It is with the utmost regret and urgency that I ask the United Nations Organisation Space Exploration Committee to discontinue further exploration of the Mercer Cave Network and the underground network of glaciers located on the Martian Surface. This suggestion from the Mission Commander may come as a surprise to the scientific community as all previous reports of our exploration of the Martian surface has been met with a growing demand for more and more research time and resources. It is with a heavy heart that I write this open letter to those who are involved, but it is clear that my recommendations to seal the initial entrance site to all personnel have been ignored, coupled with the ongoing debate within the UNOSEC halls concerning the potential long term plan of committing the act of Terraforming Mars to have a more Earth-like atmosphere. Although I personally have been supportive of this action if only for the reason to make the process of continued research easier, the recent evidence which has come to light of this planets history has shattered any and all confidence in myself and that of my team. An action such as the one being debated upon would only serve to inevitably bring about an irreversible calamity not just to Mars itself, but to our own planet as well. I fear my words will fall on ears long tired of the “Earth First” factions so readily aggressive to our colonisation, but I must have my peace in this shattered reality.
As UNOSEC and other governing bodies are aware, the Mercer Cave Network’s discovery on 23 July 2080 by the Nile Satellite Programme at the coordinates 47°16’S and 96°26’E on the Martian Map was a monumental discovery. The abnormal geological image detected an open mouth into an immense area of underground chasms and tunnels which were believed to be home to some 75 million barrels of frozen and potentially usable water. Such a discovery was crucial as the location placed it a full 5° closer to the equatorial landing zones, where several colonies have begun to reach self-sufficiency, than that of the nearest usable glaciers which lie on the surface along the Martian poles. Such a potential area for water collection was considered by UNOSEC, private entrepreneurs and the colonists already established on the Martian surface to be an immediate source for investigation. Initial surveys performed by the Martian Autonomous Research Council of Scientists, MARCS, were able to develop a route through which the automated water tankers could move safely. The small outpost, known locally as the Mercer Outpost, was established within a year of the discovery to act as the stopping point for the tankers. Its other purpose was and still is to act as a homebase from which research teams investigate the cave system and map out the unique geological features that are sure to have developed in Mars’ untampered geography, and inevitably a team was needed to go beyond surface contact.
The team, which was put together by unanimous vote by the UNOSEC members, consisted of the expected specialists: The team of Dr. Solomon Napier of the Geological Branch of the University of Edinburgh (The writer of this report), Dr. Georgia Anderson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Aleksandr Romanovich Fedotik of Roscosmos’ biological division and twelve subordinates were chosen from the various agencies who have cooperated together in this footnote in human history. Following our training we had all become accustomed to one another and thus our journey with eager colonists on the eight month excursion to the Martian governing city of Ares passed by without incident. During the journey I am proud to say our little team became a group of close friends. Although my blindness towards gossip was necessary as the unofficial leader of the expedition, I was glad to see the growing romance of the now happily engaged Fedotik and Anderson as a compass of what our team was capable of. I myself found a close friendship with the young Edward Holt, whose fascination of the planet Mars has come from a childhood raised on the works of serialists. His inquisitive mind and constant devotion to detail made him an admirable scientist and I am sure his ability to act in a Holmesian manner would have benefited him in his Biochemical Engineering Masters. Such was his manner and so powerful to his character that I am glad to remain in contact with his family.
Our arrival at Ares was a simple affair in all senses. Our meeting with MARCS officials took place within the recently completed bio-dome of the city. Professor Alice Hackenbacker, who I can confirm is also in support of ending continued surveillance of the Mercer Cave Network, was an excellent hostess whose pride in her position as head of MARCS could be measured in the work she has done for the some quarter million inhabitants. Despite the improved interstellar communications it was delightful to receive the information at a much faster rate from the returning engineering team to determine where the cut-off point of radio communications would happen. As it stands Mars suffers this issue due to the high concentration of iron-oxide, which is the reason for its naturally brownish-red appearance. Discovering that radio communications would become unusable within one kilometre of the entrance, we were amazed at what reports the cave network had provided. Immediate attention was drawn to us from the walls and ceilings near perfect smoothness. The common consensus was that water had at one point in Martian history run on the surface and that this cavernous system was the result of erosion. If only what we now know of the creation of this system was available to us then, perhaps now I would not be needing to write this report. But that was not the case, and we were soon ready to begin our expedition to Outpost Mercer, from where we would dive into unknown fate.