so make sure to take a magazine.

By jump-craft[edit]

Following the retirement of some ex-miltary transport craft, a few operators are able to offer an 'express', trans-planetary service.

By portal[edit]

Portal transport has been temporarily suspended following a series of unfortunate accidents involving Venus.

By Voyager probe[edit]

The Voyager program was launched by Wikivoyagers in 1977 using two robotic probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, to study the outer Solar System. The probes found nothing worth a stopover on Mars and instead continued onward to take advantage of a favorable alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Stowing away on a Voyager probe and attempting to bail out when the red planet comes into view is a risky and ill-advised proposition; David Bowie considered it as a publicity stunt during the Ziggy Stardust tour, only to abandon the idea as a space oddity. Major Tom was not impressed.

Caution Note: If you must board any US-operated vessel for Mars, beware of metric mixups. An inch here, a millimetre there doesn't look like much but it adds up – especially when some turn-of-the-millennium rocket scientist miscalculates this and crashes spacecraft into the Red Planet's surface. If you're in Montréal, it might be better just to take the métro to Champ de Mars and blast off from there.

Fees and permits[edit]

Depending on the "phases of the moons", Martian customs at departure have been known to charge a supposedly 'discretionary' ecological disposal levy, based on an assumed consumption vs excretion level of a tourist. Whilst they theoretically have powers to (painfully) extract excess "waste" at departure this is rarely applied for first-time visitors. Ensuring that you get a receipt when you use Martian toilets is recommended, as the disposal levy is either part of the charge for use of those facilities, or is paid by the provider.

Get around[edit]

By rover[edit]

Rover Sojourner, the most popular model

This British car manufacturer (defunct on Earth) somehow managed to obtain a monopoly over all automobile transport on Mars.

You may be escorted on some tours in a "Microdot" 3 seater 'Rover'.

By bound[edit]

"Bounding" is a common way of travelling outside of structures, and many Earthlings are surprised by how fast and smoothly they can actually move. Remember to be careful not to bump into other "bounders," as this is rude and can cause injury. All large cities have excellent public transportation services, such as subways, monorails, and buses.

By choo-choo train[edit]

There are some intercity rail-services, with the tourist rail cruise the "John Carpenter" having recently started operations.

Not by boat[edit]

Despite rumours on Earth dating back to 19th century Italy, Mars does not in fact have any canals or water-based transport.

Nor by car[edit]

A blondie tried this once in the 1980's; it didn't end well: "Go out to the parking lot, And you get in your car and drive real far, And you drive all night and then you see a light, And it comes right down and lands on the ground, And out comes a man from Mars, And you try to run but he's got a gun, And he shoots you dead and he eats your head". Hopefully, humanity has learned its lesson and will never repeat this unfortunate mistake.

In addition discount thoughts of bringing your expensive 'roadster' with you, it won't be allowed past Martian customs.

Maps[edit]

Google and NASA provide good maps of Mars.

See[edit]

Olympus Mons (construction has not yet been completed on the cable car system)
  • Ares. The interplanetary spacecraft that was used to bring the first group of colonists to the planet—an extraordinary feat of engineering and construction for its time. Named after the Greek counterpart of the Roman god Mars. Mars trilogy on Wikipedia Mars trilogy (Q970160) on Wikidata
  • 1 Olympus Mons. The tallest mountain in the Solar System. Travellers will need a solid afternoon of hard climbing to scale the 25 km volcanic slopes. Luckily, gravity on Mars is a little more than a third of what it is on Earth, which makes climbing lighter. Free, but tradition dictates the sacrifice of a pig as tribute to the gods. Olympus Mons on Wikipedia Olympus Mons (Q520) on Wikidata
  • 2 Valles Marineris. A huge system of canyons on the surface. How they formed is still a subject of debate, but they represent one of the largest canyons in the Solar System. Valles Marineris on Wikipedia Valles Marineris (Q621110) on Wikidata
  • "Darkside" Station X (Joint Facility Violet Four). Tours by prior arrangement only... ID required. "Darkside" as it's known, is operated by the Joint Planetary Liason (JPL) , and is amongst the largest radio arrays in the Sol system. Not only is conventional Terran transmission equipment used to relay message to older trans-planetary freighters, but a recent generation of hyper-luminal Mars band terra-hertz transmisson, has greatly improved communication with asteroid prospecting vessels.
    There is a small musem and presentation about the array. Tours include the main array, and a viewing galleries for the two space operations hubs adjacent to the array. "Warden" hub handles Earth Mars trans-planetary space control, whilst "Guardian" monitors all the way out into the asteroid belt and beyond.
  • The Capricorn Museum of Majestic Awakening. A small museum, but an essential stop for any tourist visiting Mars. The Museum houses an extensive collection of small relics, relating to the history of how humanity was awoken over a century not only to the existence of a Martian Culture, and open contact, but to humanity's eventual interstellar role. Tourists will find some of the 'deception' props used to hide early contact, ingenious if not credibility-stretching by modern standards. The shop sells a few souvenirs which are far better quality then the "I was brainwashed on Mars and all I got was this was lousy..." shirts, mugs, and body bags that Venusian hawkers outside will try to offer.
  • Utopia Planitia. A flat area, not far from the northern Polar region. Stretching some 3200 kms across, it's perfect for longer tours. The Mie crater is a particularly fine example of the acne-like texture of the red planet. Moreover you can see the Viking 2 lander here.
  • Monument to Mark Whatney. A giant potato to honor the "Best Botanist on the Planet". Feces jokes strongly discouraged.

Do[edit]

Geez, those kids that have just gotten their rover driver's license...

Gyms are very important on Mars, as exercise is required in order to stay healthy with the low gravity. Gyms are a very popular spot for recreation, and the local culture is incredibly bro-ish as a consequence. Expect to be asked whether you even lift, dozens of times during your stay, by curious Martians baffled by human muscle wastage.

Play a game of jetan (an expanded form of chess), but be warned some jetan grand masters will be able to sense an intended play many moves in advance. A rarer version of Martian chess, utilising at least 32 pieces on either side also exists, but is seldom played outside of dedicated tournaments.

Attend the Tenth Annual Mars parade of 2048, as "First Species" groups have agreed to an extensive contribution. Or, you could just go to the first parade this year. It really depends on whether you have perfected time travel yet or not, and if you haven't, what on Mars are you waiting for?

A popular local pastime among young Earthling immigrants is to drive around in the outback with rovers, making funny tracks, taking a photo and sharing it on Spacebook, as in the photo to the right which was scandalously posted by a respected space agency from Earth. Sometimes local youth does this too, but then the pictures look vastly different and as such Earthlings (including you) wouldn't recognize what they've drawn as something obscene.

Winter sports, especially polar areas that are covered by ice and snow are well suited for all kinds of winter sports; Alpine and cross country skiing, snowboarding, skating, sledding... you name it!

Hiking is also popular among locals and tourists alike.

Buy[edit]

"The entire planet for one bead"

While shopping in one of Mars' famously airless malls, you may hear the following expression "(You want / I'm giving you) the entire planet for one bead!". This is used as a colloquialism by buyers to indicate an unrealistically high price, or conversely by retailers to refuse what they see as a paltry offer.

The origins of this expression date back to the time a human billionaire bought the entire planet of Mars from the Kanarsi tribe in exchange for one enormous diamond. The other peoples of Mars disputed that the planet was ever the Kanarsis' to sell in the first place, so the newly penniless and planetless human bitterly spread the character-assassinating rumour that the tribe had selfishly sold him their ancestral lands for a "worthless trinket".

The Kanarsis, having long since departed Mars, are no longer around to dispute this version of events. It is said that they used their immense acquired wealth to purchase thousands of properties in Manhattan, and are today among Earth's wealthiest real estate oligarchs.

Martian retailers accept all major Earth credit and debit cards with the exception of American Express. The local payment card, MartianCard, is readily identifiable by the logo which depicts the planet's two overlapping moons. These cards have been exported to other planets under various familiar names, but any billing enquiries tend to take at least one Martian solar year to resolve. In the meantime, MartianCard keeps cold-calling to attempt to sell you their premium "master" card at a higher fee.

A popular souvenir for Earth tourists to take home is a chunk of reddish rock, as this is the one product Mars has in abundance. Alternatively, there are many postcards, sculptures and paper weights depicting or reproducing Martian rock. As (unlike on the Moon) it is illegal to help yourself to ground rocks or chip away at cliffs and boulders, you must buy your Martian rocks from official government-sanctioned retailers (such as Ye Olde Originale Mars Rocke Company, Hard Rock Café, Glixixl's Best Quality Rocks and Rocks "Я" Us) who are themselves restricted to harvesting their entire annual supply of rocks during Rocktoberfest, which takes place in April. The authorities are extremely strict on this, as the Martian economy is functionally dependent on the steady but controlled supply of rocks. Travellers found in possession of black market or independently-caught rocks will be dealt with harshly; the minimum sentence for those convicted is having their vital organs turned into soup.

It is impossible to buy fresh Earth fruit and veg on Mars, though tinned varieties are available, but be sure you have a compatible can-opener.

When purchasing food, drink or certain other "consumable" items, you may be asked for an 'ecoposit' by Terran colonists. This is to offset recycling costs, and to encourage resource sharing. By comparison don't be surprised if colonists will graciously tip you if you are observed reusing old containers, or ask about recycling points without prompting.

Eat[edit]

Deep-fried Mars bar

The national dish amongst Terran colonists is the deep-fried Mars bar. Don't leave without trying it. And don't come without not trying it.

Rumors that the native inhabitants engaged in cannibalism during famines have not been verified since their first, scandalous publication in 1961. But as the old saying goes, "If you remember being eaten in the sixties, you weren't there."

If you don't like the local Martian food, your other choice will be camping food imported from Earth amounting to different types of canned and dried food. To add insult to injury, it's pretty damn expensive as well. After a trip to Mars, prices of fresh fruits and vegetables that have been flown in by helicopter to some remote community in Greenland will seem very affordable to you.

Drink[edit]

Efforts to find surface water on Mars are, for the most part, a time-consuming exercise in frustration. The vast majority of water on the planet is in the form of ice, though with skill and luck you may be able to find a bit of liquid brine. Alternatively, you can melt some ice to drink. Make sure to filter out the minerals before consuming it, though.

Water supplies in tourist resorts are typically from glacial sources, or from deep-bores. The limited supply means that sensible water use is recommended.

Dry ice is plentiful, especially in polar regions. Placing dry ice into water (such as fruit punch) to generate a burping, bubbling, smoking cauldron of dihydrogen monoxide is a favourite Martian party trick as sublimation is accelerated with low-sinking, dense clouds of smoke-like fog created.

Be very skeptical of any water that shows signs of sentience, particularly if it starts zombifying the people around you. Some say it's an ancient water-borne intelligent bacteria called The Flood, others put it down to a byproduct of fluoridation.

The nightlife has little atmosphere and leaves much to be desired. On Mars, the party never starts.

Work[edit]

I, for one, welcome our new alien overlords. Like the Empire of the Ants, Mars is a bustling centre of activity which offers a fast-paced work environment. Just don't move too slowly or you may be eaten alive.

Learn[edit]

  • Campus Martius. Built as part of the first organized settlement in 1788. Much of the school's infrastructure was moved underground to protect it from -70°C nighttime temperatures, leaving just Campus Martius Park visible to incoming alien probes. The campus looks almost as deserted as Detroit from the surface, but it would be a shame to just blindly fly by. Why miss landmarks like the Campus Martius Museum, which documents the bitterly-cold history of the planet's frigid Northwest Territory?

Sleep[edit]

Mars is a wretched place to pitch a tent.
  • Martian best hotels website. We are Mars' premier luxury hotel booking service. We charge no commission fee for our Very Expert advise and professional Standards. Independently accredited by the Mars Aggregators Registration System and all major tourism boards in the Solar system.

Lodging[edit]

The Earth-owned Mars One hotel chain is in the process of being established. Until then, you need to stay at local Martian hotels.

The tacky neon motel with the roadside-facing outdoor pool is best avoided, given Mars' climate. Even if the brochure and website depict the pool of carbonic ice as "refreshing" and "invigorating", unless you're a polar bear it's more comfortable to move indoors or even underground.

Camping[edit]

Annoying little rocks and chilly winds makes camping a rather uncomfortable experience on Mars. Lighting a campfire is considerably more difficult than on Earth, due to the lack of combustible fuel. Even if you pack your own firewood, the extreme fluctuations in temperature between day (a balmy 35°C) and night (a nippy -55°C) and the extremely high concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere conspire to ensure those marshmallows will never thaw, let alone be toasted. Ecology concerns have prohibited portable nuclear batteries.

Backcountry[edit]

Mars is bitterly cold and a wretched place to pitch a tent. Only consider sleeping on Mars if your only other option is sleeping in a youth hostile hostel or on an airline flight.

Stay safe[edit]

"First-species" groups on Mars can contain telepathic and reflectively empathic individuals, which can lead to unexpected psychological shock both for the unprepared tourist, and Martian. In extreme cases the inadvertent projection of cultural and literary tropes from earth tourists has lead to confused Martians invoking extreme fear in tourists unintentionally, as well as Martian warning attempts being misread as a different type of threat.

Although unique microbial fauna are present on Mars, with the draconian quarantine and hygiene precautions, cross-contamination of this with terran originated material is unlikely. The tourist is unlikely to have any serious reaction to so called 'Martian' Flu, although concerns have been raised as to the potential for parasitical and pathogenic contamination in some deep glacial water sources. Epidemological work on first 'species' susceptibility to terran originated parasites and pathogens is ongoing.

Owing to earlier conflicts and the de-facto abandonment of some large stone based structures, some areas of Mars may pose a "radiation" hazzard. if visiting these areas, a local guide is essential, as is a 'Mars-suit' with appropriate shielding.

Respect[edit]

Respect for Martian "First Species" groups is essential. Although there are still occasional jokes made about cultural differences, 'greenface' humor is simply not tolerated, and can get you into serious trouble.

Martians are extremely sensitive about their general depiction as aggressive warmongers in Earth media. Any talk about heat rays will be met with strong disapproval, and may result in you being vaporized fined. Don't mention The War of the Worlds. I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it alright. Besides, Martian economic sanctions imposed against Mercury in the wake of the groundbreaking 1938 Mercury Theatre on the Air broadcast still remain in effect years later – and a Martian year is a very long time.

It is considered impolite to use the following terms in reference to Martians: Barsoomians, tripod-dwellers, Marvins, Ice Warriors, hrossa, sorns and pfifltriggi. Confusing Martians and Venusians is also going to meet with derision. The use of any of these pejoratives is not a bit nice, and will make the locals very angry, very angry indeed.

Connect[edit]

Mars is a few light-minutes away from Earth, so any communication with home involves at least a three-minute speed-of-light delay, which can increase to as much as 22 minutes depending on where Earth and Mars are in their respective orbits. This makes it infeasible to call home or videochat with your friends and family, but you can send emails, voicemails, and video recordings if you're willing to pay the interplanetary roaming fees.

There is a limited Martian internet, but not much native e-commerce outside of certain .3615 services, the morality of which has been called into question on numerous occasions.

Choice in television services is generally limited to tourist resorts, or colony areas, with the exception of Mars TV 1 (MTV1) which is also the main news provider. Whilst there are 2 other planet-wide networks, "Beyond" for the most airs imported Terran entertainment, and "Network Too" being run by and for "First Species" Martians.

Cope[edit]

Embassies and consulates[edit]

  • the European Union European Union (Ambassade de l'Union européenne), Champ de Mars (RER: Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel , access to Mars via wormhole in the barrier between platforms 9 and 10.). The only earthen embassy to Mars is, sadly, operated by les Parigots on behalf of the European Union. If you are from the United Kingdom, it may be best to avoid contact with embassy personnel in all but the most dire of emergencies, so as to avoid the Brexit controversy spilling over to other planets. The French coldly remember Britain's historic attempts to add Mars to the All-Red Route and continue to tend to be resentful.

Go next[edit]

Travel Warning WARNING: Abandoned facilities on Phobos and Deimos may harbor different kinds of creepy monsters from simple Zombiemen to Barons of Hell that can take ten hits from a bazooka. They were thought to be blasted to pulp back in 1993, but epidemics resurface every ten years or so, and the Doomguy needs to be called in again. If you want to explore these places, buy a BFG9000 (or SKAG1337) on the black market (the Saturnian mafia is your best bet) and learn to use it or better still, try to get the Doomguy to come with you.
SpaceX tourism poster for Phobos and Deimos

The same strict quarantine as on arrival applies on departure, and most fresh foods grown on Mars cannot be exported.

  • Phobos – Mars's larger moon. Small and rocky, but its location and lack of gravity and atmosphere mean that it's a decently common place for making transfers. It's worth visiting for the historic sites, which include support facilities for early exploration missions from Earth as well as a former military base built into the moon (the eerie atmosphere is something visitors note). Phobos is quite close to Mars and its orbit is less than eight Earth hours, so even a medium-length transfer here allows you to see different parts of Mars as the planet rotates in the sky. Also home to the Vulcan Foundry Museum.
  • Deimos – Mars's smaller moon, only 12.4 km (7.8 mi) in diameter, which doesn't have much in the way of population or facilities. That being said, it's great place to relax on the sand and enjoy the peace and quiet as you watch Mars and Phobos go by in the sky.
  • Jupiter – the largest planet in the solar system, with views that are literally otherworldly. Witness the outer atmosphere's extroardinary colorful bands; the Great Red Spot, an enormous storm that has been going on for hundreds of years; a faint ring system; and a staggering array of nearly seventy moons, ranging in size from tiny unnamed ones that are much smaller than Deimos to giant Ganymede, which is larger than Mercury. Don't miss the unique moon Europa, which has an oxygen atmosphere and is believed to have liquid water due to tidal effects from Jupiter's gravity (don't land on it though); or Io, rapidly becoming a mining centre.
  • Venus – known mostly for its 464°C (867°F) surface temperatures, hotter than Mercury. Even Hell is more hospitable; the lake of burning sulphur boils over at a relatively-cool and refreshing 444°C (832°F). Nonetheless, if you took separate vacations after your local library miscatalogued the quick-fix "men are from Mars, women are from Venus, little ill-behaved hellions are from Hades" books under "910 - Travel" instead of placing them in the speculative fiction section, you will have to turn back to attempt to salvage what's left of your relationship.
  • Earth – yeah, as if you'd want to go back there...