Building a Lunar Colony One Step at a Time
Valentina kept one eye scanning the instrument panel in front of her. The other bounced around the craft, peered out the porthole, watched her companions, isolated strange noises and kept very aware. Their craft had begun orbiting the Moon a few hours before, setting in motion their well rehearsed landing routine. Really though, the others had little to do aside from securing all items and then each other. Even her role as pilot served mostly to audit progress with the very unlikely eventuality of stepping in to make corrections. For the most part it was, "put your flight tables up, straighten your set backs and prepare to land" just like a passenger in a commercial airplane. Valentina continued watching as all the sensors registered their expected values; she'd never assumed that computers were capable. Still their orbit gradually lowered and the insertion moment neared.
Their flight from Earth had been fairly quick and somewhat fun given the novel environment. Their craft had the basic necessities of life; air, water, food, but little else. Physical space was at a premium and free motion was a luxury. Yet, the pleasure of floating free without gravity had kept them entertained for most of the previous 3 days. They had repeated many of the tricks they had seen other astronauts perform on the International Space Station; floating unrestrained, somersaulting, blowing water bubbles and the like. Valentina hadn't had as much fun playing since long before her school years. She pleasantly abandoned herself to the new environment, using her instinctive child playfulness to retune motor skills and adjust sensory perception. Almost without realizing it, the four of them had devised competitive and cooperative games that improved their awareness. Their favourite was a hands free game of dodgeball using any small light object near at hand. Points were awarded if the propelled object touched anyone while points were deducted if the object touched the craft's surface or if a person touched the surface. Xu with her great body control had proven herself the master of this game and usually her team came out on top. Valentina smiled while playing and had thought that their camaraderie boded well for their future in the cramped quarters of the habitation module on the Moon, even if she had other plans.
When their craft had entered orbit about the Moon, they had finally seen the colony's infrastructure with their own eyes. It didn't look impressive. A small cylindrical object rested on its side with one end pushed up against a hill side. The other end had bulbous growths forward and to each side. These were the nodes; one being an airlock to facilitate ingress and egress, two being a connection node for future components and three being the automatic supply port. Nearby, a standalone dot was actually a robotic tractor. It had assembled the current infrastructure and now waited patiently for their next command. Hopefully its name wasn't HAL. As a place for them to call home, the cylinder wasn't much. But as any realtor would say, it's all location, location, location. The cylinder was on top of a crater rim that had a nearly continuous direct line of sight to the Sun, the Earth and a nearby communication relay station. Eventually, they would be prospecting at the crater floor hoping to find recoverable minerals as well as water. However, that was long in the future. Valentina thought humbly, "for now, the habitation module constituted almost the complete infrastructure available to the colonists".
The speaker vibrated alert and Capcom intoned to all, 'insertion in 10 seconds'. Valentina instinctively braced herself though she knew the action was of no value. She foresaw them safely in the cylinder below, beginning their survival regime and for her, setting in motion her own plans. Valentina saw on the display that their projected landing ellipse still continually decreased in size. Now it was no closer than 200 metres and no further than 500 metres from the habitation module. She re-affirmed the integrity of her tie-downs and then let her mind free. The fully automatic landing left nothing for them to do but wait and hope. Hope that their years of funding, building and training would pay off with a fully capable living space for the four of them. From her own analysis, she had complete confidence that it would keep them alive and for herself, prosperous.
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