Logbook #77

AS14-66-9243
AS14-66-9243

Jean held up the open end of the pipe to his eye and studied the surface. It was clean. Unblemished by nicks, tears or even the slightest hint of unconformity. He aimed the other open end toward the light and gently rotated the long, black cylinder. Straight as a photon’s track. His eyes never lied. He whistled to himself in admiration and said to no one in particular, “These graphene tubes are light as a feather and stay true even after suffering every resonating vibration from trucks to rockets to landers. And nary a mark. It’s a pity the construction material on Earth didn’t have the same quality.”

“Don’t get too hung up by the pipe. They don’t have interest in your pity.” chimed in Zara over the intercom. “I, on the other hand, have a decided interest in you. I want you back here soon enough. And with energy to burn too.”

Jean laughed a little louder. “Have you found any more dusty video flicks? Each time we watch one of those I want to reprogram the overhead lights to make them look like a disco ball.”

Which is exactly what he did a few weeks ago. The effect was fantastic. Both he and Zara had put on their boogie shoes and rocked the room. For a number of songs. Until Xu had walked in and uttered a very uncharacteristic expletive while at the same time quickly switching the Hab into survival mode. A mode that came with a standard, steady white light from all overhead sources. They stopped.  He and Zara felt only slightly chastened. Not repentant. They just had to be a bit more careful with their timing.

Taking his eyes off the pipe, Jean looked over at the toolset and started back into work. He was in the Haven now. And he was preparing a secondary heat distribution system. This system will contain glycol. And the glycol would transfer heat from hot areas to cool areas. Or vice versa. He didn’t need to know much more. But in actuality, he was building a very complex, efficient and maintainable energy system.

Each join of the system had a valve and a temperature sensor. Controllers ensured that leaks were immediately isolated. These same controllers worked fans that ensured that the ambient air and surface temperature inside the Haven stayed within a comfortable temperature range for people wearing simple shirt-sleeves. No hot or cold zones would ever exist.

The Haven’s internal heat generation was waste heat. Heat from people, heat from computing devices and heat from decaying food matter. As the Haven was, for the most part, insulated from the surrounding regolith and bedrock, it held a temperature with very little fluctuation. While a radiant heater could raise the temperature, not much energy from it was needed. Conduits deep into the bedrock served as a reliable heat sink should the internal heat rise too much. Though the waste heat kept things comfortable for the residents.

The colonists had even taken occasional turns at spending a few days and nights living in the Haven as a way to test the accommodations. And as a way to relax. To be apart from the others. Much as each loved the other dearly, they also liked their ‘alone’ time. Or with one other. Jean enjoyed vacationing there with Zara. It was their time together. It was brief. But it was memorable. He happily smiled on envisioning their next tryst together in the Haven. With whichever sound and light show they concocted. Thus turning their time together into very memorable hours.

Logbook #76

AS11-38-5585

Desai looked around and felt a shiver of unease crawl the length of his spine. As if the brush of an insidious shadow had maneuvered across his own in a vain attempt to suffocate it out of existence. And in result, who would he be if he didn’t even have a shadow? Desai always felt this way while striding about the dust encumbered hills and valleys surrounding the Hab. Even inside the Haven, a purposefully designed enclosure of refuge, he felt a sense of caution and concern contort his thinking. Only when he was inside the Hab did he feel totally comfortable. He had contemplated this oddity often as he wanted to understand and control his emotions. Yet, no answer presented itself. He slowly let out a breath of air, tried to loosen all his muscles just a bit more and then he continued his journey to the Overlook.

Somehow he had become the champion of the border patrols; the reason for his trip to Overlook. Whenever someone had to visit an area, to demonstrate a presence, a sense of ownership, his name would come up. Around the breakfast table this morning, everyone had waxed eloquently on their upcoming work tasks. Xu was meeting the Lunar Colony Fund’s Board of Directors to confirm the expectations for infrastructure build-out. Jean was returning to the Haven to continue the installation of a new airlock. Zara was adjourning to the geochemical lab to run tests on some samples that Woof had recently returned. And Aditya had a full day planned in the horticultural sections to sample and measure plant growth. Just before Desai was going to remind them that he had an equally full day planned at the computer workstation, Xu had piped up with a precocious smile and asked that he return to the Overlook.

Inwardly he had groaned at the request. Outwardly he quickly agreed. No-one wanted to be on Xu’s bad side. Misfortune always seemed to befall a person so oriented. Thus, agreement was his automatic response. He had asked why but Xu had just responded that it was time. He wondered how she kept her sense of time.

He slowly continued his journey up the embankment. One foot shuffling forward past the other.

“In a way,” he thought, “it’s amazing how humans are so structurally adept at moving about on the Earth’s surface and equally adept at moving about on the Moon’s surface. Was it manifest destiny or some sort of commonality of physical laws?”

About 30 metres to his right, Woof was making his own path toward the Overlook. They both had the destination’s co-ordinates embedded in their path-logic. Woof’s route was set to accommodate the limits of his robotic limbs. Desai’s had his route finding set to cover as much area as possible. It constantly updated depending upon his last few steps. To Desai the whole journey was another forlorn attempt at waving the flag. Claiming this patch of the Moon as theirs.

“Honestly.” went his thinking “Who would want any of this? And how would we possibly stop anyone if they decided to land here for whatever reason?”

Then it dawned upon Desai. Last night at supper, he had made an offhand remark that the vehicles at the Moon’s north pole seemed to be traveling further south than ever before. One had even been seen sniffing along the edges of Anaxagoras crater. He had thought nothing of it. Perhaps Xu had thought otherwise. Or someone on Earth had thought of it and they had advised Xu. Desai contemplated again the value of thinking before setting his mouth into action. He thought some more about lunar conquest.

“If these robots were on a mission to dominate the Moon’s surface” wondered Desai. “they’d need to refuel, much like Opportunity does on Mars. So refueling is already occurring on worlds other than Earth. So there’s no reason why malevolent robots couldn’t be anywhere. Everywhere. Including here at the south pole. And what if they were to start getting in the way? Who would be responsible if they damaged some of the colony’s sintered pathways. Or worse, if they damaged any of their life-supporting infrastructure? It wouldn’t take much to disrupt their water extraction facilities. Those were little more than buckshee arrangements of metal poles and a few motors. A lunar Meccano set without formal definition or design.”

Desai didn’t pause his shuffling. Continually forward up-hill. Around large rocks. Carefully across shallow depressions. Always wary of pits and protuberances.

“Why did the up-hills always seemed so much longer and higher than the down-hills? Like the paradigm of bicycle riders.” he asked himself.

If he had been in the Hab instead of on this journey then he could have used some of his time at the workstation to investigate this idea of lunar domination. But if he had been in the Hab, he might never have made the connection between foreign robots and the colonists’ survival.

Desai was annoyed. He wanted to focus upon his ambition to influence the Earth’s global food supply system. He didn’t want to have to worry about invaders while here on the Moon. How could he manage his earthly affairs if he had to defend against some unfettered robotic interloper descending from the other pole. Rationalizing this concern made another spasm of unease travel along his spine.

Logbook #75

AS11-37-5459
AS11-37-5459

Zara raised her eyes and slowly took in the vault of the heavens. Dots and shimmers of light beckoned to her from every which way. Sighing, she wondered how so few stars could raise such strong emotions and vibrant conjecture. She remembered an earlier class where the instructor had said that with the bare eye people could see only a few thousand stars at best. And somehow those few stars drew aspirants on. She could spend and has spent countless hours contemplating the dots, the Earth and her existence. While no grandiose schemes miraculously appeared in her mind, she happily felt humbled and devinely curious as to what lay in store for her and the heavens.

She traced her eyes through the familiar constellation of the Southern Cross and down to the patch of regolith in front of her.

“It’s much as we’d imagined” she reported back to Xu in the Hab. “This patch of lunar dust looks exactly like every other dust heap around” she continued, then laughed. “Perhaps their maid’s taken the day off. Or the last few billion years off.”

“Keep looking” implored Xu’s voice over the intercom. “There may be shards of glass or a slight depression.”

Xu was hoping to find the impact spot of a small asteroid. Their local seismographs had triangulated a recent disturbance somewhere nearby. The equipment’s accuracy wasn’t great, probably due to its lack of sensitivity. From a few previous events the colonists had build a log lunar strikes versus seismograph readings. They didn’t have enough points to have a reliable sample so they valued every chance to add another. The latest event could have been from a tennis ball sized bit of asteroid. If they could find it then they could add one more point to calibrate the seismograph as well as learn a bit more about ‘heavenly’ particle interactions.

Zara was undertaking the standard ground sweep pattern. Nearby, Woof helped by setting a reference point from which she could stay on course. She was slowly stepping through, or really shuffling through the regolith. Trying to use her feet to detect the expected cone-shaped depression. Given the low angle of the Sun she was also keeping an eye out for oddly shaped depressions at the surface of the regolith. Yet, as she continually found when doing assaying, the Moon’s surface was for the most part oddly shaped in every which way. There were shallow depressions and abrupt, sharp holes. Cliffs would tower nearly straight up above her while others gently sloped like a primordial shield volcano. And immediately adjacent to these were flat lands or marias that spread across from horizon to horizon. This variety held sway with little attention to rock composition. After the weeks on the Moon, Zara was getting much more used to selenology, associating various ground patterns with rock types and chemical compositions. She knew that she was in a slight depression and even though there was no atmosphere to move dust around, the depression had a greater depth of regolith in the centre than on the edges. Actually the northern edge had no regolith and was likely the lip of an old, small impact crater. So, in a sense, she was looking for a crater within a crater. Not an easy task.

She paused and looked up again. She was sad that she would never see a meteor shoot across the sky. Without an atmosphere, any asteroid would either strike the Moon or go sailing directly by. Unless the Sun glinted off its edges, no human on the Moon would ever know of its existence. She had once imagined herself standing on a lunar mountain top and holding up a hand to try to grab one as it flew by on its long elliptical orbit about the Sun. She knew that she could never stop an asteroid. And even the impact of a speck of dust could prove lethal. But, if the opportunity ever presented itself, she would raise her hand and try.

 

Logbook #74

AS12-48-7043
AS12-48-7043

Xu continued staring at the image on the screen. Their hill top telescope, designed to look at far-away stars and planets, was instead imaging the Earth’s surface while it slide slowly past. Now, the image showed an island. And a massive grey smear that was spreading from the island. As if a great, dirty tear was sliding down the cheek of a cherubic child. But it wasn’t a tear. It was the effects from the volcano. The volcano on the island. The volcano that had erupted overnight in a cataclysmic eruption. An eruption exceeding that of Krakatoa in 1883. An eruption that was causing a great deal of concern to the global authorities. An eruption that was as magnificent to watch from the Moon as it was terrifying to comprehend.

Behind Xu, Desai saw the image and let out a soft low whistle of awe and concern. “How big is that thing?” he asked.

Xu didn’t take her eyes away. “It’s about 500km long,” she answered, “and growing.”

“Wow,” replied Desai, “that must have been some explosion.”

“Actually, it’s still exploding,” responded Xu “and it may not be stopping any time soon. The volcano continues to spew lava. Still interacting with the ocean. Still growing and shrinking as if there’s a massive series of lava channels linked to the surface. Each taking turns to erupt. Go quiet. Be dormant for a brief moment. Then, erupt again.

This is a live shot from our telescope. If you stare long enough you’ll see a prick of light at the apex of the cloud. It’s a tiny flash to us. But it’s a violent, massive release of energy to anyone unfortunate enough to be within viewing distance on the Earth’s surface. Here on the Moon, we happen to have the best vantage point of anybody.”

“What do the volcanologists have to say about that thing?”

“They’re still coming to a consensus. No one expected to see that volcano erupt in their lifetime. Given what they’ve seen so far, the initial estimates are that it’s as least as large as the Krakatoa event.”

“Wow again. That old one went global. It caused one of coldest and hungriest years on record. Could this one do the same?”

“That’s one of the fears. If enough ash gets high enough then the Earth’s climate will experience one heck of a change.”

Xu turned away from the screen and squarely faced Desai.

“Do you know what this means for you and I?” she asked.

“Not much.”

“I hope you’re right. But it may mean that the Earth will experience a few years of extreme food shortage. And if they`re hungry down there then you can be sure that they won’t be sending much in the way of food up to us. We may end up being just as hungry as they are. Or worse, we may be forced to return to Earth if no resupply vessels are launched.”

“Return to a planet that’s self-destructing? And a planet that’s covered with billions of underfed humans? I don’t think so. I’d rather stay right here. On this boring, desolate chunk of rock called the Moon. At least this chunk of rock doesn’t keep rebuilding its surface in some sort of dervish dance of tectonic plates.”

Xu softened her stance a bit. She had to lead by example and this was going to be a very significant example.

“When the time comes, we’ll make a decision. Together. Let’s just hope that we make the best decision for our species as well as for ourselves.”

Desai was half listening to Xu. The other half of Desai was thinking feverishly about the possible opportunities and risks that this posed to his plan to manage the Earth’s food supply. If his genetic strains were cold-hardy then he could do alright. Better than alright actually. However, if his plants were heat seekers, and he knew that some were such as the recently developed varietals for South Africa, then he might be having a bigger challenge.

He walked away from the wall-screen that Xu was staring at and he started parsing his varieties in his head. As he wisely had planned, his copyrighted seeds covered most of the common agricultural conditions on Earth. He wasn’t worried about having appropriate strains. What he was worrying about though was whether he could and should begin mass producing the cold-hardened ones. He sat down at a terminal and started contacting his team back on Earth.