Aditya felt an odd pang when thinking of Woof. He had set the robotic dog to patrol the ‘borders’ of their little colony. It was the last thing he had done before packing his own things and taking his final walk to the return shuttle. He imagined Woof ceremoniously traveling the circuit, never complaining, never tiring, simply traveling. “Truly” Aditya thought, “he would be a lost little robot, another vestige of humanity much as Sojourner was on Mars. “While God may play dice with the universe, if humans were playing dice they might be rolling snake eyes here.”
Zara had been first into the return shuttle and had the least to do. She busied herself with re-checking all systems but really the shuttle had enough redundancies and fail-safes that she was letting Earth ground control do all the processing. Her mind was drifting much as everyone else’s in the shuttle. She contemplated how absolute it felt; as if humankind had given up. “Would future generations have the ability and desire to reach beyond the Earth’s surface?” To her the outlook was as bleak as the landscape after a Queensland firestorm.
Jean stared out the window. Still quite lost in his emotions. His pride and joy, his whole reason for being, the Hab, was no longer anything but a memory. For months and months he had toiled to optimize its design, maintain its systems and prepare for future colonists. Now after being told to return to Earth, he knew it was all for naught. Promises of a brief respite and then another crew to take their place on the Moon were simply exigencies. The colony was done. Soon enough, the Hab would fail in a way that couldn’t be repaired from Earth and it would become uninhabitable. Then, no one would be going back to live on the lunar south pole. To him, he accused humanity of too much navel-gazing and not enough dreaming of a better future. “The effort to sustain a few people on the Moon’s surface for all its potential was too much when weighted against all the suffering and strife. But returning the colonists wouldn’t end the problems on Earth. Instead, they would be exasperated as the Terrans would realize that hope for their future had just gotten much dimmer” he worried. Even the joy at seeing his child for the first time did not raise his spirits.
Desai secured the door to the shuttle and moved to his seat. He had contemplated staying put and living his final days on the Moon. He imagined himself alone, probably dehydrated and starving to death. But still on the Moon. He had pictured his final days in the Haven, perhaps simply reading a book or reviewing the analysis of another assaying sample. But he knew that he lived for goals. He couldn’t simply live day by day having neither purpose nor destination. That wasn’t living to him; that was simply existing much like a tree or bush. He knew that to be happy he’d have to be working to a goal. And he had chosen a new one. He was going to put all his effort into aiding the next generation into putting humankind back into space. “While we may have failed, that doesn’t mean that humanity has failed. There should be a way of enabling people to live off of Earth and on the Earth at the same time. Why has humanity given up on itself?” he contemplated.
Xu had already settled into the command chair. There wasn’t much to command in the shuttle. It was a very simple rescue vehicle. Its sole purpose was to get humans from the Moon to the Earth safely and in a hurry. It had no other function. They would be gone soon but a small part of her would stay behind. A part of her soul, her spirit. It would always be on the Moon, floating amongst the rocks, into the craters, through the regolith. Part dreaming, part believing, mostly lamenting. She had put all of her being into this expedition. She had expected that humans were on the Moon for good. For her generation and for all the following ones. But even all the guidance and aid from the Lunar Colony Fund on Earth had not been enough to support them. A few political crises in the governments of their major supports had left the colonists with no choice. There was simply not enough interest in a common goal, in a social destiny. Their supplies were no longer coming. “Why were people so scared?” she thought deeply. “The colonists were not posing a danger to anyone on Earth and we were consuming not much more resources than a typical affluent person in a first world country. Yet, all anyone seemed to ever care about was their personal fortune. It was as if a global narcissism refused to allow humans to succeed on any other world.”
On Earth, Valentina worked the CapCom station with all her might. She had to. If she took even a moments respite she knew that she would breakdown into an emotional wreck. She blamed herself a bit for the return of the colonists. Not only had she failed them by getting injured but she had also failed them by not getting enough support from the Terrans. Yes, she knew that rockets were expensive and that people did not naturally live on the Moon. But if people were ever to live off of Earth then they’d have to start somewhere. And the Moon was the best place to start. It was close. It was hostile. It was convenient. And most of all it was possible as the colonists had shown with their multi-year existence on it. “Now, I will bring you back safety” she thought. “But, I won’t be bringing you home. Your home is on the Moon now and forever. You will never be satisfied living on Earth much as I have never been satisfied these last few months. Your yearning will continue. And you will need to channel that energy. Channel it into something worthwhile. Because humanity needs a future, a dream, a hope to give them direction, energy and purpose.”