Jennifer Wilber is an author and freelance writer from Ohio. She holds a B.A. in creative writing and English.
The name is Martin Stone. I will be beginning my descent into Mars' atmosphere shortly. The year is 2027, and I am the commander for the first manned mission to Mars, Project Prometheus, aboard the spacecraft Satellite. This is an exciting time for mankind indeed. Space travel has come a long way in the last century.
As a child, I had always dreamed that one day I would be able to travel through space and explore foreign worlds, but I had no idea that it would one day become a reality. Still, I knew from the time I was a small child dreaming of outer space that I wanted to become an astronaut when I grew up, and I never let that dream die.
We are currently in orbit around the red planet above the Cydonia region. We are scheduled to land just a few miles due east of the enigmatic Cydonia structures. Though once thought to be simply natural geologic phenomena on the surface of Mars, it was confirmed by the latest probe sent by NASA that the surface features are most likely artificial structures. We still don't know anything about them, who built them, or for what purpose, but we are hoping to find out. Some theorists believe that aliens built them, while more Earth-centric scientists claim that Earthlings must have discovered space travel earlier in our species' history, but that the knowledge was lost to the sands of time. Others still cling on to the old belief that these structures are simply natural surface features and rocks. Me, I don't know what I believe, but I sure do hope to find out.
I'm watching the surface of the planet on my monitor, and I can see the face and the pyramids from here. I don't know how they got there. The purpose of this mission is to seek answers, but even from this distance, I can't see how such things could possibly be natural occurrences. Perhaps someone was here before, ten thousand years ago. But it's a dead planet now.
I've never been one to believe in little green men from Mars, but when you look out into the enormity of our universe, it's impossible to believe that Earth is the only planet capable of supporting life. Maybe there hasn't been life other than us in our stellar neighborhood for millennia, or maybe there is someone out there watching us right now through a super-powered telescope, but one thing I know for certain: we can't be the only intelligent life out there. Not when you consider the sheer vastness of the universe. How arrogant can we be to think that we are the only ones? There are still those who believe that humans and the Earth are the center of the universe. With all the technology and scientific literature available to the common man these days, I don't understand how anyone can cling to such antiquated beliefs. We are but a speck of stardust in the vast ocean that is our universe.
What the hell is that? I felt the spacecraft shake for a second there. We must have hit a patch of turbulence. "Is everyone alright?" I call back to my crew over the comlink. Everything seems fine now. Nothing to worry about.
Okay, now what is that? Something just moved across the screen. It's like a shadow or something. I can almost make out a metallic reflection in the image. It looks like another spacecraft or something. I know, that's silly. The Satellite is the only spacecraft set to explore Mars right now. It must have been a glitch in the imaging software. Even the most high-tech hardware and software we have available isn't completely infallible.
The lights just flickered and the image on the monitor scattered. Something's not right. "Check the power supplies," I call into the comlink. "I think there's something wrong with the craft!"
"Right-o," one of the engineers calls back. "What's going on up there?"
"I don't know," I reply. "I think we're losing power."
Suddenly everything goes dark. The lights on the controls, the monitor, everything. The comlink fades as one of my crew begins to reply. It sounds urgent, but the comlink dies before he could finish his sentence. I'm trying to initiate the emergency power supply. It seems to be working. The computer system is coming back up, it seems as though the spacecraft is remaining steady, but we won't have enough power to make it to the surface safely if we don't land now. I begin to pull on the navigation to bring this craft out of orbit and to the red surface of this planet. We are too close now to give up on this mission. This mission could change everything we humans know about Mars. Hell, it could change everything we know about the universe, and ourselves! We must stop at nothing to make this mission a success. With the recent budget cuts to the space program, we might not get a second chance!
What the hell is that!? There is a strange metallic craft on the monitor! It looks like something out of a science fiction movie. A very clichéd science fiction movie. It’s a round metallic silver ball with four legs sticking out from the bottom and two antennas on top. What can that possibly be? I try to call my crew, but the comlink is still offline. The image on the monitor scatters again and goes dark. This cannot possibly be happening. The computer system is completely fried. Nothing is working!
The space craft is picking up momentum as it begins to fall into the atmosphere. It is so fucking hot. I can feel my back burning in the heat of the atmosphere. This craft will never be able to survive the descent. We're all going to be incinerated alive! At this speed, the entire craft will be incinerated before it even reaches the surface. There will be nothing left of this spacecraft but embers if we don't get this thing working again!
I hear a loud metallic thud from above my head, followed by the ear-splitting sound of metal being ripped apart. Something hit the craft and tore straight through the metal just above my head. We are losing cabin pressure! I quickly buckle my seatbelt to avoid being sucked out of the craft as I pull on my emergency life support helmet. I can see what looks like a small missile of some sort speeding away from the Satellite. My ship is being destroyed. I have no idea how much of the Satellite is even left.
What is that? Through my life support helmet, I can see some foreign alien-looking craft through the rupture in the top of my spacecraft. It looks like that... thing - the same craft that I saw on the monitor earlier. Could it actually be an alien spacecraft? It's definitely not something from NASA, that's for sure. Whatever or whoever it is, it doesn't want us here.
This is it. The Satellite is quickly plummeting through the atmosphere. Every inch of metal that makes up my spacecraft is now being burned away by the Martian atmosphere. My skin is burning too. My space suit isn't enough to protect me from the heat of the atmosphere. Nothing could possibly survive being exposed to this.
Oh, God, it hurts like hell! I can feel my entire body being incinerated in the atmosphere. In an instant my spacesuit is completely incinerated by the heat. My body is next. I can feel my skin being reduced to ashes in the atmosphere as I'm burnt alive. My body is being torn apart in the blaze of the Martian atmosphere, layer by layer, bit by bit. I have failed this mission. I have failed my family back home. I have failed humankind.
The Satellite itself has been nearly completely incinerated by now. There will be nothing left of this ship, or of me, by time we reach the surface. It all happened in an instant. There will soon be nothing left of the Satellite, or of its crew, save for a thin coating of dust and ash across the planet's surface.
Satellite was inspired by the song "Satellite" by the Crüxshadows.
© 2021 Jennifer Wilber