NEW YORK – Cassandra Thompson, a travel correspondent for the Adventure Channel, has accepted a deal with Star Networks to become the first Earth reporter allowed access to the classified Martian research facility known as Darwin Colony. The two-year contract includes twelve months in interplanetary round-trip plus a full year of live commentary from the previously unseen Martian base. Although Star Networks did not disclose details of the contract, experts familiar with Martian work visas estimate the deal to be in the billions of dollars, including expenses for interplanetary travel, lodgings, technical support, production, contractor salaries, regulatory fees, and production bonuses. Thompson’s post marks the first Martian visa for a civilian journalist employed by a terrestrial news agency.
A longtime favorite of the Adventure Channel, Cassandra Thompson is famous for her stunning good looks, trendy hairstyles, and quirky travelogues from extreme locales. Thompson’s lack of hard news experience has critics questioning her pick over the thousands of seasoned journalists competing for the coveted Mars assignment.
Star Networks defends its decision in an official release stating, “Cassandra Thompson has been through a battery of challenging physical, psychological, and market research tests, and has proven in every way to be fit and ready to be the new face of Mars.” Thompson released a statement through her publicist saying she was, “honored and overwhelmed” by the decision, and that the months-long screening process was, “physically and emotionally grueling, but also a total blast.”
The secretive Martian colony of Darwin has been a subject of speculation for space aficionados and conspiracy theorists alike. The Multinational Space Agency (MSA) has confirmed that Darwin Colony exists, but details about the colony and the ongoing Martian research remain strictly outside public scrutiny.
Fringe conspiracy groups claim that Darwin is a Noah’s Ark settlement for the rich families of Earth, and the secretive nature of the Martian operation has only added fuel to these theories. Civilian astronomers with high-powered telescopes discovered the precise location of the classified Martian base over a decade ago. The colony is built into the flat basin of an ancient asteroid crater in the southern hemisphere of Mars. Unofficial estimates have placed the size of the colony at roughly five kilometers in diameter, with a dense central two kilometer living area that includes tall buildings, paved roads, and at least 150,000 residents. This would make Darwin Colony comparable to a mid-size American college town, such as Tempe, Arizona, or Syracuse, New York.
Thompson’s exclusive network coverage from Mars will coincide with plans by the MSA to completely declassify non-military Darwin operations for full public review. This move comes amid ongoing budgetary shortfalls and demands from policy makers to slash public funding for the overly ambitious and prohibitively expensive Martian research project. By declassifying operations in Darwin Colony, the MSA hopes to transition the base from a publicly funded research project into a self-sustaining city with a local municipal government.
Critics of the MSA claim this move is a transparent attempt to dissolve the institution’s fiduciary responsibilities to Martian colonists. An estimated eighty percent of Darwin residents are facing terminated employment contracts amidst rumors of corporate cost cutting during a time of unexpected population growth. MSA supporters are quick to point out that Darwin could become the first fully autonomous post-terrestrial nation-state in human history. This achievement would mark a critical period in extraterrestrial development where self-sufficient colonies could exist in space without need for support or interference from Earth governments. Global organizations are still considering the policy ramifications of a fully independent Martian colony. A spokesperson for the UN secretary tweeted that this development was “totally experimental, and completely unprecedented.”