Preparing To Drive


Standing statue-still,

Her martian monster truck wheels yet to turn,

Her onboard oven yet to burn

Even a single gram of grit or dirt,

Curiosity considers her fate.


While Flashy NASA websites insist

The nuclear-powered geologist,

Was sent to Mars to hunt for signs

Of long-dead primitive martian life

She knows the truth:

She is a robot gladiator,

Taken from the brilliant sunlight

Of a Pasadenan summer

And transported to Barsoom;

A metal, glass and wire John Carter,

Abducted from a world of achingly-blue skies

And rain-fattened clouds to fall

Through alien-hued heavens painted

Not fifty but a thousand shades of orange and gold

Before dropping to the stone-strewn ground

On the end of a tether after those now-famous

“7 Minutes of Terror” to begin

A new life in exile on a world so far

From her Californian home it can only be seem

As a star, on the rare nights the smog will allow.


Her battlefield – the place where she is now fated

To live and die – is Gale, a crater that dwarfs

Any visited before. No swaying palm trees here;

No beaches of soft, warm sand.

This land is cold, colder than a comet’s heart,

And all but a ghostly whisper of its once-thick

Atmosphere has been sucked away by Time,

Leaving behind a desert drenched in dust,

Rust- and ochre rocks a’scattered everywhere,

From wheel shadow to horizon,

Where the crater’s jagged rim wrap around it

Like the Coliseum’s curving walls.


Unlike her sister, still roving half a world away,

She will not explore this bone dry wilderness,

Her goal is to survive it long enough

To discover something – beyond incredible.

Curiosity is more Katniss than Captain Cook;

Gale is her Arena, and each Sol Mars will send

A new Tribute to test her:

Dust storms will try to blind and weaken her;

Software faults will seek to stop her in her tracks.

Every dawn could be her last. And with no silvery

Chutes delivering aid from home she will be totally alone

As she roams the crater floor,

Driving where no robot has ever driven before.


But there can be no escape from here;

Tiers of ancient rock surround her on all sides,

So she must drive in towards the crater’s heart,

Through a Barsoomian Badlands of mesas, buttes and scarps

To where a mountain reaches up to scrape the

Butterscotch sky. Yes, a mountain! Not as sharp

As its (unofficial-but-beloved-by-many) name

Suggests, but still, the highest feature yet

To be seen from below by any roaming adventurer

From Earth, the chance to reach out with a robot arm

And touch its gateau layers of stone

Worth the astronomical cost alone –


–         but that is all to come.


Today she stands restless, flexing her muscles,

Waiting, waiting, hating being unable to roll forwards;

A bull crushed behind a rodeo gate,

Horns down, snorting at the stony ground,

Must-see driving destinations all around;

One rock already death ray zapped, millions more

Scattered as far as her sweeping Cylon ChemCam eye can see.

“Release me…” she demands, a trapped wolf growling

In the darkness, “set me free and you will see

What I can do…”


© Stuart Atkinson 2012

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1 Response to Preparing To Drive

  1. Pingback: “Preparing to Drive…” « THE GALE GAZETTE

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