The date is January 11th, 1900 AD. After almost four weeks of travel, the Martian flying disc finally reached its destination just after local sunset the previous day, touching down in the outskirts of a ruined structure in the southern part of a large lowland region that the scientific team assume was once the bottom of an ocean.
Mars isn´t quite what it seemed to be when viewed through telescopes from Earth. Just from looking out of the flying disc´s viewports during the approach of the red planet, it quickly became obvious that Schiaparelli´s "canals" were nothing but an optical illusion - although some of those manning the viewports during the final descent swore that they saw a more reasonably-sized canal during north-to-south perhaps a hundred miles west of the eventual landing site. Other that the ice caps on both poles, the surface of Mars is an arid desert, much like those already familiar with several members of the expedition.
Night was falling quickly at the time of the landing, as were the local temperatures, leading the expedition´s leadership to decide to postpone leaving the ship until the next morning, when sufficient illumination was available and temperature were more reasonable. That time has now come, and the members of the expedition are eager to get out of their vessel and see for themselves what wonders Mars may have to offer.
Date: January 11th
Time: Around 9 AM
Location: Landing Site
The first of these wonders, no doubt, is the structure outside which the flying disc had touched down - or rather, what was left of the structure. The disc sits near the center of a large open space, perhaps half a mile long and one quarter of a mile wide; although much of the space was covered in wind-blown sand, enough of it is visible to suggest that the entire expanse is paved, and still in fairly good condition other than a few cracks.
The structure itself is awe-inspiring, and would be even more awe-inspiring if it wasn´t in such a pitiful state. It is surrounded by a circle of twenty broken inward-leaning pylons that, this much is obvious, once formed the foundation of a polyhedron - or rather the top half of one - about one-third of a mile in diameter, with something similar to the pylons forming the edges of the polyhedron, although it is not clear what the polyhedron´s face might have looked like.
By now, few of the pylons reach higher than about two hundred feet. At ground level, the gaps between most pylons - but not the two closest to the disc´s landing sport - have been closed by walls which, too, are now crumbling from the effects of time and the elements. Whereas the pylons look more advanced in construction (and certainly in the engineering needed to construct the original polyhedron) than anything the British Empire could achieve at the time, the walls were clearly constructed in a far cruder fashion, without even the use of cement or any effort to fit the individual building blocks neatly together.
Through the gap between the two closest pylons, and above the top of what remains of the wall, three large buildings loosely resembling ziggurats or Mayan step pyramids can be seen, two smaller to either side of the gap, one larger on the far side within the area surrounded by the pylons, with a smaller plaza, perhaps similar to the one the disc landed on, between them.
Although nobody had really expected to encounter a bustling city right after stepping out of the flying disc, the lack of any sign of inhabitants (at least as far as can be seen from the landing site) is disappointing - as is the complete lack of visible signs of life, not even a few weeds that might have encroached on the abandoned structure.
It is fairly early in the morning on the first real day on Mars. The air is thin, much like in high altitudes on Earth; it is cold, but not unbearably so when wearing the winter clothing the expedition brought along. While the thin air will no doubt impair the physical capabilities of the expedition members, even after they have grown accustomed to it, the lower gravity means that physical activity will be less exhausting, perhaps making up for that disadvantage.
Space isn't remote at all. It's only an hour's drive away if your car could go straight upwards. Sir Frederick Hoyle
Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Man has earned the right to hold this planet against all comers, by virtue of occasionally producing someone completely bat**** insane. xkcd #556
Just like people, stars can be very important without being terribly bright. Phil Plait, "Bad Astronomy"