Logbook #8


Le chapitre 8

Xu held tight on the gash that ran roughly across Valentina’s thigh. Jagged metal from a developmental excavator had sliced into her skin and her blood was almost spurting out. Given the absence of air pressure on the lunar surface then any break in a person’s protective covering could quickly be fatal. Jean skipped up with an inflatable cast and slide it up Valentina’s leg and overtop both the wound and Xu’s hand. Xu pulled the tab to automatically release the air into the cast while simultaneously pulling her hand off. She saw the cast fill and stiffen. She straightened then put one of Valentina’s arms over her shoulder while Jean took the other and the three of them hobbled across the short distance to the Habitat’s airlock.

Health and safety were Xu’s domain. Her natural affinity and compassion together with a sharp mind made her a natural fit. She thought of the four colonists and how they were an interesting group as they all had remarkable vitality as well as few genetic precursors. Not only did this mean that they should age with few or no diseases but also she didn’t expect flus or viruses to invade their domain. Still she had read about how some astronauts in the space station had developed colds during a flight so she was prepared. With their reliance upon doctors living upon Earth and the absence of diagnostic equipment and pharmacies, she knew that simple medical inconveniences on Earth might turn into fatalities on the Moon so she hoped to never need use her skills.

Valentina’s cut was Xu’s first real emergency and it had evolved quickly. Valentina and Jean had been trialing adaptations to a robot but when Valentina stepped in for a closer inspection, she had misjudged the distance and been struck by a moving part. Xu, sitting in the Habitat module, had heard the commotion over the intercom and had suited-up, grabbed the portable emergency kit and in a few strong bounds was upon the scene. She hurriedly looked about; at the robotic excavator standing still, at the small hole in the ground by the regolith and at the odd red ground colour by Valentina. The blood on the ground was probably the only colour she had seen on the Moon’s surface since they landed. It seemed to be clumping in the regolith. Little showed on the surface and its capillary action created an odd slight depression at its edges. She couldn’t tell how much blood Valentina had lost but from looking at her pale, constrained face, Xu knew that it was significant. She told Desai, who was still in the Habitat module, to tap into Valentina’s biometric data and relay it to her own screen. Xu saw the very low blood pressure and the heart rate slowing. In a swirl of dust, she got Valentina seated on the ground and put her hand tightly over the wound to sense the depth of the cut. She had Jean pull the inflatable cast from the kit and ready it over Valentina’s foot. Absently, she thought of how her practise made her actions near automatic so she felt no undue alarm as she brought things back into order.

At the Habitat, Jean left them in the airlock and returned to the excavator to clean up the field site. While the outer part of the airlock was small, it could in an emergency, handle four suited people. Valentina rested up against the wall while Xu waited for the dust and dirt to clear and the air to fill the cavity. When safe, she quickly doffed her suit and stored it. She help Valentina out of her’s; all except the lower half that was fixed by the air cast. She gently assisted Valentina into the vestibule while Desai prepared for her on the other side. With a swoosh, one door slid closed and the interior one opened and Valentina fell into Desai’s arms. Xu waited her turn while watching as Desai carried Valentina to their infirmary.

Logbook #7


Le chapitre 7

Valentina awoke in the arms of Desai. The aura of their love making still played along the fringes of her mind. They’d learned to make allowances for the much lower gravity. Their muscles and bones were still tuned to the mass of Earth so every day they had to step lightly with their feet and push lightly with their hands. But, when it came to interacting with each other, they had no limits. Each had perfected their own gymnastics routines to keep themselves and their companion riding a wave of pleasure into a crashing fulfillment on the shores of their contentment. Valentina smiled, warmly raised Desai’s unresponsive arm and set it aside. She shrugged into her pullover and stepped out from the enclosure without waking her complicit pleasure rider.

Valentina’s primary project filled all her spare time. She managed the development and validation of the in-ground safety cavern. Now, the ‘cave’ was a simple sloped hole in the ground that might keep the four of them alive when an X-class flare came crashing down from the Sun. She needed more than a ‘might survive’ so she took on this task almost from the moment she had joined the colonists. The idea was simple. An excavator would hollow out a space. An annealer would bake the walls into a glass like constituency. A bricker would take the removed material and bake it into bricks. The colonists would assemble the bricks in ‘Lego fashion’ to develop a structural entrance way. To Valentina, this safety cave weighed more on her mind than nearly any other task.

With her gift for foresight, Valentina could also see how down the road, the cave would sport a robust airlock that led into an interior, shirt-leave environment. The space could be made quite large, perhaps like the halls of Moiria as contrived by Tolkein. But that was a long way from today. Now, all she had were ideas and some recalcitrant robots. She wanted sophisticated processing plants and power. Lots of power. She dreamed of large robots like the ones used to carve out the Chunnel and fusion reactors to provide more than enough power for each and every colonist. But again, that was a goal to which she was striving. Now, she was thinking as a survivalist. Typically she pondered “what’s here that can do what I need done”. And so she found herself early in this new work period (a typical Earth day) researching the Internet for “optimizing excavators in a low gravity environment”. With more than a million hits from the search engine, she had her work cut out.

She could still smell Desai’s scent upon her skin. Sweet memories. Her fingers casually played across the keyboard. Internet searching was a different experience given the 3 second travel time to accommodate the Earth-Moon distance. Her scripts help speed the process, acting like funnels, optimized from years on the same project. They found surprising sites occasionally with useful data. She kept at this slow, sifting task as time was on her side today.

Logbook #6


Le chapitre 6

Desai watched Jean as he prepared the jackstay. “Odd” he thought “that nautical terms seemed to be reasonable for a fixed structure on the Moon. “Oh well” he went on “for fitting this rig, I will be the happy crewman”.

The rig was actually a solar shield similar to that used for the Skylab space station. Given that their Habitat module was much larger than the Skylab, their solar shield came in three overlapping sections. Given this, if one shield failed then another might be able to replace it thus avoiding the fate of Skylab. Desai was happy to let Jean attend to the parts. He monitored the sensor read-outs on his display and he awaited the signal to power up the install feature.

His helmet display greatly facilitated this role. On it, he had all the necessary read-outs from the Habitat module. He also had all the process steps displayed; each showing an incomplete status until confirmed by Jean. To the side, the status of the robotic tractor showed that it was ready though its role was simply to capture a video documentary for follow-on Earth based review. As well, of course, the Habitat module filled the background of his helmets display but it was so static that Desai treated it much as a background on a computer monitor.

“Much cooler than a video game” he thought. Yet at the same time he knew that a failure could cost them their lives. This was certainly no game.

With a final signal from Jean, Desai knew it was time to begin. His display showed that all preparatory steps were satisfactorily completed. He initiated the unrolling sequence. The shield’s leading edge tightened; its creases all disappeared. The side capstans slowly turned and the shield began extending up along the side-guides and toward the apex. The aluminized mylar occasionally caught the rising Sun’s rays and sent a brilliant beam at Desai. His helmet automatically adjusted to the light level and he barely noticed a flicker. His fingers continued their mid-air dance as Desai constantly verified the operation’s status.

Desai time shifted and he returned to their team bonding expedition on Devon Island. They had visited the Mars analogue station and then headed to the coastline to spend two weeks just surviving. Winter was very cold there. But it was much colder here on the Moon. Still, the sight of the shield rising up to its apex and then descending down the other side reminded him of the thick nylon fly they had used to cover their tent on the island. While the fly may have helped by keeping some snow off, the shield would by a life saver by reflecting much of the Sun’s radiation. The shield made their Habitat Module a safe refuge for all but the most glaring of solar flares. He reviewed the radiation monitor readings from the module and saw that ones underneath the shield were already showing lower levels. He smiled and thought that being the crew on their stationary ship on the Moon does make for a fantastic adventure.

Desai brought himself back to the task at hand. Like a freed dervish marionette, he played his keyboard and kept the shield ascending. Almost immediately he saw more of the Habitat’s radiation monitors decrease. This shield moving into place protected their sleeping area which was also their escape area when solar flares reached out from the Sun. Until they finished the underground chambers, the Habitat was their one and only living space no matter what the space weather. His monitoring continued as Jean kept feeding the shield along.

Logbook #5


Le chapitre 5

Comforting as that may have been, Jean had never been impressed by the numbers and he put much more store in his lucky charms. His fingers rubbed the lira coin in his pocket; a memory of his attendance at the 2015 World Fair in Milan. The coin had been with him when he exited the transport to begin his leisurely walk about the habitation module. It reminded him of his many practise walks about the Earth analog habitat. While the mobile robot had completed the same route, and he was actually following its tracks, Jean had learned that robots could only see what was expected of them. He on the other hand had a much broader knowledge base to draw upon, as well as a distinct though some would say quirky, imagination. Earlier, as he walked around the habitat, he checked out the shadows, unusual dirt formations about the base, the joins between the different modules and the general lay of the land. Their habitat was on an abbreviated plain on the rim of a crater. The view in all directions was stunning though the lack of colour gave a false, surreal sense to the image. He had been pleased that the footing was solid and the regolith for the most part quite shallow. He had briefly stopped at the Cave, an excavation made by the mobile robot that would allow them to go underground to escape severe radiation. Its walls and ceiling were intact though he wondered how the four of them would fit. His tour had ended happily without event and he had transferred all the video from his suit into the module’s digital storage where he could review it any time. His luck had continued.

Valentina had walked directly across from the transport and into the habitat module. Jean enjoyed watching Valentina as she stepped from the airlock’s vestibule into the habitat. Her smile radiated. And her natural confidence again filled him with hope. He joined Valenteina and Xu as they hugged each other. Desai smiled at them from his workstation and then he turned back to his display. Jean couldn’t imagine a happier moment in his life. Or a time when so much promise laid out before him. A song was being sung in his heart and he willed himself to place this memory in concrete so he could always bring regard it.

Now with all four of them finally together in the habitat module, they prepared their first rite, a binding moment of togetherness. They would give thanks for their safe deliverance and most of all, a moment of silence for the colonists who had attempted the same journey but had lost their lives. He gathered up the material awaiting him at his station; some wires and some LED lights. He built a small wire frame on the floor then added the LEDs. With the flick of a switch, the LEDs came alive in varying colours and the four of them had a simulated flame that they could use for their rite. This symbolised fire, one of the first elements of humanity’s civilization.

Jean extended his left hand and gently enveloped the right hand of Xu. His right hand was already holding Valentina’s left. They stood in a circle in the habitation module, holding hands and beginning their quiet memorial to the previous colonists and others who had lost their lives in pursuit of the colony. Chief in their minds were the four who had flown in the first transport from Earth. Its launch was spectacular, the rockets roared, the exhaust gases lit up the area and the monster ascended into the clouds. Moments later, and quite unexpectedly, the roar briefly increased then stopped altogether. Later, the contractor identified a mechanical failure. But for the four colonist onboard there was no reprieve. Jean shivered involuntarily thinking that he could well have been on that flight rather than here on the Moon following the successful launch and passage of their transport.

The circle made by their four bodies centred upon a small pyre with LEDs simulating a flame. Jean heard Valentina intone the words that they had all contributed to, “Our hopes and our dreams rest upon the willingness of others to support our endeavour. Thousands have contributed, some giving the ultimate sacrifice. We gladly carry their contributions into the future for the benefit of us, everyone on Earth and for the Earth itself”. She bowed her head and Jean followed her lead. They knew that they maintained a fragile existence on the Moon but they had been assured that it was as safe as climbing Mount Everest and actually safer than driving a vehicle in some countries.