Earlier this year, the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) wrote a letter to Al Condes, NASA’s associate administrator for international and interagency relations, inquiring on the parking situation at two famous Mars sites named after renowned landmarks of Scottish geography.
In the letter, NTS conservationist Susan Bain, who is area manager for the Western Isles in Scotland, asked Condes whether trust members retain their right to “free entry, with parking” on the Martian region of St Kilda — a privilege that they enjoy on the area’s terrestrial counterpart.
Located inside the Gale Crater on Mars, in a place called the Torridon Quadrangle, the Martian feature and its surroundings were named for the St Kilda archipelago and the Torridon mountain range in Scotland. The moniker was given by Prof. Linda Kah, of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, who was involved in a recent exploration of the Martian area by NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover.
According to the BBC, Kah based her name choice on a family connection to the remote Scottish archipelago, managed by the NTS, which owns property in the area.
“Hundreds of thousands of our members have the right of free entry to all our properties, regardless of how long a star trek it may be from land; or Earth, for that matter,” Bain wrote in her letter to Condes.
“Will our members also have right of free entry, with parking, to St Kilda and Torridon on Mars?” she asked, noting that “It would seem unfair to make it a forbidden planet to them.”
Condes has now graciously replied to the humorous letter, reassuring the NTS that the respective Martian features are not subject to entry fees, as neither is the rest of outer space.
Condes said that all visitors on Mars are free to come and go as they please and benefit from free entry to the planet, as well as free parking, with a small caveat.
“Parking is also free of charge, but there are some restrictions,” Condes noted in his reply.
NASA asked that any spaceship, car or police box — a reference to the Tardis, Doctor Who’s time-traveling ship — popping by Mars for a visit should be Martian-friendly. This means that the vehicles should go through a meticulous decontamination process before landing on the Red Planet.
“Mars is an unspoiled environment which may still hide signs of life, so we ask that all spaceships, cars and police boxes that attempt the landing be thoroughly decontaminated before heading to Mars.”
It’s not uncommon for prominent locations on Mars to be named after Earth-bound geographical features based on similarities in their geology. As the Inquisitr reported last month, the new drilling site of the Curiosity rover, found on the lower slopes of Mount Sharp inside the Gale Crater, was named after the port city of Duluth in Minnesota.