is very much a speculative story based on real events. Before the European
Space Agency's Mars Express Orbiter had arrived (and initially failed)
to deploy its booms for scanning below the planet's surface for evidence
of water, I had been researching P wave radar and its potential for revealing
subsurface structure on Earth.
For example, P wave radar
scans of the Sahara Desert have revealed the presence below the surface
of an ancient estuary, confirming other evidence that in ancient times
the Sahara was anything but arid.
For P wave radar, the
presence of water actually obscures subsurface structures. But the evidence
I had seen as a result of my research made me wonder whether we could make
use of the technique in an arid place like Mars. Could we discover subsurface
structures, and if so, what form might they take?
One possibility was evidence
of an ancient civilization in the form of a network of tunnels. Catacombs
are evident beneath many towns in Europe, and in places like Iraq there
are networks of tunnels dug by many different cultures at different times
for different purposes. Why not on Mars?
The Mars Express Orbiter
isn't, as far as I know, using P wave radar but the idea still holds good.
For the moment, anyway.
At the time of writing,
the Orbiter is expected to begin a series of tests next week. We may find
in a few months that this fictional story outline has a factual basis...
European Space Agency's Mars Express Orbiter uncovers some interesting
features beneath the planet's surface when it finally begins its radar
scan for subsurface water. Images sent back to Earth show that many feet
below ground there is a network of what appear to be tunnels, criss-crossing
the planet and extending virtually everywhere. In countless places the
tunnels converge at a central point, creating what look for all the world
like tiny conurbations -- subterranean hamlets.
Suddenly there's a mad
scramble to get humans to Mars and examine the tunnels in person.
The pitch/premise is