In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “A Plot of Earth.”
Mars was fiercely cold and dry. Several probes over two decades had not found any evidence of water, nor organic life of any kind. At least for the first generation, vegetation would not survive the hostile climate. They had prepared for that, by including a collapsible greenhouse able to duplicate Earth’s most effective growing conditions. The payload also included eight tons of fertile Earth soil, as well as well as about one ton of synthetic fertilizer.
Henry Progue and his wife, Allison were the botany team on this, the first settlement mission to the red planet. Their job was to maintain an efficient and productive garden during the thirteen month voyage; not really such a large challenge here on The Nina, in a completely synthetic environment. Their real challenge would be finding a water supply, developing extraction equipment, and establish a working garden to provide fresh vegetables for the settlement crew of eighteen. The survival of this first settlement team and the two following over the next year rested primarily on the Progue’s shoulders. Without water, there would be no survival.
In the meantime, the shipboard garden had been producing a surplus, which Henry had packed away in frozen storage. This surplus could prove life-saving in the first month on Mars, until they got the surface garden up and growing.
This little piece of land, a small piece of home, carried all these millions of miles to a harsh and alien world, was crucial for the survival of the settlers. Not only would the vegetation provide food. The water extraction system would provide essential water. And most of all, the oxygen which the plants exhale, after inhaling the carbon dioxide humans exhale, would prove an unlimited oxygen supply. Truly, Henry and Allison’s work meant the difference between life and death for the early settlers on Mars. This plot of land must successfully keep them all alive.