- Allistair Mitchell
Tales from the Edict 18 - Approaching Mars
Updated: Apr 30, 2021
The success in the early 2020’s led to a growing certainty that Mars would be colonised in short order following the return of humans to the surface of the Moon, often for long periods with the establishment of Moon Base Zero and the Chinese Guang Han Gong in 2027.
Indeed, the efforts of American private companies – SpaceX especially – did see mankind arrive in orbit around the red planet by 2028 but it had taken longer than the ever-optimistic CEO Elon Musk had expected and despite everything, the means by which men and women could survive on the planet surface would not be ready until 2031 when the first SpaceX-NASA mission landed a Starship at the Liberty Bell, five successfully landed modules (of six, the third module failing to eject its heatshield to expose the onboard reverse thrusters). The mission stayed seven weeks, oversaw the arrival of three more modules and departed In January 2032 to man the Mars Gateway space station. A further sixteen successful module landings were made and in 2034 a second crew rendezvoused with Mars Gateway before descending to the planet to establish a permanent colony, a decade after the original goal set by Musk but a milestone in human achievement.
While the US and its allies made the first landfall and established a permanent outpost, rival countries and organisations were equally focused on setting foot on Mars. The Chinese, late into the space race, had nonetheless enjoyed success with their Tianwen-1 robotic spacecraft and lander. Although goals such as the Liangjiahe lunar orbital platform and Guang Han Gong lunar base were given priority, planning had proceeded for a second Mars mission, this time manned. No doubt the success of the Liberty Bell mission spurred China to accelerate their work and bring forward the proposed mission launch date, it was not until late 2034 that a Long March 11 super heavy lifted off with a two-man crew on an orbital mission to Mars, having received permission to rendezvous with Mars Gateway.
In 2035 the historic meeting of the Chìdì 赤帝 orbital module and Mars Gateway became the first official joint operation by the US and China, seen by many as repeating the achievement of Apollo–Soyuz as the first crewed international space mission between these two countries. The fact it happened in orbit around Mars was not lost on the world, where the rivalry between these two countries remained acute. The return trip to Earth took just over a year, and the Chinese cosmonauts were accompanied by xenobiologist Dr Vivian Etrange, who made an unscheduled return having been diagnosed with a bone condition thought to be a result of extended time in low- no gravity, herself becoming the subject of extensive study.
Russia (by now the Kremlin Collective) remained focused on its mission to Venus but, in 2038, sent a Mars orbital mission which again docked with Mars Gateway, bringing with it as a gesture of goodwill, a Teplitsa (greenhouse) module similar to one fitted to the orbital platform Budushcheye. In 2038 the Kremlin Collective launched the first of an undisclosed number of launches planned to deliver automated modules to the Martian surface in anticipation of establishing a Mars base in 2043.
Finally, in 2041 the newly licensed LOPEC organisation made its Future Mars plans public, stating that it would target 2045 for the arrival of a small autonomous assembly module to begin the manufacture of a LOPEC colony outpost.