Logbook #4

AS11-38-5565
AS11-38-5565

Le Chapitre 4

A soft bump signalled their arrival on the Moon. Xu felt their spacecraft unwind as if all its cogs, rivets and valves happily settled into their most comfortable position. She was being anthropomorphic to a fault again she thought. She closed her eyes and let her emotions dance around the cabin. Each of her crewmates was fine. Jean’s aurora vibrated with a steady joy of a child opening presents at a birthday party. Desai’s self manifested like a jaguar slowly, hungrily beginning its stalking. With Valentina, Xu again thought how similar she was to the space craft, sometimes almost indistinguishable. Still happiness and anticipation shone from all about Valenteina. She let her joy of the successful landing emit forth like a beacon both to illuminate her friends in the cabin and to let the surroundings know of their presence as well as their intent.Xu took her role as being the initiate as an important and risky opportunity. She would suit up with Desai and Jean and all three would walk across to the habitat module. Valentina remained behind in the spacecraft as a safety measure. They had already established a communication link with the module and all indicators showed nominal values; the inside air pressure was adequate and had sufficient oxygen, the water system was primed and full and the power supply was fully charged. They had no expectation of harm or danger from the module or the walk to it but the three kept to the safe side of their rehearsed script; they had been conditioned to equate their survival to an abundance of caution in this harsh new reality. Given this, Xu would be the first into the habit module and the first to breath in its air and sample its water. Yes it was a risky but necessary requirement that she was readying to perform.

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.

Logbook #3

AS11-37-5503
AS11-37-5503

Le chapitre 3

Somewhere not too far below them, the lunar surface skimmed by at an ever decreasing speed. Desai knew of but could not sense their craft’s slowing. He thought of the lunar lander computer game that he’d played during one lunch time a long while ago. With it, you had to position the lander over the rough terrain and gently set it down before the fuel ran out. While the game was deceptively simple, the real event could be quite dramatic as shown by Apollo 11’s landing with fuel for only 20seconds remaining. Still Desai thought, that was the first human operated landing craft and its pilots were negotiating their way through many unknowns. Given the successes of the Apollo program as well as their own colony’s infrastructure build-out, the background knowledge of lunar landing was sufficient so as to make the risks of their landing tolerable; better than climbing Mount Annapuma and even safer than driving in some African countries.Desai was trumping his concern for landing with wanting to get back to this keyboard. His social media contacts wanted to know all details. Also, he had a few business deals that were awaiting attention. While he was pleased that the Internet had been successfully extended to their base on the Moon, part of him wondered if he would ever be able to let go of it while he was there. He did have one recommendation to send back to the colony organizers and that was to allow more mobility for passengers when landing. Really he thought, if it weren’t for the view out the porthole and the readings from the instrument cluster, Desai would not have sensed the impending landing. But he did know. And like his crewmates, his adrenaline was pumping stronger and stronger as the ground approached.

The actual landing was a let-down Desai thought even while smiling ruefully at the unintentional pun. He felt the craft re-orient from a near horizontal alignment to one near vertical. The pull of the Moon’s gravity had been present for awhile and had been increasing but it was nowhere near the strength of the Earth’s pull. He heard a subtle roar as the rockets controlled the craft’s descent and he felt the vibrations as the rocket’s energy was expended against the exit nozzle. These were also minor in comparison to the sensations from launch. Suddenly, the noise cut-out and the vibrations ceased. For the first time in his life he understood the phrase, ‘the silence was deafening’. He heard Capcom talking to Valentina. Apparently life was treating them very well today indeed as they were comfortably in their landing ellipse and only a little over 250metres from the habitation module. “They had arrived.” he thought, “Let the colony begin!”.

Logbook #2

AS11-37-5500
AS11-37-5500

Chapitre 2

Valentina kept one eye scanning the instrument panel in front of her. The other bounced around the craft, peered out the porthole, watched her companions, isolated strange noises and kept very aware. Their craft had begun orbiting the Moon a few hours before, setting in motion their well rehearsed landing routine. Really though, the others had little to do aside from securing all items and then each other. Even her role as pilot served mostly to audit progress with the very unlikely eventuality of stepping in to make corrections. For the most part it was, “put your flight tables up, straighten your set backs and prepare to land” just like a passenger in a commercial airplane. Valentina continued watching as all the sensors registered their expected values; she’d never assumed that computers were capable. Still their orbit gradually lowered and the insertion moment neared.Their flight from Earth had been fairly quick and somewhat fun given the novel environment. Their craft had the basic necessities of life; air, water, food, but little else. Physical space was at a premium and free motion was a luxury. Yet, the pleasure of floating free without gravity had kept them entertained for most of the previous 3 days. They had repeated many of the tricks they had seen other astronauts perform on the International Space Station; floating unrestrained, somersaulting, blowing water bubbles and the like. Valentina hadn’t had as much fun playing since long before her school years. She pleasantly abandoned herself to the new environment, using her instinctive child playfulness to retune motor skills and adjust sensory perception. Almost without realizing it, the four of them had devised competitive and cooperative games that improved their awareness. Their favourite was a hands free game of dodgeball using any small light object near at hand. Points were awarded if the propelled object touched anyone while points were deducted if the object touched the craft’s surface or if a person touched the surface. Xu with her great body control had proven herself the master of this game and usually her team came out on top. Valentina smiled while playing and had thought that their camaraderie boded well for their future in the cramped quarters of the habitation module on the Moon, even if she had other plans.

When their craft had entered orbit about the Moon, they had finally seen the colony’s infrastructure with their own eyes. It didn’t look impressive. A small cylindrical object rested on its side with one end pushed up against a hill side. The other end had bulbous growths forward and to each side. These were the nodes; one being an airlock to facilitate ingress and egress, two being a connection node for future components and three being the automatic supply port. Nearby, a standalone dot was actually a robotic tractor. It had assembled the current infrastructure and now waited patiently for their next command. Hopefully its name wasn’t HAL. As a place for them to call home, the cylinder wasn’t much. But as any realtor would say, it’s all location, location, location. The cylinder was on top of a crater rim that had a nearly continuous direct line of sight to the Sun, the Earth and a nearby communication relay station. Eventually, they would be prospecting at the crater floor hoping to find recoverable minerals as well as water. However, that was long in the future. Valentina thought humbly, “for now, the habitation module constituted almost the complete infrastructure available to the colonists”.

The speaker vibrated alert and Capcom intoned to all, ‘insertion in 10 seconds’. Valentina instinctively braced herself though she knew the action was of no value. She foresaw them safely in the cylinder below, beginning their survival regime and for her, setting in motion her own plans. Valentina saw on the display that their projected landing ellipse still continually decreased in size. Now it was no closer than 200 metres and no further than 500 metres from the habitation module. She re-affirmed the integrity of her tie-downs and then let her mind free. The fully automatic landing left nothing for them to do but wait and hope. Hope that their years of funding, building and training would pay off with a fully capable living space for the four of them. From her own analysis, she had complete confidence that it would keep them alive and for herself, prosperous.

Logbook #1

 

AS11-37-5497 NASA

 

Chapitre 1

The sound was the most unexpected. He tried listening with greater intensity but to no avail. It was as if a huge thick cloth enveloped him and his spacecraft. The fan noise constantly whined away. Someone drifted by and disturbed a cord or wire that scratched lightly upon a surface. Nothing else disturbed the quiet. Even the incessant noise from CapCom had somehow become background; vital chatter that nevertheless was insubstantial and trivial to overlook.

A few years before, Jean had almost erupted with joy upon learning that he’d been selected to be in the first tranche of colonists on the Moon. In what seemed like little more than an instant, he had gone from intrepid neophyte to chastened voyager. Apparently the requirements for being a colonist were vastly different than for being an astronaut. The high flyers of old were all certifiably made of the right stuff; they could fly test planes with one hand tied behind their back, rebuild air decontamination units with a box of spare parts and comfortably travel around the world meeting dignitaries and luminaries. Jean on the other hand had a certain down-home charm that was encouraged instead of ridiculed. Even now, he fondly remembers break time at his old employers, Plumbed-Up. Some keen colleagues would take out manuals and read them front to back so that they were ready for anything. Not him. He comfortably sat back with a coffee reading the sports section and wondering if his next shift would end on time. He was capable and had routinely pulled projects out from disasters. It was either an inherent knack or he was just plain lucky but machines always seemed to do his bidding. Unfortunately, he had much less luck with people especially with the ladies. But he wasn’t concerned, he somehow knew that good things would keep coming; sometimes taking a bit longer than expected but eventually just around some bend or another life would take another pleasant turn. Anyway, he had no incentive to prove himself to anyone. Even applying to be a colonist had been more to appease his friends than for any self glorification. In any case, somehow his name had bubbled to the surface and here he was on his way to the Moon.

Xu watched Jean with a certain degree of boredom and a large amount of scepticism. His background was so different. She wasn’t sure she could live with him for any length of time let alone for months on a bare rock floating in space. Sure she wanted to be a colonist on the Moon. Yes, it was so important that she had given up on her future; there was to be no family for her. Sometimes she wondered if that empty feeling in her stomach was from everything that had been surgically removed rather than from being on a space craft heading away from Earth. But she knew better. She had butterflies every time she began something new. Whether beginning to study a new piano concerto or ascending Mount Fiji, she began with a sensation somewhere between rapturous joy and cautious trepidation. Nevertheless, the sensation brought its own comfort. With it she knew that another major step had begun in her life and would, as always, lead to comfort and reward. She took on the lotus -position, much easier in zero gravity than it had ever been on Earth. Her hands slowly caressed her thighs, inside and out. Her muscles started to unwind. She let her mind slow down, she stopped thinking of Jean, stopped thinking of anything and allowed peace to well up inside of her and spread out, to her fellow travels, to the space craft and onward with no particular destination planned.

Desai had come a long way from the slums of Lesotho. There, food was at a premium, clothes were optional, safety was never assured. He had been careful, some said wise beyond his years but the choices he had made worked out for him. Sure he wasn’t one of the elite; he still tracked every rand, he’d never lost a sock in a dryer nor had he taken to dressing ostentatiously. Actually, he could probably identify every article of clothing in his wardrobe though he didn’t expect to wear any of them every again. Secretly, he was on the way to the Moon to stay. It was an option to everyone but most of the other colonists had a backdoor plan; a place to go to should the Moon not have as pleasant living conditions as expected. He however did not. He had collapsed his frugal possessions into the smallest of containers and placed it into long term storage more as a symbol of where he’d been than to ever use again. He had taken everything else and converted them into electronic assets. His goal was to be a successful inter-world venture capitalist. He knew that once on the Moon, the view out to the lunar surface wouldn’t appease his eyes. But, he saw potential there and he had experience in the world markets on Earth. He envisioned a synergy between the two that would lead to something much greater than the sum of the parts. He glanced at his companions, all like himself relaxed and very comfortable in this new environment. Somehow every time Xu drifted off, he felt an inner peace envelope him, an assurance that the future would be alright. Not long from now they would begin their descent to the lunar base. His anticipation rose even further, much as it had done every day since he learned that he was selected. It was as if embers of a fire in his chest were being stoked ready for his future which he knew was always there waiting for him to pluck.

While the other three went about their routines or simply relaxed as Xu was doing, Valentina remained vigilant. Some said that she was too nervous; never at ease doing nothing. Perhaps they were right. Even when she was still, her mind ticked over as a Porshe waiting at the starting line. Her youth in Leningrad allowed many outlets for her energy. However she learned early that bouncing from one task to another led to nothing but discordant disarray. Fortunately an uncle had introduced her to chess. She learned to sit comfortably for hours just thinking of moves, options, permutations far past the game’s current layout. She hadn’t risen to grand master though she had given a few of them a run for their money she thought with a wry smile. Instead, she had turned inward and outward at the same time. She spent much time thinking of who she was, what purpose her life was to have, how to be a positive part of a community. Concurrently, she had entered into the community as a vibrant, vocal debutante. She learned what to say and when to say it so that she could achieve her objective. She thought of herself as a small part of a much greater whole and she wanted to do her part in making the whole a better place. She started with turning a vacant lot into a park, moved on to replacing her dilapidated lyceum with a modern structure having full modern amenities. Her latest was to develop a plan to return Pripyat to a functioning neighbourhood; maybe not today but eventually. She banked on long-term growth potential and while she knew what she wanted, she also knew that there was less and less for her on Earth. Well, she thought with a smile, there’s only one place to go and that’s up. So she’d joined the lunar base cause a while ago, at the prompting of Desai, and had learned to live and love it. As her involvement grew, she knew that space was the only option for long term survival and she was going to see it being right.

CapCom continued its incessant chatter noting equipment status and milestones attained. The four rode together in comfortable silence. Each had their private selves but also, each accepted the other with compassion and consideration. They were the first; they were going to begin a new chapter in human civilization. It shouldn’t take more than one or two Earth days before the craft landed at the base. That would be the start of their grand adventure and the start of humankind’s next big step and they looked forward to it eagerly.