art by ShotHot Design
by K T
It took tens of thousands of engineers hundreds of millions of man-hours and over a trillion dollars spread over the course of ten years. There had been political sacrifice, financial sacrifice, even marital sacrifice. Five people died, including a mother, a teacher, and a grandfather of twenty-five. Perhaps, by diverting the same resources, we could have finished the war in Afghanistan twenty years ago. But at last, and not without luck, a man stood atop Olympus Mons.
To be that man required years of study in physics, math, chemistry, biology, geology, and languages; including English, Russian, Chinese, and C++. At minimum. It required the eyes of an eagle, the muscles of a Navy SEAL, and the brain of Deep Blue. No TV, no hobbies, no girlfriend, no family. Just blood, sweat, tears, and neurons to live the dream of every bright young male since 1957. Only the brightest, most athletic, most determined polyglot autodidactic polymathic genii could even enter the competition against one thousand equally infallible candidates from every continent.
But Captain Johnson showed them all. He was that guy: the smartest, fittest, most driven man in the solar system.
Lieutenant Li approached along the steep, red ridge to the left.
"So Captain, how does it feel to be the first man on Mars?"