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We know that some walkers are now moving on from the original Marilyn concept of this magazine and have gone on to write about their exploits on the Humps, Ultras, etc. I am one of them, as in 2012 I spent more days on the Birketts and Synges of the Lake District. However, more interesting than that, I have decided to have a look at future Marshof News material: what bagging opportunities may exist on the planet Mars? Consider that it is only some 500 years or seven human lifetimes ago that European baggers, had there been any, could have been writing about what may lay ahead for their future expeditions in the then newly-discovered Americas. And, some of our more inaccessible mountains have only been bagged within my lifetime, e.g. Everest 1952; Mt Vinson 1966; now any tourist mountaineer with sufficient competence, fitness and funds can visit these.
What is it like there? Mars, fourth planet from the sun (Earth is third), is the second smallest; only Mercury is smaller. It is 53% of Earth's diameter at about 6700km. Its mass is 11% of Earth's, resulting in a lower gravity: 38% of ours, so here, where I weigh in at 72kg, I would only be 27kg, so that should make for easier hill-climbing. With no surface water, the land area is about the same as Earth's, so there is plenty to explore. One of the snags is that the average surface temperature is -47C. In summer on the equator it could be 20C by day, but -90C by night. These large temperature ranges can drive tornados which whip up the surface iron oxide dust, creating dust storms.
Another snag is that the atmosphere is 95% carbon dioxide with only a trace of oxygen and only 0.6% of our atmospheric pressure, so we are going to be kitted out in pressurised space suits with an oxygen supply. However, on the positive side, the day is 24 hours 37 minutes long, and the year is 687 earth days long - lots of time to build up a good year-end total.
There are plenty of mountains to tackle; here are details of some of the larger ones, subject to confirmation by the tamperers:
Olympus Mons is one of the largest volcanoes in the Solar System, whilst Aeolis Mons, also known as Mount Sharp, is about the same size as Mons Huygens, the highest lunar mountain. Aeolis is not volcanic but is a mound of sedimentary layers, laid down and eroded over some two billion years.
A potential bagger from Earth is already busy there. It is a mechanised one, the Curiosity Mars rover, which arrived on 6 August 2012. It left Earth on 26 November 2011 for the 563-million km journey. As with many Earth-based baggers, you can read up on her adventures on Facebook and Twitter. Curiosity landed in the pleasant-sounding Yellowknife Bay, part of Aeolis Palus, the plain at the base of Aeolis Mons. It has only moved about 300 metres so far (January 2013) and is carrying out numerous scientific experiments, gathering knowledge to assist with earthling's eventual arrival. One of the 2013 goals is to visit Aeolis Mons, so if it reaches the summit, there would be the first Mars mountain bagger. Exciting or what?
One of the drawbacks with early manned missions to Mars might be the cost. Out-of-this-world space tourism opportunities are already coming our way via the agency, Space Adventures. Travel around the moon for two is due to start in 2015 but a ticket will cost £94 million; probably beyond the means of most RHB baggers and you do not get to land. So what price a ticket to land on Mars maybe 100 years hence - well we do not know, but 500 years ago, who would have believed that anyone would ever be able to fly from Britain to the west coast of America in reasonable comfort in less than twelve hours for an affordable price?
Roll on to year 2513. What exploits will there be to report for Marshof News? Who will be the 25th century author of Relative Hills of Mars?
Mars is there, waiting to be reached.
- Buzz Aldrin
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