I had to write this. I was nearly crying when I finished.
Yeah, I think these little guys just get under your skin.
July 22nd, 2048
The red surface went in all directions, horizon to horizon there was nothing but dunes covered with rocky soil, the mountains in the distance looking like two-dimensional backdrops in the thin dusty atmosphere. It has been quiet and still here since the seasonal sandstorms had died down, but in the distance a lone speck was moving fast, coming closer and quickly covering the distance along the rust orange soil. The closer it came the more detail was visible and the brighter it seemed. Two figures clad in white helmets and pressure suits came into relief, sitting inside of a flat white platform that rode along a black cushion underneath it, throwing out dust in all directions. Two flat fans mounted on the back completed the profile of the hovercraft moving along the Martian landscape.
One of the figures holding a thick flat screen slaved to a camera in the nose of their vehicle, touching the screen with the fingers of his bulky gloves as he zoomed and navigated the distant images it showed.
“There it is.” He said over the radio, mild excitement in his voice. The two of them were part of the first manned mission to mars, and even though the occasion had been momentous, the “gee whiz” vibe had started to ebb. Now they were dedicated to getting the long list of tasks they were assigned done as quickly as possible before they needed to return home.
On the screen was the only white object for a hundred miles, in the distance it looked like a single white pipe streaked with red, sticking out of the ground. The astronauts teammate who was piloting the craft turned slightly to close on the object.
A few minutes later they were there. The pilot stepped out of the vehicle and looked down at what had brought them all the way from Holden Crater: what looked like a white piece of flagpole with a pair truncated opera glasses on top. His navigator walked up next to him and had to hold on tight to his tablet; they were both a little in awe.
The pilot opened up the roomy cargo compartment and pulled out a Pneumatic Soil Dispersal Tool, and while it was cased in white impact plastic and sported the NASA logo it was little more than an electric leafblower.
His comrade began to take high resolution pictures of the site with a bulky camera, to document the process of excavating the site. The pilot turned on the blower, specially designed to work in the thin martian atmosphere, and began the arduous process of blowing away all the dirt that had build up in the last forty years. An hour later he was done.
“Incredible” he murmured. In the small pit the Spirit rover was nearly perfectly preserved. The visual sensors at the top of the boom which had been exposed to the elements were scratched and weatherbeaten, but aside from some light scratching on the solar panels, no doubt from before it was buried, the rovers body looked like it could have rolled out of NASA’s labs yesterday.
“Yeah.” His fellow astronaut answered with not a little emotion. “Incredible.”
The pilot walked back to the hovercraft and started the engine up, very carefully maneuvering the craft’s cargo door as close to the hole as possible. They were almost finished and he didn’t want to make a mistake so close to completing their task.
The two men awkwardly climbed down into the hole up to their ankles, the navigator warning “Look out for the wheels. They’ll be sharp.”
When the two of them had found solid footing, they leaned around the craft and looked it over for handholds.
The two men were here to satisfy NASA’s insatiable hunger for data on how equipment survived on astral bodies, and like the Apollo astronauts before them they were here to retrieve some hardware that had been on one of those bodies and suffered in it’s environment. Before it had been Apollo 12 bringing home a part of Surveyor 3, the probe which had proven to NASA any future moon landings would be landing on solid soil rather than porous dust. This time, they were going to bring back the Spirit Rover.
With one of them at each end, they leaned down, and lifted.
“What was that?” the pilot asked. He had been holding the rover near it’s “head”, and he could have sworn he felt a slight buzzing through the casing of the craft.
“What is it?” his partner replied quizzically. Even in 2/3 gravity the rover weighed over 300 pounds, so the plan was to more drag than carry it into the cargo compartment of the hovercraft.
“I could have sworn I felt something.”
The other astronaut, who had been holding the rover from the rear edge of its solar panel, put his hand against the electronics of its underside.
“Hey, I can feel it too. It’s vibrating”
The pilot stared down at it, looking at the exposed panels.
“We must have turned something on when we wiped off the panels.”
What’s going on?
The ancient servos came to life, going through the long dormant instructions that had been transmitted decades before, simple machine code that told it to try to move it’s head, see what was around it, and transmit to earth.
They came! They came to get me!
The two pilots kept dragging the rover along the soil and rock towards the cargo compartment, the head of the rover looking all around, the two front wheels whirring away, still trying to work themselves free from it’s dusty trap. They couldn’t help but grin, as for all the world it seemed like it was excited and couldn’t contain its energy. It was as if the rover was happy that someone had come to set it free.
I knew it! I knew I was a good rover. I’m so glad I did a good job!
Now I get to come home.
Last edited by AncientMariner
on Mon Sep 12, 2011 12:33 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.