Le chapitre 50
The immediacy of death continually played upon Xu’s imagination. Here in the Hab she could probably break the wall’s exterior seal with only the slightest of effort and to the immediate, final detriment of her, her crew and their mission. Back on Earth, an enclosure was usually for comfort. There too, with a slight effort, enclosures could experience a broken seal. But there the consequences would unlikely be dire; no loss of life. The constant danger and heightened risk with living on the Moon put her on edge and she could only accommodate it. Never to master it. As her mind wandered through this paradigm of risk versus benefit, she continued sealing the base layer of her egress suit and reconsidered her plan.
The lunar dawn approached. Soon the Sun would begin its rise above the horizon. She would be waiting for it at the lip of a nearby crater. Previously she had installed there an extremely smooth sheet of metal that had a slight concave shape. As the Sun broke the horizon she would aim the metal to reflect the Sun’s rays onto the opposite, dark wall of the crater. That wall never had the Sun shine upon it. It was perpetually in the chill of the night. The void of near absolute zero. Given this extreme cold then any water / ice should stay in situ rather than sublimate away from the surface. Even after a few billion years. And the reflectivity of the water / ice should be revealed by a flash of light on the detectors that were positioned along the edge of the sheet metal. An onsite processor kept a record of the Sun’s position, the metal’s position and any reflections. She would analyze the information later, back in the Hab. In her mind she had imagined this reflection-test as the best and easiest way to go prospecting. Her goal for this morning, if you could indeed use such a colloquial term as ‘morning’, is to visually confirm the accuracy of the metal’s angle and to bring a copy of the recorded data back to the Hab in case of any transmission problems. She thought it funny that in a sense she had become an assistant to the machines about her as much as being their controller. Maybe this signalled the dawn of a new interaction between humans and machines?
She laughed at the idea of serving machines and drew on her boots. With all the shenanigans going on with the people in the Hab, the ones on Earth and the ones slated to join them, she looked forward to the logical, straight forward, predictable actions of a machine. When she directed the machine to change angles of the sheet metal, it would. When she directed people to undertake actions, even something as trivial as changing direction, anything might ensue. Just this morning Valentina was berating Jean for leaving tools lying about his work station. Normally such a minor transgression wouldn’t raise an eyebrow amongst any of them. However Valentina was perhaps thinking of too many other things and she had latched upon the mess with a wholesome vindictive righteousness that was was somewhat out of sync with their typical interactions. In order to restore peace as quickly as possible, Xu had put herself between the two warring parties and tried to bring a certain amount of rationality into the conversation. Really, for the sake of a few crucibles and slides lying on the table Xu had absorbed a great amount of anger and resentment while playing referee. She had stood her ground but inwardly she had a great desire to simply shake some common sense into both of them. Eventually they calmed and professed apologies to each other. She however had received little comfort. She was left emotionally drained.
This contrasted so much with machines. When they acted up she could exercise some exigent if imprudent response such as unplugging it or doing a complete reboot. She wondered if people would ever show the rational logic of a well determined machine script. She laughed again on replaying the event and finished enclosing her body inside the outer layer of the egress suit. All that remained was to attach the helmet, pressurize the ensemble, check the communications and step out into the emptiness. While the risk in the Hab was great, it was nothing compared to the risks accompanying any sojourner walking on the surface. Yet, she happily did this day after day in the hope that their mission bore fruit; that humans could sustainably live upon the Moon. While death on the Moon may have a higher likelihood compared to Earth for today she was alive and determined to make the most of every moment, every opportunity that she could grab.