The Spirit of Christmas by Stuart Atkinson

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SUMMARY: The first manned expedition to Mars makes a long-awaited discovery that will change Mankind's view of the universe forever... and has an encounter with an old friend...


< Transcript of Christmas Eve, 2015, Live Broadcast from Mars 1 Base camp, Gusev crater >

(Broadcast opens with Mars 1 mission symbol - a dove settling onto the red planet with an olive branch clutched in its beak - before screen clears to show a close-up of a familiar female
face, smiling out from an EVA suit helmet visor, with straggles of blonde hair peeping out from under the rubber skull cap. Text caption to screen lower right identifies camera subject as
Mars Mission Commander Beth Lewis.)

(smiling widely) "Greetings, and Happy Christmas to everyone watching across all the countries and continents of the Earth, from the surface of Mars..! Well, I say everyone... Mission
Control has informed us that viewing figures for these weekly broadcasts have been falling a little over the past couple of months, so I hope someone's watching this back there. We're
certainly thinking of all of you - not just our friends and families, though we miss them dearly - as we celebrate Christmas here, half-way across the solar system.

(pause, as Cdr glances down from camera, apparently checking notes)

"I know that you were all expecting a standard mission update, and that will come, but today we have something a little more... special, for you. More than half a century ago, long before any of the Mars 1 team was even born, three astronauts, the crew of the Apollo 8 mission, made a special Christmas broadcast to the people of Earth as they rounded the Moon. They offered, as their gift to the people of the world, a remarkable view - the whole Earth, rising from behind the lifeless limb of the Moon, a blue and white bauble shining against the blackness of space. Quoting passages from the Bible, they altered forever Man's perception of the Universe, and his place in it. Tonight, we hope to honour their memory, their vision, with a special broadcast of our own... and we have not one, but three gifts for you, the people of Earth. But all will be revealed later; for
now, let me give you an update on how things are here on Mars, at the end of Sol 56 of Mars 1."

(camera zooms out from Cdr Lewis' face, to a wide-angle shot showing she is standing in front of the MarsHab module. Her spacesuit is coloured gleaming white, signifying her rank and role.)

(Cdr Lewis sweeps arm across view behind her) "You'll all be familiar with this view by now, I'm sure... this is our home, the Hab module, which we landed inside the famous crater Gusev almost two months ago, close to the equally famous Columbia Hills. Space cadets among you will know that Gusev is where the first of the two Mars Exploration Rovers, "Spirit", landed way, way back in 2004, and that it trundled around inside this crater for almost three Earth years before finally succumbing to the cold. During that time it climbed to the top of the Columbias as we will do before we leave for Earth and discovered evidence that this area was once volcanically active. It also photographed strange structures and shapes on and inside some of the rocks here, suggestive of life, and that's why we came here, following in Spirit's footsteps or wheel-tracks to see if Spirit really did discover fossils on Mars as all those people on the internet insisted it had.

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