Logbook #79

Xu’s fingers collected together and gently pressed upon the Enter key on the keyboard. She saw the screen go dark. Her chat session had ended. As with the other colonists, she had the ability to hold private communications with anyone on the Moon or on the Earth. Her latest just ended. It had been with the secretariat of a group of investment bankers. The conversation had been dire. All about profits smaller than forecast and losses greater than expected. But the conversation hadn’t been directed at their adventure on the Moon. The chat topic had been a general overview of the Earth’s economy.

In her mind, she repeated many of the verbal expressions she had heard. She tasted the nuances. Rolled syllables and stressed accents when repeating words spoken as the speaker had. From it, she didn’t sense any pretence or menace. Neither was there a sensation of a threat or warning. Yet the thrust of the conversation was obvious. The Earth’s economy was continuing to deflate. It was steadily marching toward the end of the service economy. The service economy had replaced the production economy. The production economy had replaced the simple barter economy. However, nothing was replacing the service economy. The best that the secretariat hoped for was a long period of nil inflation. It would be a period having very little demand for production, construction or invention. From it, Xu conferred that the conversation’s overall message was to aim for steady state, a need to keep things moribund.

On the positive side, she accepted that the lunar colony existed within the continuum. As such she expected the secretariat to continue supporting it. On the negative side she knew that any requests by the Lunar Colony Fund to speed up construction or enlarge work scope would likely be met with a very quick refusal. Further, it was possible that a risk once realised would overwhelm the perceived resources and put an end to their lunar dreams.

While much of this perception of the economy was not new, the chat left her with a heightened sense of unease.

“Zara,” she enquired “remind me, why are we doing this?”

Zara looked down and then up with a look of confusion on her face. “We’re doing this to improve the process for extracting water from the surface rocks.” she replied.

“No, not why are we doing this chemical analysis. Look at the bigger picture. Why are we trying to live on the Moon? Our bodies were made for living on Earth. There they’d grow free and easy. They’re adapted to the gravity, to the air, to the ecosystem. Yet here on the Moon we are imprisoned within a metal tube. Nothing is either free or easy. Nothing is natural about our existence.” she paused.

“You certainly start big conversations in a quick way” Zara said. “Let me try to answer. I find when looking at the bigger picture that I have to look from a reference much grander than myself. It’s not about me sitting at this table. It’s not about us living in the Hab. It is about humanity making its first step off of Earth. It’s a trial. If we can survive then we can consider the limits of the universe as being the limits to humankind’s opportunity. If we can’t survive then the human race accepts that while we live on Earth freely and easily, the Earth is our prison. A prison that won’t let us ever leave.”

“That’s an interesting and yet very appropriate perspective for us here on the Moon. We represent the very limits of humanity. Not only do we determine if the human race is capable of surviving off planet Earth, we also determine if the human race has the desire. What is the limit to humanity’s desires? Do we want to live forever? Do we want to travel the stars? Can you even identify a desire for all of humanity?” Xu had many questions.

“I like where you’re going with this. What a great question. How do we identify humanity’s desires? Sure we understand personal desire personal. Individually, we want to be safe, we want to live in comfort, we want progeny. Where do we want to go as a group? Does the group have the same desires? And should we only direct our efforts to these desires? I must admit, my personal desire has been instrumental in getting me onto the Moon. I’ve just accepted that having people on the Moon is the logical next step so I haven’t really thought about why. Should we be concerned?”

“No. There’s nothing really to worry about. I just finished a chat with a person who seemed that today was OK but that tomorrow, at best, would be no different. As if humanity on Earth was settling down. Whatever that means. If people on Earth decide that the status quo is good enough then they could very likely define desires to minimize change. This could be in conflict with our situation on the Moon as here we’re all about change. Personally, I’m hoping that humanity continues to see the value in pushing frontiers.”

AS17-145-22170
AS17-145-22170

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.

Logbook #71

AS17-147-22498
AS17-147-22498

Jean looked again in the mirror. When he looked slightly down the overhead lighting cast strong shadows on his face. If he looked up, all the shadows disappeared and his face looked puffy as if something inside was trying to get out. When he looked up he also saw his nascent goatee, a sprinkling of hair about his mouth and building into a barb on his chin. By adding it he had hoped that his face would look less puffy and more Earth-like. What he hadn’t hoped to see or wanted to see were the very noticeable grey hairs. And a few white ones too. The mirror didn’t lie!

“Hey Xu” he called. “What do you think of older men?”

“That depends” she answered. “Are they short, sweet and cuddly like you? Or are they full of tough machismo and have no ability to think of others like this loser on the Net?”

Jean wasn’t certain he wanted to explore this choice but with trepidation he continued. “Well I’m trying this new look. As I’m sure you’ve noticed. But what I’ve noticed is that my facial hair isn’t all dark. Before, when I went camping for a few weeks and ‘forgot’ to shave then I’d return home with a face covered in a luxurious, black, barbed blanket. So here I am trying to look like I did on Earth and all I’m seeing is age. Do they let old guys stay on the Moon? Do you guys still like me now that I’m old?”

Xu turned around. Completely ignoring the text-war she was having with the Lunar Colony Fund director, she began “Jean, you are the most solid, complete man that I’ve ever come across. If your hair grew out with a tinge of white or even blue or whichever colour I wouldn’t respect you less. Your humour, your stalwart comradery, your warmth as a human continue to attract me to you. As it does for everyone else here in the Hab. Don’t you go worrying about silly little thing like natural aging. You just keep getting and better with it”

Jean smiled and he felt his shoulders lighten. “You are really amazing Xu. You know exactly what to say and when to say it. That makes you the best in my books.” he happily responded. “Today your optimism has won the battle.”

He paused. “But what about tomorrow? And the next day? And twenty years from now? Can we gracefully age here on the Moon? Or do we become grumpy old demented seniors waiting to become plant fertilizer? I just have this feeling that that I’m missing so much being on this old grey world called the Moon. I’m not sure I want my child to grow up without ever being touched by his dad. I don’t want to get old on a foreign rock”

Xu took a big breath in. She knew questions like this were bound to come up. During the pre-flight sociology exams they had seen them and answered them to the best of their abilities. But life was a lot different between when you were answering abstract questions and when you were living the moments.

“I’d say that age doesn’t really change the person.” she began. “As we become adults then it’s life’s experiences that shape our character. It’s how we deal with challenges, how we deal with success, how we respond to failure that defines us. The colour of our hair or the shape of our head doesn’t. This is true no matter what world you live upon. Have faith in yourself together with faith in us, your colleagues, your lovers. We truly do love each other as it’s so necessary in such a hostile place. Don’t you worry about what people on Earth are thinking about how you look. Don’t worry about mindless banter wasting bandwidth on the Net. Just, please, stay the way you are. Because we need you just that way.”

She walked over to where Jean was standing by the mirror and put her arms around him. She pulled him in as tight as she possibly could and held him. Neither said anything more. Reveling in the moment. Slightly anxious about the next. And neither wanting to consider years down the road.

 

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.