Those who have been keeping up-to-date with the latest in space exploration news will be aware that, in the past year, Scotland’s two largest cities have both planted their flags 130 million miles away on Earth's nearest planetary neighbour, Mars.
With Nasa’s latest Martian rover, Perseverance, having safely landed last Thursday, we are reminded of the exploits of its predecessor, Curiosity, which has been a resident of the Red Planet for almost 9 years.
In March 2020, the Curiosity rover bored its 25th drill hole, Edinburgh, into the Martian surface, which was followed a little over a month later by Glasgow.
All that’s lacking, considering the name of the planet, is a deep fat fryer.
The 1.6cm wide and 5cm deep bore holes were the latest to be drilled in the Torridon area of Mars, so-called due to the abundance of red and brown strata found in Scotland’s Torridon region.
As it happens, Nasa has now enough drilled enough holes on Mars for Curiosity and Perseverance, the two newest rovers to have landed on the planet, to play a round of golf together. Fittingly, several of these sites are named after places in Scotland, including Aberlady, Stoer and Kilmarie.
And these are not the only Caledonian connections to be found on – and even in - Martian soil.
Two years ago scientists at Aberdeen-based James Hutton Institute discovered that mineral datasets beamed back to Earth by Curiosity bore “striking” similarities to basaltic soils on the isles of Skye and Mull.
Over the course of its journey to retrieve the soil sample, the rover was overlook by a location on Mars called Siccar Point, an unconformity named after a Berwickshire geological feature that inspired the 18th century scientist James Hutton to establish his deep time theory.
Perseverance, meanwhile, is loaded with Scottish technology. High endurance cables onboard the $2.7 billion rover were produced in Dundee.
The cables, produced by the Dundonian offshoot of manufacturing firm WL Gore aided Perseverance during its final descent towards the Martian surface.
They are also designed to help the rover traverse the rocky planet in its mission to source evidence of ancient microbial life.
In addition to this high-tech link, two of Perseverance’s 23 cameras have a distinct Edinburgh flavour.
To be more precise, they are named after the literary creations of 19th century Edinburgh-born author, Arthur Conan Doyle.
The rover’s context imager, SHERLOC, uses lasers to help identify the precise environment in which Mars’ rocks were formed.
It is accompanied by a robotic arm camera, WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering), which is designed to provide views of the fine-scale textures and structures in Martian rocks and the rocky debris and dust that covers so much of the planet’s surface.
At some point in the near future, Perseverance will be deploying its own drill in the search for ancient microbial life on Mars.
We would like to suggest to Nasa that the rover’s first drill site be named Leith. Persevere, after all, is the former independent burgh’s motto.