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What Is On Mars?






Part of: Secrets of Space
From: Pharaoh's Broker

"I only wish you would come along with me," replied the doctor. "I
have no idea what intelligent, educated person I can persuade to
accompany me, unless he is given an interest in the discoveries. You are
the person most interested in the enterprise, and you should go. If it
is money-making that detains you here, you may rest assured that we
shall find fortunes for both of us somewhere."

"I am a slave to the excitement of my business," I answered. "I could
not possibly spend two or three months in a lonely cell, flying through
space, without a ticker or a quotation of the market. Besides, there are
people on the earth I should not care to leave, unless I was certain of
getting back soon."

"You may be sure of excitement enough, and of a continuously novel kind.
Besides, of what interest are the people of this earth, who are all
alike, and whom we have known all our lives, compared with the rapture
of finding a new and different race, of investigating another
civilization, and exploring an entire new world?"

"I shall have to warn my friends about you and have myself watched, lest
you persuade me and run away with me when the time comes. If your
adventures are half as exciting and varied as your theories, I should
hate to miss them. But tell me why you have chosen Mars for a first
visit."

"Because of all the planets he is the one which most resembles the Earth
in all the essential conditions of life. He is the Earth's little
brother, situated next farther out in the path from the Sun. He has the
same seasons, day and night of the same length, and zones of about the
same extent. He possesses air, water, and sufficient heat to make
habitation by us quite possible. Moreover, his gravity problem will not
put earthly visitors at a disadvantage, as it would on the very large
planets, but rather at a distinct advantage over the Martians."

"What do you expect to find on Mars?" I queried.

"That is a very comprehensive question, and any answer is the merest
guess-work, guided by a few known facts," replied the doctor. "The
principal controlling fact is the reduced gravitational attraction of
Mars, which will make things weigh about one-third as much as on the
Earth. The air will be far less dense than here. In the mineral kingdom
the dense metals will be very rare. I doubt if platinum will be found at
all; gold and silver very little; iron, lead, and copper will be
comparatively scarce, while aluminium may be the common and useful
metal. Gases should abound, and doubtless many entirely new to us will
be there. It is not unlikely that many of these will serve as foods for
the animals and intelligent beings. It is also quite possible that the
heavier gases may run in channels, like rivers, and be alive with winged
fish and chameleons."

"How about vegetation?" I suggested.

"The vegetable kingdom will certainly not be rank and luxurious, because
there is not enough sunlight or heat for that; nor will it be gnarled
and tough, but more likely spongy and cactus-like. The weak gravity will
oppose but a mild resistance to the activity and climbing propensities
of vegetable sap, however, which is likely to result in very tall,
slender trees. The forces that lie hidden in an acorn should be able to
build a most grandly towering oak on Mars. Among the animals the species
of upright, two-legged things is apt to abound. There is no reason for
four legs when the body weighs but little. On the Earth an extremely
strong development of the lower limbs is necessary for upright things,
as is shown in the cases of kangaroos and men. In order that a cow might
go comfortably on two legs, she would have to be furnished with the
hind-legs of an elephant; but not so on Mars. Creeping things would be
very few, and it is possible that fish may fly in the water with a short
pair of wings. What four-legged animals there are will very likely be
large and monstrous; for an enormous animal could exist comfortably and
move about easily without clumsiness. For instance, an earthly elephant
transferred to Mars would weigh only one-third as much, and so there
might well be elephants three times as large as ours, perfectly able to
handle themselves with ease."

"By the same reasoning then, I suppose the intelligent beings, or what
we call men, will be great giants twenty-five feet high?" I put in.

"Some have thought so, but I do not at all agree with them," replied the
doctor. "I stick to the theory of small men for small planets, and large
men for large planets. There is no possible reason for a large man on
Mars, where muscular development is uncalled for and useless, and where
the inhabitable space is small. If there are men on Jupiter, they must
of necessity be enormously strong to hold themselves up and resist
gravitation. If they walk upright (which I think unlikely), their legs
must be very large and as solid as iron. The Martian legs are likely to
be small and puny, and I believe the upper limbs will be much more
strongly developed. In fact, on Mars the Creator had His one great
opportunity of making a flying man, and I do not think He has
overlooked it. With a rather small, tightly-knit frame, and the upper
limbs developed into wings as long as the body, flying against the weak
Martian gravitation would be perfectly easy, and a vast advantage over
walking."

"Ah! then perhaps they will fly out to meet you!" I ejaculated.

"If they do, they will be stricken with fear to see that we fly without
wings and so much more rapidly," he answered, and continued: "If a
flying race has been created there, we shall probably find the
atmosphere deeper and relatively (though not actually) denser than the
Earth's. This would serve to add buoyancy and still further diminish
weight, thus making flying quite natural and simple. I certainly do not
believe that the Martians are subjected to the tedium of walking. If
they do not fly, they will at least make long, swift, graceful hops or
jumps of some ten or fifteen feet each. This would require a more hinged
development of the lower limbs, like a bird's. It is also possible that
the lower limbs may have the prehensile function, and do all the
handling and working."

"But how about intelligence and intellectual development? That is the
main thing, after all," said I.

"To answer that takes one into the realm of pure speculation. There are
but few facts to guide one's guesses. But the trip yonder is worth
making, if only to learn that. I do not incline to the opinion that
their civilization is vastly older and more developed than ours.
Granting the nebular theory of the origin of the universe (which is,
after all, only a guess), it is not even then certain that Mars was
thrown off the central sun before the Earth. It is much smaller, and may
have been thrown off later and travelled farther for this reason.
Another good reason for believing in a less advanced civilization is the
length of the Martian year and consequent sluggishness of the seasons.
He requires 687 of our days to complete his sun revolution, making his
years nearly twice as long as ours. I believe his whole development is
at a correspondingly slow rate of speed."

"Which do you think is the most advanced and enlightened planet, then?"
I ventured.

"That one which finds a way to visit the others first," he answered,
with a touch of pride.

"But there may be a tinge of personal conceit in that idea," I
suggested.

"Possibly a mere tinge, but the essence of it is apparent truth," he
declared. "That planet which has learned the most, made the greatest
discoveries and the most useful inventions, is the best and fittest
teacher of the others, and will be the sharpest and keenest to gather
new information and formulate new science. It is eminently fit that
representatives of such a planet should visit the others, and eminently
unfit that any primitive civilization engaged in base wars and striving
for mere conquest should be allowed that privilege. An all-wise Creator
would not permit a huge, strong, ignorant race entirely to overrun and
extinguish one weaker but more intelligent. He might permit a strong,
intelligent, masterful race to rule and direct a weaker and dependent
one, as a schoolmaster rules and guides a child."

"Then you think we are the wise and masterful race?"

"As no other race has yet discovered us; as they have all left the Space
Problem unsolved, and as it has been uncovered to us, that is my
irresistible conclusion."

"Still, you will not go with ideas of conquest, but to teach and to
learn?"

"We shall take with us swords, shields, and fire-arms, for defence.
Unless I mistake the nature of their metals, our steel will resist any
weapon they can manufacture. But what explosives or what noxious gases
they may have, all strange to us, it is impossible to conjecture.
Therefore, we shall go with peace in our hands."

"What progress do you think they have made in inventions?" I suggested,
as the doctor hesitated.

"If they are winged men, I should say they have never felt that urgent
need of railroads, steam boats, telegraphs and telephones, which was the
mother of their invention here. Flying or air-travelling machines will
no more have occurred to them than a walking machine to us. They will
have thoroughly explored every part of their planet, and it is possible
that their cities will have been built on high plateaus, or even on
mountain peaks. But they will not have builded greatly, for they will
have been able to use the great architecture of nature in a way
impossible to us."

"Have you heard the theory advanced by some humorous scientist not long
ago, that the organs of locomotion and prehension would some day, or on
some planet, be supplanted by machinery, and that digestive apparatus
would give way for artificially prepared blood?" I asked.

"Oh, yes, that fanciful idea is novel, but irrational. It makes man only
a fraction of a being. On every planet, no matter what the advancement
of civilization, we shall find complete beings, not dependent on
adventitious machinery for locomotion or labour, or on artificial or
animal blood for nutriment. Think how helpless such a creature would be
at the loss or rusting of his machinery, and at the exhaustion of just
the right sort of nutritive fluid. Our digestive apparatus will convert
a thousand different foods into blood. Suppose we could live only on
buffalo meat? We should all have been dead long ago. We might as well
imagine men as mere fungus brains, swimming in rivers of blood; or as
beings beyond the necessity of personal thought, and living on brain
sandwiches, cut from the thinking heads of others. Eating is not only a
necessity, but a pleasure----"

"That is just what I was thinking," I interposed, looking at my watch,
for it was growing late.

"Well, now I have told you how I would have peopled Mars had the order
been sent to me here to do it," said the doctor, "will you go along with
me, and see how nearly I am right?"

"I am afraid not," I replied; "my business ties forbid. However, I want
to see you make the start and the moment you return!"





Next: Final Preparations

Previous: Structure Of The Projectile



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