One Giant Leap
How long have we got?
Sally looked at her watch.
About three hours, she replied.
I put Mars One into orbit around the red
planet at sixteen hundred hours. Were due
to touch down in about two, and your Mars walk,
the first steps by a human on the Martian surface,
is scheduled for an hour after that.
Buzz looked at Johns
face on the monitor. Behind Johns head
could be seen the banks of consoles at mission
control in Houston. Hell, John, said
Buzz in a tone of frustration, Sally, I and
the rest of the crew have been on our way to Mars
for the past seven months. Why couldnt
there have been a decision by now?
Weve agreed all
the phrases, John replied.
Theres just last minute wrangling
about the order in which you should say them.
Dont forget that the first words spoken by
a person on Mars will go down in history.
It was easy for Neil
Armstrong, Sally commented. The
One Giant Leap speech only had to be
historic and memorable. Now that so much of this
mission has been funded by corporate sponsors who
demand advertising, its become ridiculously
Coca Cola have backed
down on wanting your first words to be
Planetary landings taste better with Coca
Cola, said John.
What persuaded them?
argued that, as Mars One has been redesigned in
the shape of a coke bottle, Coca Cola already
have more than their fair share of advertising
albeit that the word Google is
painted on one side of the spaceship and
Amazon on the other. McDonalds
want Buzz to step onto the surface, look towards
the Martian horizon and say I could sure
use a Big Mac.
Buzz put his hand into his
overall pocket and withdrew a chocolate bar.
Sally reflected that the
sweet manufacturers must have contributed a
sizeable amount of sponsorship to have the
official confectionary of the mission declared as
the Mars bar.
As the conversation between
Buzz and John continued, Sally glanced out
through a portal. She was immediately transfixed
by the beauty and majesty of the Martian
landscape that was moving past below her as Mars
One orbited the planet. Her thoughts finally
returned to the practicalities of the mission and
she glanced at her watch once more. I have
to prepare to land this ship, she said as
she stood up and began to walk towards the flight
deck. It seems to me that youve all
got about two hours to finalise the script for
Likewise, I need to
prepare for the walk on the planets surface,
Buzz said to John, reaching for the switch to end
the transmission. Contact me when the
speech is ready.
Around three hours later,
Buzz stood by the exit hatch. I cant
wait any longer, he said to John via the
headset in his spacesuit helmet. What do
you want me to say?
There was silence for
perhaps a minute. Finally he heard Johns
breathless voice in his headset. OK Buzz,
said John, weve just got agreement.
Start by saying that you got to Mars with the
speed and comfort of a Nike trainer. Go on to say
that the funding for the trip has been organised
with competence and professionalism every bit as
good as that of the HSBC Bank, itself. Then you
can move on to say how you look forward to taking
photographs on the Martian surface which will be
as excellent as those you take on your iPad.
John continued detailing the agreed phrases for
each of the major mission sponsors until he
reached the end of his list. Good luck,
he added in conclusion.
Buzz stepped from the
spacecraft onto the top rung of the ladder and
began to descend.
Eight rungs later, he
reached the bottom of the ladder and took his
final step backwards onto the Martian surface.
He turned around and looked
out across the Martian landscape. He had seen
this view hundreds of times in photographs and
during simulations but nothing had prepared him
for the real thing. He was certainly on the red
planet, but there were more shades of red before
him than there were shades of green in the
forests he so loved back in California. It was
beautiful. In that moment, it felt more beautiful
than anything he had ever seen, and he was
overcome with emotion.
Are you OK?
Buzz heard Johns voice in his headset. The
communication system had been set so that Buzz
could hear all relevant radio messages. The
millions of people on Earth, however, who were
awaiting his historic comments could only hear
the words that Buzz would say. Start
talking, instructed John, urgently.
I thought for a
moment there that this was the most beautiful
scene I had ever witnessed, said Buzz.
What the fuck are you
saying, shouted John. What about Nike?
Then I realised that,
despite its wild, desolate splendour, it
doesnt come close to so many of the diverse
locations on Earth.
John continued with an increasing tone of
desperation, if you dont get back on
message now, mission control is going to
be filled with corporate lawyers, baying for
I guess that we get
so familiar with what we have on Earth that we
kind of take it for granted.
We dont have
any sponsorship from organisations promoting
ecology, screamed John in disbelief.
We also spend so much
of our time fighting with each other or trying to
close the next deal that we lose sight of the big
broadcast, Sally. Buzz heard John speaking
to the pilot of Mars One. We cant end
it from Earth because there are too many
receivers all over the world picking up what Buzz
No need to terminate
the broadcast, Buzz heard Sally reply.
It sounds just fine to me.
Up here, Buzz
continued to address planet Earth, you
cant miss that big picture.
Buzz could hear John
sobbing. For Christ sake, Buzz, just
mention the fucking McMars Burger and McMartian
If we just looked up
at the stars more often, Buzz carried on as
if he had not heard Johns plea, we
might come to see our own individual lives in
perspective and catch a glimpse of what humankind
could together achieve. I hope this mission can
mark the beginning of seeing ourselves, our Earth
and our universe in a new way.
The sole purpose of the
initial Martian walk had been to say the all-important
first words and so, feeling he had nothing more
to say, Buzz turned and began to climb the ladder
back to the hatch of the spacecraft. As he did so
he noted almost complete silence from his headset.
There were just the distant sounds of Johns
inconsolable sobs, interspersed with his muted
cries of no, no and how could
he do this.
Buzz heard nothing more
until he opened the inner door of the airlock to
be met by the crew of Mars One. All were smiling,
but nothing could be said for a full two minutes
due to the sound of their applause, deafening in
the confines of this small area of the ship.
The standing ovation was
only brought to an end by Johns face
appearing on a nearby monitor and the sound of
his voice over the speaker.
shouted John with evident relief.
It seems that
millions of people all over the world were moved
by what you said. People are hugging each other,
cheering and dancing in the streets. The NASA
lawyers say that it would be commercial suicide
for any sponsor to sue for breach of an
advertising contract in the face of that weight
of international public opinion.
Sally smiled. Well
done, Buzz, she said. It sounds like
what you did, might, after all, have been a giant
leap for Mankind.