Freeing Spirit


There she is, see?

That fleck-of-dust-on-your-screen

Black speck just off to Homeplate’s side.

Magnifying with HiWISH mouse clicks reveals

Her insectoid shape; the shadows

Of her blue bottle wings cast on the ground beneath

As she bathes in the shrunken Sun’s glow;

Her body encrusted in cinnamon-hued dust,

Still trapped in the cold, sucking sands of Troy,

A terran fly rooted in Barsoomian amber,

Never to roll into the shade of crazily-capped Von Braun,

Never to rove again.


So hard to see her standing there and know

There’s nothing to be done! No hope

Of rescue, no opportunity to run

Down Husband Hill’s side, through El Dorado’s

Black, crushed beetle sands to stand beside her,

Brush in hand, and sweep those fines away.

It would take how many of us

To scoop the dirt out from beneath her wheels?

Surely two or three “rover fans”, scrabbling

With fat-fingered gloves could easily

Spring her from that trap? And I’m sure

That on his own @marsroverdriver could drag

Her free, heaving and heaving until

Her liberation was complete…


But such a daring rescue is, and forever will remain,

A dream. Wheels will never whirr this way again,

And I fear boots will not crump across Homeplate’s

Humped back until long after I am dead.

For Mankind is turning its back on Barsoom,

Relegating it from The Next Frontier

To merely another ruddy star fighting

To be seen in Terra’s light-polluted sky.


I could cry with shame to think it may be another century

Until another human hand reaches out and touches Spirit,

Shaking as their fluttering fingers brush away the dust

Revealing the rover beneath – a pilgrim

From the Evening Star coming face

To face with a fossilised heroine from our

Ancient, foolish age…


Or perhaps a thousand years will pass

Before a lost soul wanders this way,

And with all memories of MER forgotten long ago

They’ll think they see a statue standing here,

Sculpted from Gusev’s bone-dry basalt

By some golden-eyed Michelangelo.


© Stuart Atkinson 2012

(This one is for Scott Maxwell, Mars rover driver and all-round great guy, who has supported my writing, and my blog, brilliantly – and if sheer willpower and love could get him to Mars to bodily drag Spirit out of that dust hole, he’d be there right now…)

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2 Responses to Freeing Spirit

  1. Astro0 says:

    Something in my eye. Darn Martian dust! 😉

    Brilliant work as always Stu.

  2. Thank you.

    Wonderfully evocative, and heartbreaking, too.

    As a child of the Apollo years, I never questioned that Mars was the next desitnation. Maybe the 1980’s or perhaps as late as the 1990’s, but I never thought that we’d take the most difficult step (the first one) to becoming an interplanetary species, but not the second.

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