On its descent to the small planet’s surface, the encapsulated rover fired its two retro rockets, nudging it in an upward motion and bringing it down slowly to soften its landing. Its eight Kevlar airbags inflated to create a gentle bouncing, protecting this rover’s fragile instruments.
The rover named “Propensity” by NASA was equipped with a high definition camera to examine rocks and soil samples with visible light and a spectrometer to measure electromagnetic radiation. It also was fitted with an extendable arm capable of grinding then vacuuming up debris bringing it to a micro lab in the rovers belly for analysis of the small planet’s mineral make up. Here it could search for evidence of ancient microbial life that may have once existed on Vesta.
When the lander was released from it’s capsule and began to fall, something felt wrong to the rover. It fell fast and heavily to Vesta’s solid surface not softly and gently with the joyous bounces it had felt in it’s Earth testing. It’s decent ended with a jarring thud. Propensity’s heart skipped and slowed to a flat hum. It rolled backwards across the asteroid’s surface slipping hazily into a chasm of darkness. Propensity’s tires continued to spin for as long as its reserve energy lasted.
The rover laid on its back completely still and silent and unconscious.
Propensity sent a distress message to its home base on Earth but the team did not respond. At least not coherently.
There was a hazy grinding in the rover’s gullet followed by a scratchy yell coming from its audio receiver. A voice that was distant and high pitched, a NASA team member complaining about their job as if no one was listening. Propensity thought it knew its entire team but it didn’t recognize this voice. The voice turned into a screaking hiss.
When the rover powered back on, light was rising from over the edge of a gully wall. It must have been streaming in for a while. Propensity’s solar panels had absorbed enough light to create a small amount of electricity and something resembling clarity. The vehicle slowly awoke. As its main camera came into focus all it could see was a rockface wall in the distance. The rover had no idea how long it had been laying there. Five minutes or five years. Both seemed possible.
Near the rock face, three shadowy figures appeared walking steadily across a craggy terrain. They looked almost human, though that wasn’t possible. No human had ever been on this world.
The first of these figure was tall and impossibly thin and appeared gender neutral. They wore a white one piece baggy linen suit. It hung off their body like a plastic bag stuck on a tree branch. On its head was a pointy white hat with a vertical line of fluffy black balls that lead to a dark pompom at its tip. The figure’s face was wrinkled and boney, covered with a thin layer of white makeup. Two black lines drawn on the forehead suggested eyebrows, one peaked and one lowered. Their thin white pancake make up became a smear at the edges of their face. The figure walked slowly and deliberately as if monitoring and controlling each of their small muscles with precision, from a long bald head down to the puff ball tips of their pointy shoes. The figure wore a ruffled collar that enshrouded their head as if it poked though a pink cloud.
The next figure was muscular and wore only peddle pusher orange pants. His muscles were absurd and seemed almost over inflated. Cartoonish. He had deep red skin. Long bull-like horns came out of either side of his oversized head. He was barefoot with eight huge toes.
The third figure was a woman with long auburn curly hair pulled back and into a loose bun. She wore a bustle skirt and only a very tight corset on top. She and the enormous devil horned man had their arms intertwined. She leaned in and whispered something into his ear.
The horned man stepped forward, and grabbed the side of the rover, pushing until it was set in an upright position. The woman clapped rapidly and a sparrow flew over her head.
The being with the pointy hat stepped forward and very deliberately reached behind their back, pulling a long and thin white and red parasol out of nowhere. The figure very slowly and purposely opened it over the rover. Golden dust fell out like tiny pieces of rain.
The rover felt drowsy and drifted away.
The three figures linked arms and walked away.
In the bright sun light, Propensity drove across the surface of the small planet, scanning the ground for life. The rover was careful to avoid craters. If it remained careful, everything would be okay.
About 4 Vesta-
4 Vesta is a minor planet and asteroid located in the Main Asteroid belt. It’s existence was discovered on Earth in 1807. In the 1990s this world was observed in greater detail by the then state of the art Hubble telescope. In 2012 it was studied while orbited by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on it’s way to visit the larger dwarf planet Ceres.
Like the Earth and unlike most asteroids in any region, Vesta is composed of three distinct inner layers. It known to have a crust, a mantle and a central core. With a diameter of 330 miles, Vesta is the second largest object found in the asteroid belt. Ceres, of course, being the biggest.