Logbook #7

AS11-40-5853
AS11-40-5853

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

AS11-39-5752
AS11-39-5752

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

AS11-39-5748
AS11-39-5748

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.

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.