He looked up towards the sky. The lavish, deep red sky. So adorned by the rest of the Solar system, with its crisp crimson winds and parchment paper clouds. Mars had always been the prettiest. A gorgeous ruby, glowing amidst spheres of rock and hydrogen, with courteous humility and submission. A hundred and fifty eight years ago, when the first world was still the sole proprietor of the galaxy’s life forms, a human on Mars would have seemed, for the first time in history, feasible. But since that fateful day when the coalitions of Earth and Lunar governments decided that Mars and Europa were to be colonised next, life had changed for a good many of the inhabitants of the first world. There were new opportunities. Sailing to a new world, like Columbus or Livingstone.
The Martian climate didn’t faze him. Technological advancements had enabled sufficient capability to enjoy several days of continuous inhalation, and several months of low power hibernation, through the scapes. Scapes were massively helpful. With their breathing apparatus, sufficient radiation shielding and near-full mobility, they enabled humans to travel with limited restrictions on virtually any surface of the Solar system. In particular, the landscapes of Titan and Mars were now almost playgrounds for human enjoyment. Titan’s nitrogenous atmosphere wasn’t hailed so dangerous anymore, and with the successful establishment of new colonies on its surface, Titan was obviously the next choice for settlement for the adventurous, or for merchants who were willing to risk gambling on a new land. Mars, being much closer to the first world, was extremely well explored and settled. Its surface dotted with little ultraperspex domes. At night, patches of its coasts, especially those along the edges of the Main Sea and Lockyer Sea, were illuminated with little glimmers of light. There was hope on Mars.
He continued climbing. The rock structures around him were uninteresting to his veteran eye, and to almost anyone not hailing from the first world. Those who hadn’t had the privilege of a single interplanetary transfer might have found something to marvel at in Mars’s geology. Orange dust caked his turquoise boots; the dust was one of Mars’ problems, especially after inhabitation. As larger settlements sprouted up, the dust storms inevitably grew larger, inch by inch. But a century of inches aren’t insignificant, and already the new worlds had to be regulated with environment policies and load distributions. Yet, it was quaint, in a way. Here they were, particles older than the concept of time, undisturbed for millennia, safe from the crutches of life and everything it stands for. But life found a way. And as feet tend to step, did life move upwards.
Looking down he saw the Tharsis plateu; serene and yet aggressive. It wasn’t like this in the first world. It wasn’t like this on Earth. On earth, the land forms were shallow and weak. The seas, bottomless and beautiful in their radiant blue glow. Green, inviting forests and plains were strewn across the planet with little regard. But Mars was different. The rocks were massive and intimidating; gigantic swarms of maroon silicate looming over the land. Flat, barren, desolate seas that were devoid of life and kindness; almost loathing the notion of it being able to quench the planet’s thirst.
There wasn’t much left to go. The hardest part of the journey was over. The atmosphere was much less dense, but that made little difference except making the dust most passive. Step by step, he continued with the warm gleam of Sol shining on the edge of his scape shield. Sol was so different here than it was back home. On Earth, it was friendly. It was even given its own name. “The Sun.” Outside, in the ruthlessness of space and gravity, the medical saturation of words and language had sanitised it to a level of apathy. Sol, it was known, now. Time was measured in Sol days as a secondary measure to the local planetary time. With Sol appearing considerably smaller on the surface of Mars, he looked towards it, and then ahead. His shadow streamed across the golden rock surfaces which glistened spectacularly.
He was there.
Olympus Mons had been conquered.
— The planet Earth was known as the first world for being the first to harvest the full potential of life. As humans spread across little pockets of the Solar System, the original planet was still revered as the ideal environment for living.  Scapes were a modernised version of space suits, which involved a tiny compressed air cylinder, several aiding antibiotic sprays, a hibernation agent, flexible body covering and a helmet, known as the ‘scape shield’. It became known as scapes due to a very successful marketing campaign about forty years ago that involved the concept of travelling across landscapes. Eventually, the word scape became associated with the suit.  Ultraperspex: an ultra form of perspex. Stronger, obviously.  The Hohmann transfer was the most efficient and popular way of transporting ships across the Solar System, and the word transfer became associated with travel.
Written by Upamanyu Acharya