Le Chapitre 4
All four crew members donned their space suits. The space craft air was vented and the three walkers slowly descended the ladder on to the lunar surface; first Xu then Desai and finally Jean. They collected together by the ladder, unlocked the storage doors at the base of the craft, removed and put on their travel packs and headed toward the habitat. Valentina maintained steady communications with them and relayed necessary information between monitors on Earth and the walkers. Jean was to undertake a visual tour of the exterior of the habitat module looking for damage. Desai would operate the interface of the habitat’s airlock. Xu would trial the interlock and, if successful, would continue on into the habitat module. All this seamed surreal to Xu who so recently was relaxed in her stateroom on Earth entertaining a colleague from the marketing department in the most blissful way with no consideration to air, water or even clothing. Here, being continuously, extremely cautious was a challenge for her. But, her self-awareness had made her the best candidate to lead them into their new home.
Looking to her right, Xu could see Jean beginning his circumnavigation of the module. Desai was already in front of her and had plugged his suit into the access port on the external face of the interlock. He was typing quickly away on his ethereal keyboard; a manifestation that was real to his eyes alone. He looked like a contestant playing Chopin on an air-keyboard. Xu laughed to herself at the idea which brought a quick, comforting glance from Desai. He had already warmed up to her in some very intimate ways and she was very happy to spend time and space with him. As she shyly looked away, the door of the interlock opened and the entrance to her new home gaped before her; a dark brooding orifice. With slight trepidation, she put her hand on the one handrail and stepped onto the ladder. With just a few steps, she was up and in and Desai had closed the door behind her. Her weight on the floor set the interlock into operation. Lights appeared on the panel. Dust drifted by her as air entered and began the cleaning process. She had nothing to do now but wait 5 long, slow minutes as the air pressure built and the lunar regolith that had entered with her slowly collected into the filter traps. Finally, a soft green LED flashed SAFE. With perhaps a little more trepidation than before, she removed her gloves and placed them into the internal storage. She looked down at her fingers. They felt fine even warm. The temperature seemed comfortable, probably about 20°C. She removed the glove liners and exposed her bare fingers. Again comfortable.
“Conditions seem liveable,” she reported to her colleagues and she began to remove her helmet. With it off, she could feel the space about her with all her senses. While such perception had been of great value and importance to her on Earth, she wasn’t sure how much she could rely upon it while in the contrived environment on the Moon. Still for her, it was a necessity as much as it was second nature.
Desai’s voice came in through the speaker, “How’s the décor?” he jokingly asked.
The interlock wasn’t a surprise as they had an exact duplicate on Earth and had used it countless times to practice. But that didn’t stop her sense of humour, “Somewhat stale and dated” she replied. “But a coat of paint and new furniture would do it a world of good” she ended while laughing all the time.
Now, having removed and stowed the last of her spacesuit, she moved into the vestibule that would ready her for entering the habitat. In effect, the vestibule was a second airlock. Its main purpose was to capture the useful air from the airlock and place it back into storage. If the colony was ever to be self-sufficient, they wouldn’t be able to discharge anything; air, water or waste. The vestibule was just one measure that kept their emissions to zero. Again, her weight on the vestibule floor, and the lack of weight on the airlock floor, began the process. As her helmet was off, she could hear the pumps and valves quietly sucking the air into a reservoir. Unbeknownst to her, at the same time the airlock was expelling the lunar dust that it had collected from her space suit’s exterior.
Desai’s voice on the speaker brought her up short. He was laughing and saying, “Hey have you ever seen a building fart?”
Apparently, air remnants had emitted the dust as a slight cloud that just captured enough of the rising Sun’s rays to make them noticeable. Xu smiled and saw the flashing light in the airlock change to yellow and read CAUTION while in front of her a new bright light shown again in green but reading HABITAT SAFE. The entrance way slid to the side and she stepped forward into their new living quarters.