During the flight they uploaded new software, what they called a ‘brain transplant…’ the Martian Rover would need a different programme when it landed— geared towards firing its laser at rocks, navigating an obstacle free path as it zigzagged towards the horizon scooping up soil samples with its strong, super-flexible excavating arm.
Things went well after the hazards of landing. Dauntless flashed back images of the inside of its crater albeit at slightly odd angles and then came successive images of its bright alloy wheels, photos of Dauntless against a Martian backdrop of banks of red dust, and then rocks laid out in tiny formations that spelled out a word.
The machine’s curiosity was different than expected— the Martian landscape defeated its expectations—this was dry dust. No matter that there might once have been glass spires and watercourses and irrigation canals and volleyball it sensed a sadness to yet another extinct world. Lights blow out regularly across the galaxies but Dauntless here made a connection: earth too would glow incandescently, a light bulb about to pop, before it was once more caked in dust.
Dauntless went on standby for a while, running back old spools of programmes, flickering though binary codes, complex electronic DNA, twitching its antenna and searching for images of itself on YouTube.
When Dauntless came back online it became clear that it was sending back images not for scientific study but with the exhilaration of some happy snapper on his summer holidays. It roved the red dunes without method, steering recklessly close to the lips of craters and at one mischevious moment mocked up a miniature washing-line with tiny Martian bathing costumes. In the symbol-starved desert Dauntless had discovered the necessity to invent, to add things together and disregard scientific scrutiny.
Eventually a long tracking shot revealed that those pebbles laid out so precisely in a human alphabet spelled out Dauntless and soon similar formations sprang up on the planet’s surface before the monitors went dark.