Onto the thick, red, dead sands of Mars, the Mars rover imprinted the signature of life. Across the ripples of sand, miles of ripples laid out by the wind, ripples that curved and curved in and out and were never straight for long, ripples that were not smiles or frowns but merely the face of a vast indifference, ripples that millions of planets made as unknowing art for no one—across these ripples the Mars rover printed two long, straight, purposeful tracks.

Already these tracks had become the straightest lines ever to appear on Mars, ever to appear in over four billion years of curved and jagged lines drawn by wind, meteors, volcanoes, and water. The tracks rolled across the land as straight as possible, veering a bit only when the sandscape required it, only to fit the crests and troughs of the ripples and dunes. This veering of tracks was a subtle contest between order and chaos, between direction and deflection. The tracks spelled out the difference between Mars and Earth. The tracks announced that while the sands of Mars had been blowing back and forth for over four billion years, Mars’s neighboring planet had undertaken a greater journey. Earth had been going somewhere. Now Earth had transported itself to Mars, and Earth was going somewhere on Mars, going straight upon curves, going somewhere purposefully. The Mars rover headed straight ahead day after day, heading for a goal over the horizon.

The Mars rover was made out of the same matter as Mars, even out of the same silica as Martian sand. When sunlight hit the Martian sand, its silica warmed up a bit and sparkled a bit, but this sparkling was only the casting aside of the sun’s energy and potential, casting it back into space. When sunlight hit the silica in the solar arrays on the Mars rover, this silica welcomed the sunlight into an elaborate system in which sunlight flowed and made the rover wheels flow, in which the raw, fierce journey of sunlight through space became the journey of the rover straight over curves and over the horizon. The sunlight flowed into the silica in the computer chips and was focused into the computer thoughts that kept the rover moving. The sunlight flowed into camera silica and turned sunlight into images of Mars. The sunlight flowed into an antenna and became a signal flashing into the sky, into space, all the way to Earth, where it would display images of Martian silica lying quietly, obliviously, piled in ripples, blowing in eternal circles. Martian silica now imprinted with a track.

The Mars rover was made of some of the same metals as Mars, but on Mars those metals had been locked up, while on Earth metals had continued flowing. Mars once had a hot, molten iron core just like Earth, and surrounding the core was a mantle that brewed with energy. Early in its history Mars was intensely active with tectonic forces and volcanoes. Mars built the largest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons; and Mars cracked apart to form the largest chasm, Valles Marineris. But Mars, being smaller than Earth, lost its internal heat faster; its mantle and core began turning solid. Earth’s iron core remained hot and kept continents moving, mountain ranges rising, and volcanoes pouring out iron and other metals. Eventually iron flowed through veins in plants and flesh. Iron flowed as bolts and nails on wooden carts; iron flowed as automobiles; and then iron flew into the air as airplanes. Iron rose into the air as skyscrapers, huge cities made of skyscrapers, where iron flowing in veins regulated the worldwide flowing of gold and silver and the virtual coins in silicon chips. The iron and other metals that had been launched from volcanoes now fired off their own volcano and soared into the sky and into space and went to Mars and continued upon Mars’s iron-dyed red surface the ceaseless motion of Earth’s metals; the rover passed thousands of Mars volcanic rocks sitting dumbly where they had sat for a billion years.

[Continued in Confrontation 113]

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