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 #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 #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 #69

AS11-40-5912
AS11-40-5912

Le chapitre 69

Desai was alone with his thoughts as he traipsed around their sintered pathway. He recalled during the morning how Xu had volunteered him to again do the boundary stroll. He was as adamant as she that the colonists continue to exercise their existence on the south pole. To wave the flag as it were. But really there weren’t any potential interlopers. After all there was no one else on the Moon and no one was likely to invade. The Moon just didn’t have the resource potential as some of the embattled places on Earth had. However when he voiced his opinion Xu had quickly turned around and faced him. Then in a very determined, low voice she re-iterated her wishes in a way that no one could mistake.

“Go,” she demanded.

He acquiesced. But from this Desai wondered to himself, “Does she know?”

He thought again of his machinations, his weaving of a vicarious, steel-like net about Valentina. He singularly smiled to himself when recalling his success at getting her returned to Earth. Then smiled again with the memory of having her elected to the board of the Lunar Colony Fund. All was going as he had planned. But then he saw Valentina building up a great deal of support. And her objectives weren’t matching his. He had tried to dissuade her. But from a distance of hundreds of thousands of kilometres, he wasn’t having much success. He had tried to change things up.

As he replayed the events he stumbled on a hidden depression on the pathway. Their sintering had failed and he dutifully marked the location for later repair.
Zara’s voice piped up into his comms, probably from his accelerometers’ alarms flashing on her screen.

“How’s the scenery?” she joked, “Sounds like you found a nasty.”

“Yah. Nothing to worry about. Just a discontinuity in the pathway. I’ve marked it for maintenance,” he offered.

“Ok. Fine. If you need any help don’t hesitate and we’ll send out Woof to escort you back,” she laughed.

She knew as well as everyone else that Desai held a special contempt for Woof and that he’d never ask it for help.

“We’ll see you after lunchtime,” she finished and signed off.

Desair trudged on. There was a little less jump to his step as his mind played between his memories and his dislike of the mechanical dog. He remembered the time, not that long ago, when he had made the decision to slow up Valentina. He figured that if he could keep her moribund for a while then her support would lessen and her objectives would fade away. He had envisioned a broken leg at worst. But he hadn’t made his intentions clear enough when he directed his staff over the comms.

“Dammed those open comms!” he exclaimed internally. And he absentmindedly kicked at the dog that was nowhere in sight.

When news had arrived that Valentina had been in a car accident and had narrowly escaped with her life he had been almost physically sick. He had managed to hide his feelings from the other colonists. But just barely. Even now as he walked the pathway his eyes conjured up the image of Valentina lying in a hospital bed. And he felt ill all over again.

Nevertheless he wasn’t going to waste this opportunity now that it had happened. With both Valentina and Max temporarily out of the picture he could push his own agenda. He was calling for Moon-polar orbiting satellites with video capability. These were being argued as both a safety feature for the colonists outdoors and as a redundancy for communications. Of course Max wanted to expand the structures while Valentina wanted to increase their risk tolerance. Yet Desai still felt a general, bone-chilling unease whenever he thought of the activities at the north pole. He wanted this orbiting, Moon constellation so as to keep a much closer eye on their northerly neighbour.

He had been acting on this unease with his Earth based group of investigators. They had started to reveal a little of what was behind that northerly endeavour. The northern installation was funded by a group of industrialists and financiers. Their riches allowed them to get payloads launched with very little inspection. Yes they had a few failures as with the rover stuck on a dirt pile. But also their infrastructure had made a great impact upon the relatively smooth northern plain. Berms, pathways, shelters, solar collectors. The lot! But he still wasn’t clear on their purpose. Their design. Their goal. And he didn’t want to learn by surprise. He didn’t like surprises.