When I previously wrote About Mercury’s Ice I mentioned that I became a space nerd at a very young age, and in the decades since have become quite fond of the lesser known–but no less awesome–wonders of the solar system.
Verona Rupes is another one of those wonders. Spotted during Voyager 2’s 1986 flyby of Uranus’ moon Miranda, it’s a candidate for the tallest cliff in the solar system, possibly reaching twenty kilometers (twelve miles) high. With Miranda’s low gravity, less than 1% of Earth’s, that 20 km fall is going to provide ample time for sightseeing on the way down, about eleven minutes.
And we humans seems to have an unquenchable thirst for doing things while falling. (As it turns out, skydive weddings are quite popular among the engaged-to-be-married skydiver population!)
So you just know, how is anybody going to resist having their wedding ceremony performed during the 11-minute freefall off the highest cliff in the solar system?
A few things to keep in mind: Miranda is an airless moon, so you’ll need spacesuits. Though the sun is a long ways away, it’ll still be pretty bright, so coordinate suit colors. Rehearse the ceremony a few times at ground level–you do have eleven minutes, so you don’t have to rush too much, but still, be diligent and watch the altimeter.
Finally, parachutes are useless on Miranda, so make sure everyone’s retros are in good working order and fully fueled. You’ll want to ensure everyone in the wedding party has a good time and a soft landing.
Mercury’s Ice appears in the 27 September 2021 issue of Martian: The Magazine of Science Fiction Drabbles. (A drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.)
I’m a space nerd. I got it from my dad, who worked for a major aerospace company in the 1960s writing test procedures for the Gemini spacecraft. I still have the memory of sitting on the armrest of a chair with him in July 1969 watching a fuzzy image of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon.
That interest never wavered, and I’ve followed pretty much every planetary exploration mission since then. There are amazing things in the solar system, many more than just the biggies–Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s Red Spot, Martian volcanoes–that get most of the attention. Often it’s some of the lesser known features that fascinate me more: Pluto’s Sputnik Planitia, the nitrogen volcanoes on Triton, and that Mercury, the planet closest to our sun, actually has ice deposits in its permanently shadowed polar craters.
It’s unsurprising then that I find these to be compelling settings for stories and novels in general, and thus they have worked their way into mine in particular.
In the one hundred words of Mercury’s Ice I hint at the agony of a love abruptly and violently ended, and of endurance in the face of that burning loss. The persistence of ice in Mercury’s hellish orbital realm seemed an apt metaphor. So close to the fire, so close to obliteration, with only ice cold, hard-as-rock endurance carrying one through each day, every day.
May none of us ever require the endurance of Mercury’s ice.