The giant spacecraft hurtled towards Mars at an astounding speed, marking the first time humans had traveled at such an incredible velocity. Never before had the world seen such a magnificent machine. While space travel had been a reality for decades, Mars 3 represented a radical breakthrough in spacecraft design.
At first glance, Mars 3 bore little difference to its predecessors. The cone-shaped lander and crew module were identical to Mars 2, which had made the same journey two years earlier with a crew of eight, six men and two women. Mars 3 carried a similar complement of telescopes and a communications array attached to a massive grid structure that extended a hundred yards behind the crew module. This “mother ship” would serve as an orbiting science station after the Mars 3 lander separated and touched down on the surface.
Mars 3 and Mars 2 appeared to be identical save one hidden detail buried deep within the bowels of the propulsion system at the rear of the spacecraft. Alongside the standard hydrogen engines, Mars 3 carried the first matter/anti-matter drive ever used in manned space flight, and the results were spectacular. This marked the beginning of the age of hyper-space.
Just as the jet engine made the world a smaller place, hyper-space travel would shrink the galaxy. In the amount of time it took Columbus to journey to the New World, man could now reach Mars, the New World of the modern age.
In less than three months, Mars 3 would arrive at its destination on the Grand Arroyo Plains of the red planet. That is where the Mars 2 crew was busy finishing the construction of the primary phase of Mars Base, the first permanently manned colony on another planet.
Mars 3 carried the hopes and dreams of a world already overcrowded and looking to expand. With a successful mission, the floodgates would open; and once again, adventurers and opportunists would look to the New World for freedom and riches. The nature of man’s desire to conquer hadn’t changed in a thousand years. The nature of Mars was about to change forever.
Mars 3’s hyper-space propulsion system wasn’t the only thing that set it apart from its predecessors. This spacecraft carried another secret that would also change the world. It wasn’t anything as dynamic and glamorous as a hyper-drive; but it was no less ominous, and was decidedly more sinister.