Saturday, April 09, 2005

Las Vegas, Mars

I just spent a weekend in Las Vegas. The urban architecture there is of a city without native history and is completely alien to its desert surroundings. Don't even try to convince me the Sahara casino somehow qualifies. Trust me, it doesn't. Vegas is a city from a nowhere plopped down in the middle of somewere else.

But the city's mismatch with the desert prompted my sci-fi trained imagination to see Las Vegas as being like a future city on Mars. A Mars city where the designers try to recreate cultural cliches from Earth so that workers from the outlands far from their home planet can come to throw away their hard-earned wages on anything that money can buy except for the best that money can buy. (That line pretty much sums up Las Vegas, Earth, for me too.)

The city's surrounding terrain fits this Mars analogy. Las Vegas looks like it's in the middle of a bowl of sand, dirt, and dust surrounded by mountains. Sort of like a city plopped down in the middle of a Martian crater.

They say there's dust everywhere on Mars blown by the wind and that this is likely to be a probem for future colonies. Well, Las Vegas has got dust in spades. (I'd like to see the Mars Society put an analog research station there to figure out how to live in a city surrounded by dust. I can see it now. Four MS members in space suits standing around a craps table trying to roll dice in their work gloves and communicating with each other via radios, "Come on seven. Over".) Anyway, the city is dirty. The wind was blowing hard this weekend and dust was getting into everything. Apparently, this is not unusual. I saw a public health ad billboard showing a man's headshot and a warning against dust called "don't be a dust hole." No explanation what a "dust hole" is but it doesn't sound good and I bet they'll have them on Mars one day.


Interesting insight ... the most recent issue of Amazing Stories magazine obliquely touched on that same idea, presenting in a new Ben Bova-penned tale a Las Vegas-like "city of sin" located on the moon (it was located in a huge crater, if I remember correctly). Bova indicated it would essentially be a tourist destination, and while the adventure focused upon the business deals behind the construction of the site, the overall end result sounds a lot like what you're proposing on Mars. A great idea ... I'd sure rather go to the moon or Mars than Las Vegas. The trip might be a tad longer, but the "sightseeing" along the way would truly be "out of this world."
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