Le chapitre 34
Xu watched their Hab’s porch light as its intensity increased, maximized and then faded away to nothing. It was a safety beacon that shone out both horizontally and vertically. The light would guide lost travellers to the Hab whether they were walking or travelling through space in a spaceship. There was pretty well no chance that the light would serve any practical purpose as radar beacons crisscrossed everywhere about her; totally unseen by her eye but always there to guide. In spite of the supremacy of the radar, Xu felt a certain warmth knowing that the porch light remained on every day, every hour whether the Sun bathed them with its cosmic radiation or darkness pervaded the land.
She stood at the praecipe that led down to their first well. One could hardly call it a well but in essence that was what they had found. Deep along their crater’s wall perpetually hidden from the Sun’s glare, the rock contained traces of ice. Superficial assaying found enough to trigger alarms so their team acted and retraced the route that Woof had taken to the spot. There, they undertook a more exhaustive survey. Taking these new samples back to the Hab for analysis showed that the rock indeed contained enough water to make the region a potential source for the colonists. Nevertheless, accessing the water was not as simple as heating up the rock so that the ice would melt into water and into their catch basins. The water concentration stood at parts per million with a few places at parts per thousand. Though this evidence validated the existence of the colony at the Moon’s south pole they needed now to draw out and collect the water while using the least amount of energy as possible. They would use the best practices of the miners on planet Earth. Once they determined the extent of the water then they would have their supporters on Earth rocket in a purpose built processor directly to a location central to the water mass. As well, a large solar collector would get emplaced along the rim of the crater to collect energy from the Sun and send it via cables to the processor. The last component was a purpose built robotic excavator that could break up, extract and transport rock to the processor. With minimal intervention from the colonists, these would all work to get the ore, process it, collect water and replace the tailings in a way that would minimize disturbance to the crater yet maximize the production of water. So was their dream and their dreams had few bounds except for the hard, cold reality of an unforgiving existence on the Moon. Xu began down the incline to take the final survey. Her boot had the specialized spikes to drive into the regolith. In addition to being designed to quickly and permanently stay in the ground, the spikes had a special radar reflector at their top to eventually guide the robotic excavator. They would probably jangle and screech if she were walking on Earth as the Terran atmosphere could carry the sound. But here on the Moon, there was no atmosphere so no sound. There was actually very little distinction of any sort whatsoever to distract her on her journey.
Her boots made a slight crunching sound that seemed to get transmitted through her suit and into her ears. “Probably just vinyl garment grinding against itself”, she thought. The glare from the waning Sun made the normal, high-contrast view even harsher. While this scene had no comparison on Earth, she had grown to appreciate and even enjoy it; for all its beauty and desolation. The lack of any disturbance, whether bird or cricket or even from a zephyr of air, permeated into her and left her with a certain relaxed calmness. Odd that even after a few Earth-months on the Moon she reveled in the solitary quiet, far from the invasive din that blanketed the Earth’s surface and far from the sparse interaction of her fellow colonists.