The habitat was not the worst place he had ever lived in. That was taken care of by the journey to Mars. Six months in a cramped spaceship, with the grind of daily exercise to keep their bones in order.
The landing was not the end - once down they still had to get to Port Lowell, the first Martian city on the red planet.
‘You’re here Alex,’ he said inside, ‘you’re really here.’ Finding the enormity of what he had done hard. He would never be able to get back to Earth even if he wanted to.
There was the trip to Port Lowell several miles away by all-terrain vehicles, to the colony founded nearly a decade before.
It was a pleasure, once in the colony, to be able to stride about and take in the sights, such as they were. What the early science-fiction writers had not taken into account was the difficulty of creating domes to house the colony - these existed, but were mainly used for plant growth, the main colony existed in a series of one-storey buildings with solar panel arrays above and large airtight, plexiglass windows. The main part of the colony existed underground.
That was the reason for the new arrivals.
They were there to build the second city of Mars.
Instead of being on one of the plains like Port Lowell, Valles Marineris would be in the deepest valley of the planet. The spaceship in which they had arrived was designed to be flown again and take a group of colonists down to the bottom of the valley, a ‘shallow’ area that was still deeper than the Grand Canyon on Earth.
Alex was barely in his twenties so he was young and fit, but even then he found each day a trial as he dealt with the logistics of getting to ‘their’ spot.
The whole process had taken several weeks, vastly aided by the fact that unmanned supply ships had been sent from Earth at the same time as their own. These ships had landed as close to the valley as possible and contained not just the Habs as the habitats were called, but flying craft. Those craft, powered remotely like giant drones, had carried the empty shells of the habitats down one at a time, enabling those who had climbed to the foot of the valley to begin setting them up. The habitats were basically large, airtight boxes that could be set into the ground and act as the new city. Once the oxygen manufacturing units were plugged in the Habs became new homes for the colonists, and could be extended by domes and the underground extensions carved out of the soft ground.
Within three months Alex was part of a working colony. They were being supplied by the food and water contained in the unmanned ships, but they were already well on the way to being self-sufficient in both because crops were on the way, grown in the domes. Water was gathered during the long Martian nights by the stills that were placed on every building. Frost would gather and would be melted by heated wires and the water would run into the gathering units, from where it would be stored in large tanks.
Alex lived with three other men in his Hab. The colonists were separated by sex unless they were married couples - but none of them were forbidden from seeing each other, it was just that babies were not practical for at least the first year of the new colony. It was still cold and dark as he came out of his home wearing his protective spacesuit and oxygen tank.
He was motivated by one single desire. There was a girl called Lena who had come over from Port Lowell to be part of the new colony. She was barely twenty years old and she had been seeking his company following the old adage that birds of a feather stick together.
The stars were still shining overhead because they were just coming into a Martian day and he looked up and saw them, so clear in an atmosphere that was far thinner than that of Earth. They now had over twenty domes of various sizes, each one containing a different crop. One day the hope was that the colonists would seal in this part of the valley with a seemingly gossamer covering overhead, walled in at either end with walls of earth and stone, then they would put out the plants in the watered ground and start creating a miles-wide habitat, a true Hab, the size of a proper city with an atmosphere that would not leak into space.
They were making a living Mars.
As he made his way to get Lena, Alex felt an ache between his shoulder blades from the hard day of labour he had undergone the day before, but he ignored this and met up with his new friend. They went to the underground entrance together and went through the airlock to a softly lit oxygenated tunnel where they took up their tools after taking off their helmets and began to work on expanding the underground part of their city, directed by one of the engineers.
They could kiss and cuddle in their own time.
Authors note: I, Alex, came away from the simulation staggered at the level of detail. I had been using one of the new virtual reality helmets, and for my time in the simulation I believed I was actually there. I was that young man going to live on Mars for the rest of his life.
There was a new hope in me, we could pull together as a human race, achieving one of the greatest goals possible.
It is my obsession: even if it doesn’t happen for me I know it will be possible for my descendants.
One day there will be Martians.