Logbook #70

AS17-146-22425
AS17-146-22425

Le chapitre 70

“Should life have a meaning?” pondered Aditya. “Are our actions predefined, history simply like water being guided down the riverbed? Or do we have a choice? And each decision dramatically affects every object, every atom which results in ripples spreading out through the universe.”

With Aditya’s lifetime love of games and simulations he’d often consider this issue. For instance if he were destined to win the pachisi game then why bother sitting down to play? Or, if his presence was instrumental in furthering the lunar colony then should he worry about safety?

Perhaps these thoughts were caused by his present view staring straight down the hillside. A precipitous drop that showed nothing at the bottom. Nothing but perhaps the borders of Naraka.

Softly Aditya shook his head and he moved his eyes back to the horizon. Beside him was Zara. She had a smile on her face portraying both humour and concern.

“So don’t worry, we’re not going to jump in or anything.” she relayed to Aditya. She liked his cheerful, warm companionship that seemed to permeate through the spacesuit, through her and onwards. “What we have here is the smartest sphere I know. It’s a LIDAR contour plotter. We send it over the edge and aim it for the bottom. It then records a three dimensional map of the surface all the way down. Easy!” she concluded.

She knew that Aditya already knew all about the sphere. He had written many of the algorithms that had taken previous mappings and turned them into workable views on their three dimensional imager un the Hab. She was thinking that Aditya needed to return to the present from which ever realm he was so deeply involved.

“Wasn’t it one playwright who provided us the phrase ‘to be or not to be’?” invoked Aditya. “Does nobility have any effect on the game or do we simply continue on within this maelstrom of life?”

“Not sure.” replied Zara. “But we’ve only got a short time to be here so how about leaving the hard questions for a minute and help me set up the relay platform. We need to aim its transmitting antenna to the Hab and its receive antenna will extend past the edge. I don’t want to disappoint Xu if we are forced to leave this mid-way through because our suits ran out of power or air.” she cautioned.

Aditya felt his eyes relax and he turned to help Zara with constructing the platform. He knew all the risks and limitations of this exercise. He knew that while life may be predetermined he still had to make good decisions and then act on them. While his presence on the Moon may have been predetermined, it certainly hadn’t come freely. He had spent much of his life deep in the logics of mathematical theories and modeling of the real world. Moving from academia to being a practitioner on the lunar surface had pushed him to levels of concentration and consideration that he’d never known were possible.

“Sorry Aditya” he began “I had a feeling. Not really of mental wanderlust. More like an appreciation of my presence in the universe. I do find it rather curious at how most people fall into the trap of placing themselves at the centre of the universe. And then expecting the universe to unveil its grand plan to them. I just need to remind myself that I’m simply a collection of inconsequential stardust.”

“Inconsequential or not” invoked Zara “I need your collection of dust to pull that lever just a little bit further to the right. And then the universe will be all OK again.” she smiled.

Logbook #67

AS17-133-20233
AS17-133-20233

Le chapitre 67

Xu watched over Aditya’s shoulder while he contemplated his next move on the Pachisi board. His home group in Calcutta regularly convened a tournament which Aditya loved to attend. At least virtually attend. His friends had grown accustomed to the delayed information flow and would comfortably pause after each crucial move so that Aditya could absorb the significance, hear the participants speculate and then provide his own jaded commentary. As fascinating as he found it, Xu didn’t. She watched perplexed while the four players incited each other to make grandiose moves. Then each usually proceeded to do something quite different. The whole event was contrary to her internal mantra of harmony and cohesion.

She sighed then left Aditya to his devices and walked back over to the wall screen. Aptly named, this back-lit computer screen covered a rectangle about 2 metres high by 3 metres across. It was power hungry so they used it only for particular needs. Her present need was to prepare for tomorrow’s semi-annual residents’ meeting. They got quite a thrill when using the term resident and it had stuck. She keyed in the map server so the Moon’s surface terrain appeared as a series of finely detailed height contours. She toggled various overlays produced from years of optical data taken by orbiting satellites. She looked for views with the Sun at such an angle that shadows detailed the terrain without obscuring too much. It didn’t take much time to find appropriate selections; she had been mentally preparing for this presentation for quite some time.

She smoothly and gracefully spun around and again used her keyboard to raise a second map. This time the map was presented as a 3 dimensional holograph. Given that they were at the Moon’s south pole, and that the Moon was much smaller than Earth, then the holograph was extremely useful for distance perception. A perception that couldn’t be easily shown on the wall screen.

She synchronized the two displays and began toggling various overlays. One had all the structures; their infrastructure at the south pole, the old Apollo, Luna and Chang’e hardware and the ever-expanding, mysterious facility up on the north pole. With another keystroke she included the transportation and communication networks. Her last keystokes brought up a coded hatching of where they had assayed for minerals together with the relevant results. This view sharply brought up the challenges that were facing them as the map should scant markings of valuable results.

According to the displays there was precious little mineral wealth that was readily available on the nearby surface. They also knew from their digging at the Haven that, at least at that spot, there wasn’t much of interest just below the surface either. While this had been expected the lack of immediate rewards gnawed at her comfort.

Sure there were ice comets flying about the solar system that had as much water as the Indian Ocean on Earth. But that meant little to them here on the Moon. They had also been hoping for a mineral deposit much like that of the Sudbury basin in Ontario. Yet their pickaxes had not prised even a hint of a vein out of the regolith or subsurface. Unconsciously her shoulders drooped.

“Have you got some nice videos to go with those maps” spoke Aditya from across the Hab. “If we’re going to plan our family’s vacation then at least we should have an idea of what we might see when we get there.”

At the sound of his voice Xu’s shoulders happily went back into place and she let her moment of doubt fade into the grey of the display.

“I’ve heard a desire to go to Waterworld this year” she laughed “complete with towels, suntan lotion and rubber ducks.”

Aditya laughed with her. “I was hoping for something like that. Will it be for a while? Last year’s adventure at the Rocket Land amusement park seemed to be over far too quickly” he implored.

Logbook #63

AS17-145-22177
AS17-145-22177

Le chapitre 63

Desai kept working his tongue around his teeth trying to prise free the last of the ‘cricket burger’ sandwich he had for lunch. He wondered if it was their little wings that kept getting stuck. At the same time his hands moved on the computer mouse so that the on-screen cursor lined up with the white square showing on the display; a bit like an old Atari video game. He boxed in the square and paused the camera’s scanning routine. Then he slowly zoomed in to see the quarry he had been chasing at the Moon’s north pole.

Laughter erupted from Desai’s mouth and he called to Aditya “Hey get a load of this!”

Waving energetically he enticed Aditya to break from his toxicological scans.

Aditya shuffled over to Desai’s work station and responded “I see a still box with moving wheels. So what?”

“So what!? Is that all you see? ” said Desai with glee. “That box is a rover. A robot from the northern development. And it’s been in the same place for days. It’s failed!” he chortled again. “Do you know what this means?” continued Desai.

“No idea at all” replied Aditya who couldn’t see anything humorous about a stuck robot.

“Simple” Desai went on. “It’s again proven that humans are the best explorers on Earth, on the Moon or anywhere.”

“Why is that?” responded Aditya somewhat cautiously.

“It’s obvious. You’ve got to see why.” exhorted Desai. “Humans don’t get stuck. If we can’t go over an obstacle then we go around. Getting stuck is not in our genes. However, here is something stuck. What you see is hundreds of millions of dollars of machine doing absolutely nothing. And with no way of improving its lot. It’s well and truly stuck”

“But it’s only a machine” pondered Aditya. “Yes it was costly. But its cost is much less than that of a human life. With that one robot stuck then the owner can simply send another one in a few years. Or sooner if they have insurance. However, if a human gets stuck and perishes then there’s no replacement.”

“What do you mean no replacement?” queried Desai. “There are billions of little hominoids running around the Earth. Just like we did. Now think. I’m sure that a good many of them are seeking to deliberately harm others. If they are successful then there are a few less hominoids. And apparently no one’s worried enough to stop the harming. So obviously this lack of worry indicates that there are replacement hominoids a-plenty. Even if one or two had a mishap on the Moon’s surface we could rely upon many, many others wanting to fill in the gap.”

“Somehow I don’t think that so many people share your views on the value of human life” conjectured Aditya. “Yes, people accept that they will occasionally cause grievous harm to each other. Yet they do not accept a callous indifference to the loss of human life in the way you trivialized the end of the robot. Perhaps we should be more considerate of the robot’s existence. And in that we way we could more appreciate the fullness of a human life”

“That’s just down right sappy.” Desai said with a grin. “How could a robot teach humans anything about being human. We invented them. They didn’t invent us. Next you’re going to tell me to start treating our own roving robot with at least the dignity of a dog.”

“Well now that you mention it…” apologized Aditya.

Logbook #62

AS11-38-5565
AS11-38-5565

Le chapitre 62

Aditya’s warm wishes of goodbye from over the microphone starkly contrasted with his inner feelings of frustration and concern. His role as volunteer coordinator should be rich and fulfilling. After all he was principally a figurehead. A person who got to sign important documents and talk, via video, at prestigious conferences and dinners. His pretentious position promised every delight. However he felt drained and hollow after so many of the interactions.

He realized that a lot of the problem revolved around expectations. In his mind, he expected that the people on Earth would realize that the five lunar colonists were tenaciously hanging on for dear life. However people on Earth spoke of endpoints. They expected quick progress to a glamorous utopia of idle relaxation in space. Most expressed a belief that vast cities were going to sprout up on the Moon’s surface. And then, with little extra effort, the same would quickly occur on Mars. He had to often explain that the Moon had no immediate ability to support life. It had no resources from which to build; no wood as there were no trees, no coal as there had never been trees nor any clouds as there wasn’t even an atmosphere.

He used his most eloquent imaginative spiritual expressions to convey a sense of majesty and potential. Yet he sensed that his audience was not buying into his exposés of a magnificent desolation that remained virtually untouched by humans.

Xu, sitting nearby, must have sensed his unease. She inquired “What’s got your eyebrows furrowed like a rice paddy in springtime?”

He smiled. Her anachronisms always were rich in Earth tradition yet wholly incompatible with their life on the Moon. He replied “My connections to Mother Earth seem a little strained sometimes. I sense that they want to hear of great accomplishments; vast cities under protective shields, machines that toil non-stop for the good of humankind and lives of leisure where a ready replicator proffers every imaginable food and drink. I wonder if they realize that I have not had a real bath or shower in months? And I will probably never again taste the simple pleasures of fresh fruit.”

He stopped himself. Not only was he sounding like a complainer, he was implying that he expected to end his days upon the surface of the Moon and never return to Earth. This was Karma that had portent and must be considered at another time. A time suited for reflection and scrutiny. Not now.

He continued “But I did enjoy the surprise that came in the last supply ship. The chocolate covered lychee were particularly invigorating.”

Xu softly laughed and walked over to hug Aditya. It was a long, slow sharing of spirits that reminded Aditya he was not alone. And that was exactly the message Xu wanted to share. She believed that most people on Earth wanted to come visit the Moon. Some to stay. However the time was not yet right for that vision. There were still too many risks, too many events that could drive them to the escape craft. Events that would force them to leave with sunken hearts and smashed dreams. Leaving and knowing that an even greater effort would be needed to ever try again. It was her vision and unwavering support that continued to inspire Aditya. To get him over the occasional hump of despondence. And it was their togetherness that engendered a community. A community that was more than the sum of its members.

He softly and tenderly kissed Xu upon the forehead. As much a father bestowing a favour upon a child as it was a supplicant acknowledging the wiser. Aditya felt his spirit climb as he turned back to the console to receive the next wave of admirers, each who had paid a princely sum just to have this personal communication with one of the colonists.