Mars Hill

-The continuing story

  In late 1983 the second gathering of space artists was put together, largely through the efforts of Michael Carroll, at Death valley, California. We stayed at the windswept Amargosa Hotel about 20 minutes east of the Valley itself. Some of the participants gathered for this Polaroid.

  Standing Left to right: Kurt Burmann, Andy Chaikin, Marilyn Vicary, Michael Carroll, Don Davis, Bob Kline. In front: Jim Hervat, Pam Lee, Joel Hagen, David Campbell, Rick Sternbach.

  Another more complete group photo appears here.

  It was at this 'workshop' that the International Association of Astronomical Artists came to be.

   Upon leaving the narrow and at times claustrophobic 'Artists Drive' one sees nearly dead ahead a low hill covered with broken and wind eroded volcanic rocks. This was informally named Mars Hill by the participants of the workshop because of the resemblance of the surface textures to those seen by the Viking 2 lander.

After some 1991 tests of a Russian Mars rover, Alan Silverstein working with the Planetary Society made a formal proposal to the U.S. Geological Survey to have the feature formally named Mars Hill, which was accepted. Now the name given by a group of artists and later a team of planetary scientists will forever be on the maps!


  From the top of the hill the resemblance is particularly striking, and as I stood there and shot a panorama of Polaroids I was already seeing in my 'minds eye' the scene as part of the rim of a flat bottomed Martian crater.

  I later drew a grid over the mosaic, carefully transplanted the relevant detail to an art board in black and white paint, then added the mars specific details and colors. I added some rippled sand dunes.

  'Mars Hill 'thus provided the starting point for a detailed visualization of our neighbor world, using for reference an Earthly 'analog' to Martian scenery.


  Mars Hill has since been used to test Mars rover vehicles, and even to film a 1991 episode of the Public Broadcasting show 'Space Age' depicting the first steps on Mars.





 A full scale landing leg and ladder rig were hauled to the site, with space suit costumes worn by sweltering volunteers from the WQED Science Effects unit. Later I learned another show used the same location and filmed almost shot for shot the same sequences.

  Unfortunately such activities have dislodged the delicate 'desert pavement' mosaic like carpet of fine rocks resting on the powdery lower soil, and obvious scars of these setups are evident in aerial views. The rangers were wise to restrict filming to the lower rise next to the higher and rockier main hill from which the panorama was shot.