Iceland’s landscape is alien in nature. Besides the volcanoes that cradle the island, all I can see from the rental car’s window are plains rubbly with lava rock. The moss, which covers more of the ground in Iceland than grass does, is scarce. Nick, who is driving, tells us that the lava is recent.
“How recent is recent?” I ask most of the questions in the car. It’s because I’m in the front seat, and over the hum of the road, most of the other students either can’t hear or are lulled to sleep.
“About a few hundred years.”
“A few hundred years?”
“Yeah. That’s pretty new in terms of geologic time.”
“This is actually a good analog for Mars,” the professor gestures to the landscape without taking his eyes off the road. “The young basalt. The relatively low amount of vegetation. The climate and surrounding geomorphology. This is not a bad place to train astronauts for missions.”
“Yeah. Moon ones, too.”
“Huh.” The conversation slips back into quiet thoughts, imagining the SUV as a rover, driving us across the red planet’s surface. Imagining the basalts and sedimentary rocks we could collect. Imagining how we could construct the planet’s history with stones and some scientific know-how.