A three-year-old boy looks up at the night sky, a smile on his face and wonder in his eyes.
“Daddy—look at that world up there; bigger and brighter and rounder than any star."
“Yes, I see it; it’s full tonight."
The smiling boy looks at his father and then back out the window—his eyes big and glowing from the reflected light.
“Daddy—" the little boy asks, "can I go there someday?"
"You sure can, son—but you might not think it’s as nice once you get there."
“Well, son—that world is covered with old volcanoes and mountains of dust, and it doesn’t have the air that you and I need to breathe. If you were to go there, you couldn’t find any water to drink and it wouldn’t be very long before you would have to come home.”
The boy thinks about this for a minute. “And why else, Daddy?”
“Well—it’s a very lonely world with nothing on it. Everywhere you look, all you can see is grey. There are no animals, no lakes, no fish—no signs of life at all.”
“There are no people there?”
“No son, there are no people there. The sky is as black as space, even in the daytime.”
“There’s nothing in the sky?”
“Nothing. Not even sound can be heard there. There are no clouds, no birds and no rain or snow that ever falls to the ground.”
“There’s no rain or snow—ever?”
“Never. It’s so hot during the day that you could never play outside, and so cold at night that even a hundred blankets wouldn’t keep you warm in bed.”
The son looks away from the window and back at his father, pausing for a moment before speaking again.
“What is that place called—that world that looks nice but is not nice, and where there are no animals, no people and nothing but grey to look at?”
“That place,” the father says, “is called Earth.”
The father then leans over his son, pulls down the window shade of their tiny Martian pod and kisses his son goodnight. “When you get a little older, I'll tell you what a nice planet Earth used to be.”
Bedtime on Mars—April 10, 2817.