Tank Girls Take To Space

(21 November 2014)

This month we were inspired by the spacecraft that landed on a comet. The Rosetta space probe took 10 years to reach the comet and attach a lander to it’s surface. But first she did a swing-by of Mars to build up some speed. Ten years might seem like a long time and I would say it is if you are waiting for a sprocket for your bike. But 10 years is also the time for nail polish to properly dry… not that I know much about nail polish.

This rock we call Earth is in her middle ages and before she starts with menopause and drowning us in hot flushes, we might have to start looking at another body to climb onto.

We did a few interviews and Mars was on the short list. It’s a fixer-upper of a planet but we could make it work.

We compiled a three-step-plan to get us space ready:

1. How to land on a small rock

Koos-se-Klip (Jericho’s Rock) in the North-West province was identified as the perfect test site. This is the Ayers Rock of South Africa and well known with the 4x4 crowds.

We left the city a bit late, but the two hour ride was good prep for sitting in space seats for extended periods. If the roads on Mars are anything like this, we will have to exchange our tyres for tracks… and take extra pillows!

We surfived the zinc-plaat dust track to Ga-Tsogwe and disembarked at the voet of Koos-se-Klip.

Landing on a small rock takes some serious skills and concentration. You could land on the side of it and roll off.

Or… you could land on an alien and upset it.

Or… you could just completely miss it!

But we anexed the klip!

We are all... children of this universe. Not just Earth, or Mars, or this system, but the whole grand fireworks. And if we are interested in Mars at all, it is only because we wonder over our past and worry terribly about our possible future.

--- Ray Bradbury ---

Weightlessness was something to get used to… Not that I had much weight to shed, but them darn boots still pull ya down!

We went to pat ourselfs on the back with an Intergalactic-Castle-Blaster at the Restaurant at the end of the universe. We therefor concluded that there would be liquid on Mars.

Our MADS (Moronic Alien Detector Subsystem) had overheated and we had to call a time-out for it to cool down. Encountering a moronic human is frightful enough, we didn’t dare explore further in alien territory without this invaluable piece of technology.

So, we settled down with Lucas and Mike, discussing interplanetary peace and solar wisdoms.

By 7pm I had to drag Michelle out into space by her oxygen connector. It was getting dark… not that space is anything less than dark – EVER! But there was still a crater filled field to cross before we got home.

2. How to land in a crater

We first wanted to go to the Vredefort crater, but that would be like cheating. How do you miss a 70km diameter crater?

We opted for the newer, smaller Tswaing crater which is located forty kilometers North of Pretoria. We headed in the direction of Shoshanguve.

The GPS took us through Shoshanguve and Hammanskraal. The aliens here were even more friendly and kept waving us a warm welcome. This made me wonder…

Have we touched Mars? Have we dreamt about walking there, breathing there, living there? Then there is life on Mars, and it us. Are we not then the Martians?

When we rode up to the security Martian at the entrance to the crater, I expected him to hand us a secret note:

“We have your satellite and if you want it back send 20 billion in Martian money. No funny business or you will never see it again.”

But Freedom turned out to be just another dude doing his work with a smile. He handed us a map and explained where we could park our ship and get good kiekies of the crater.

We parked at view point 7, but the gate to the old mining road for the ox wagon weren’t locked. We considered this a formal invite in Martian language.

If it doesn’t say STAY OUT, it means WELCOME, WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?

The crater is only a kilometer in diameter and 100 meters high. The hills are the walls of an impact crater left by an asteroid which hit there some 200 000 years ago. These walls shows clearly the folding and displacement of the granite substrata that took place during impact.

As I stand out here in the wonders of the unknown, I sort of realize there's a fundamental truth to our nature. Man must explore... and this is exploration at its greatest.

--- Dave Scott ---

We made it to the center of the crater that is now filled with a saline liquid… no good with Jack!

One small step for chicken; one giant leap for chickenkind!

Yet another space location we claimed!

The Tswaing meteoroid would have had a diameter of about 60 meters.

The energy of the explosion at the Tswaing crater is estimated to be 10 million tonnes of TNT. 10 Megatons is 500 times the power of the atomic bomb that devastated Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, killing about 150 000 people.

And then we heard it………

First just a rustling, then the sound of dragging and finally we could smell it – the smell of a block of half eaten Gouda that has been hiding in the middle drawer of your fridge behind the kumquat-jelly tub that you know you haven’t touched in 3 years.

It was what we feared most… a LongTestineDevourite!

We made our spaceship with seconds to spare and blasted our way safely back into space.

3. How to hitch a ride to Mars

Tickets were limited, but we got hold of some third-class seats for a trip that would apparently only take…

30 Seconds to Mars!

To get to the launch pad on time, we first had to successfully warp through the asteroid belt. There were a few close encounters – especially those Toyota asteroids… you never know where they will hurtle to.

Once we got to the spaceport, we could see the Coca Cola dome shaped ship warming it’s rockets.

This was it - this was what all the preparation was for! We were boldly going where hundreds have gone before.

We almost didn’t make it through the security check, but Michelle used a few drops of her magic Hugo Boss potion. The leader of this horrendous law-keeper tribe turned to sludge in her hands.

“Okay Scotty – now beam back my clothes…”

We planted the last of the white flags. We came in peace. We’ll probably leave in pieces…

As we made our way to our seats, we came across another space traveler. We tried to swap our oxygen tanks for his Castle tank, but he would not hear anything of it and just softly growled at us.

We met a three-headed Zorkon. ‘They’ seem to have traveled the galaxy extensively and knew where all the good nebulae were. ‘They’ told us that the universe is a big place, perhaps the biggest… and they reserved a small piece of it for us. Those friendly Zorkons!

Because of our exponential growth in technology, humans are quite literally thirty seconds to Mars.

We could hear the rockets launch to live, the lights dimmed and the floor started shaking. We were on our way to deep space… and the sound-track weren’t half bad either!

Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.

--- Arthur C. Clarke ---

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, every hopeful child, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived ther - on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

--- Carl Sagan ---


Again, I have to thank everyone that showed me an offering of honesty! 8 Liters of Coca Cola does not go cheap and without these – we would not have had oxygen for our space adventure.

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