At 57,600 square meters, Mexico City’s main plaza, the Zócalo, is one of the largest open plazas of any city in the world. To provide a frame of reference for its size, imagine the area of ten American football fields, as for its significance, picture the National Mall in Washington D.C. or the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Long ago, this grand square once constituted the ceremonial hub of the Aztec city, Tenochtitlan. Previously dominated by looming silhouettes of Aztec temples and pyramids, such as the Templo Mayor, after several hundreds of years, the zócalo nowadays finds itself ringed by similarly significant and emblematic buildings such as the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Palacio Nacional, the Old Portal de Mercaderes and Federal District buildings.
The year is 2035, and man is finally going to Mars. It’s been five years since SpaceX and Elon Musk’s Big Falcon Rocket successfully delivered supplies and cargo to our planetary next-door-neighbor in what is sure to be the start of the human race’s future as a space-faring civilization. Every two years, the respective orbits of Earth and Mars align so that the planets are a mere 55 million kilometers away from each other, their closest distance. Thus, the voyage aboard the rocket will take more or less 300 days to complete, a practical blink of the eye considering the vast expanse of nothingness between the two celestial spheres.
On board the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) are dozens or researchers, scientists, diplomats, as well as several of the world’s wealthiest individuals. This motley group will be the leaders of humanity’s first colony in space and will establish a society built to last millennia, ensuring the homo sapiens’ survival despite the imminent destruction of its home planet due to climate change, nuclear war, or reality television. It’s day 162 of the trip and the BFR is a little past the half way mark. Everyone on board is a bit tired and cranky; if you thought airline food was bad, then you’ll want to steer clear of this stuff.
As the weeks drag on, something strange begins to happen: all persons on board begin to feel a bit light headed. It starts with moderate headaches, nothing worse than the cranial thumping typical of the next day after a heavy drinking night. However, symptoms exacerbate and now include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, and throat discomfort. The ship is in panic. The medical staff, comprised exclusively of daytime television’s Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil, doesn’t understand what is happening. The oxygen and nitrogen tanks have enough to last four years in space, so why does it seem like there is not enough air for the passengers to breathe. By day 237, most, if not everyone on board, is functionally incapacitated as the air inside the ship has become toxic. What is going on?