Before Curiosity landed in the shadow of Aeolis Mons,
Lowered to the ground by the “Are you INSANE???” Skycrane;
Before Opportunity rolled across Meridiani
To drop into Eagle Crater in that “cosmic hole in one”;
Before Spirit bounced and boinged across Gusev’s dusty floor,
Scaring us all half to death before finally phoning home,
There was Sojourner.
Ah, Sojourner. Some of us knew you before that spud-munching
Castaway dug you up (in totally the wrong place)
Then brought you back to life like Young Frankstein.
You were the queen of the first Internet Age,
When AOL was Emperor of Cyberspace
And living rooms and dens all around the world
Echoed to the chirps and cheeps of dial-up connections,
And “Stop buffering!” screams…
No HD live streaming in those days;
No Flat Earth YouTube channels to subscribe to;
No data-flogging Facebook full of photographs
Of cats and “Look what I had for breakfast!”;
No basement-dwelling Twitter trolls fat-shaming film stars
Or 4am Trump rants threatening nuclear war.
Most heard you’d landed the old fashioned way,
“on The News”, and only a few of us could get online
To see the images you returned.
Back then, “having the Internet” was like owning a TV
After World War II. I was still years away
From my first toe-dip into that pixelated sea.
A kind friend of mine printed off your images for me
And pushed them through my door.
And those pictures… so much more perfect than they had a right to be
With that time’s tech.
I remember gasping at the sight of snub-nosed Yogi, encrusted with dust;
Barnacle Bill, pitted and pocked; Scooby Doo and Bamm Bamm
Almost close enough to touch.
And you, looking like an unwanted toy discarded on a quarry floor,
Dwarfed by Half Dome and Shark and all the other tombstone boulders
Swept down Ares Valles by ancient, angry floods…
But you didn’t care! You just rolled around them,
Or clambered over them if you could, as curious and carefree
As a cat, your spiky little wheels pointing this way and that…
Your descendants will stay on Mars forever,
Too big to send home, but I hope they find a way
To bring you back to Earth one day,
Then everyone will see that you were so much more
Than Matt Damon’s robot dog.
© Stuart Atkinson 2018