Galactic Olympics ~ Gale Crater 2012
Mars Rover Curiosity – the Mars Science Laboratory has arrived safely on Mars August 6th 2012 ~ right in the middle of Earth’s Olympics…
Let the Galactic Olympics Begin!!
Valles Marineris Canyon (The Mariner Valleys)
Named after its discoverer the Mariner 9 space probe, Valles Marineris is definitely not for the faint-hearted! For those with nerves of steel it is perfect for **Abseiling. However! Assuming that you haven’t already fallen over one of the massive cliff edges; be warned! The colourful canyon walls are unstable and could collapse suddenly due to the onslaught of temperature changes and Martian dust storms. It will be little consolation in this case scenario to know that Valles Marineris, as the presence of sedimentary rocks shows, was once an underwater area – because it isn’t now! It’s very rocky and you will meet your doom on them! You will also meet it considerably faster than you would on Earth due to Mars’s low air density meaning that it will not slow your worrying speedy descent to a rather unpleasant doom.
Winter Olympics are best held very early in spring as Martian night lasts for three months and whilst Skating on the Martian Polar Icecaps may be a fantastic sport and lots of fun doing so in pitch black conditions on an alien and potentially dangerous planetscape may not be the most well-advised of activities. And unless you have a particular penchant for breaking your neck, ski-ing is probably best saved for Jupiter’s moons Europa (watch out for Ice wolves) and Callisto where frosty-white Valhalla Basin offers excellent skiing options. Alternatively you may prefer to visit Saturn’s moon Titan where high-speed Winter Olympian Ice skating and Ice Hockey events take place on the frozen methane ice sheets.
However spring does not disappoint bringing rewards of its own. With the sunlight reflecting off dazzlingly layers of frosted Carbon Dioxide the crunch through the Martian snow, will show the true depths of the very beautiful sights the Polar Icecaps of Mars have to offer.
There are of course certain other risks attached to holding the Olympics on Mars…
Discus Throwing – There is of course only one place for this Olympic event to take place; from the very top of the huge extinct volcanic mountain Olympus Mons. The largest known volcano in the solar system it is best viewed either at sunrise or sunset on Mars, when the rippling lava flows, otherwise hidden are brought into sharp relief and are easy to see. This is in sharp contrast to your discus which will travel at rocket speeds in Mars’s low wind resistance. Your distance scores will be phenomenal but unfortunately so will everybody else’s. It is also quite possible that you will never see your discus again unless you are also an Olympic marathon sprinter.
Alternatively The Tharsis Bulge, a chain of Great Volcanoes ; Arsia, Paionis and Ascerus Montes, of which Olympus Mons, although it is set apart from, also belongs to, is a fantastic venue for the Olympian Mountain Biker and also for BMX Racing. It also provides something of a challenge for those athletes unfamiliar with Mars, who are not so heavily weighted down by gravity as on Earth, or elsewhere. It does raise the issue of exactly how high and how far you’re going to bounce when you leap-frog over those lava ridges and the bumps in the track. But if you harbour a secret, all-consuming desire to risk becoming rocket man careering into space at something resembling light-speed, this is the sport for you.
Warning! Riding a mountain bike down the sides of a volcano is not recommended for the non-Olympian mountain biker. Stick to rock climbing at the base of Olympus Mons and fossil hunting in its dried-up ocean basins. Even the smaller volcanoes all stand higher than the Hawaiian volcanoes that rise up from the Pacific Ocean floor on Earth, and far above the Tharsis Bulge itself on Mars.
Galactic Olympic Events are taking place at various different venues around the Solar System…
Sailing – The Jovian moon of Callisto is a dangerously thrilling venue offering rowing races in the dark on a liquid ocean of sea salt.
You might wish to take your Olympic Torch with you to this event, (one that will stay alight on Callisto would be useful) assuming you wish to see where you’re going and keep tabs on far behind you your opponent is trailing. And if they’re not and look like they may be in danger of ‘going for gold’ you may wish to torch their boat.
Water Polo and Canoe Sprints are highly popular Olympic events on Saturn’s moon Titan, in the methane oceans, though depending on what species you are and which world you hail from Swimming may not be a great experience for the average Olympic swimmer. It may be an interesting experience but if you’re from Earth, best not to give it a go. You won’t get the gold and you’re unlikely to live to tell the tale. Spectators should take note, unless you thrive in methane rain you would be well advised to bring an umbrella. Earth dwellers will be comfortably familiar with the rain showers routine and will carry an umbrella as a matter of course, but anyone else, take heed!
The razor-blade crags of Saturn’s moon Hyperion play host to Olympic Hurdling events whilst the Caloris Basin on Mercury, a crater with cliffs that reach up to 3km (2miles) high and stretching for hundreds of kilometres in diameter, provides great terrain for the Equestrian Cross-country events. For sight-seeing spectators the polar ice caps, a strange and bizarre sight on this baking little world are home to frozen water-ice lakes that co-exist alongside roasting rocks so hot they could easily melt the Earth metal, lead.
The frozen lava runs on Venus’s Maat Mons offer thrill-seeking spectators heart-stoppingly dangerous Bob sleighing races along with stunning views of Venus’s highest mountain at 4.9km (3miles) high – Maxwell Montes. And if you have survived this far you may wish to return to Gale Crater on the host world, Mars for the Olympic Show Jumping and Dressage events. Don’t get too carried away if you are taking part in the Martian Show Jumping. The low gravity on this world is something of a liability in this sport and unless you have changed your mind about not becoming the next rocket man and wish to do so still attached to your mighty Olympic steed, extra care should be taken at jump-take off. Given the excessive speed you will be propelled forward at should you have an ill-timed collision with a fence in such low Martian wind resistance, you would be well advised to avoid such an error of judgement unless you fancy plastic surgery.
Galactic Olympics Closing Ceremony at: Mount Scarp, Gale Crater!
**(Not strictly an Olympic sport that I’m aware of, but if the Olympic Torch can abseil to London Bridge then I think that qualifies it for a mention)