Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta astronaut. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta astronaut. Mostrar todas las entradas

lunes, 13 de marzo de 2017

The space around

   Space has always been the same: cold, unwelcoming and largely boring to watch. That is because, despite how big it is and how many natural phenomenon happen all around, some parts, most parts, are just empty space surrounded by that black veil tinted with stars. People who decide to work there are either adventurers or simply the ones that never got what they wanted and now have decided its time to sacrifice body and mind for the greater good of humanity.

 Every “day” it’s the same thing: waking up to realize you are in space, alone and bored. Then you have some breakfast, normally one of those dehydrated foods that need some water drops to transform into something a little bit tastier. Then, it’s time for hygiene and cleaning of the facility. Most of the time, it’s all about mopping and sweeping all around, nothing interesting like discovering asteroids or observing one of the many wonders of the universe. That’s for others to do.

 Stevenson had been assigned to that quadrant and to that station almost one year ago. He was really looking forward the year to be completed because he would be eligible to be replaced and send to some other planet or station, hopefully one where boredom is not a cause of death. Inexperienced people, as he was at the start, normally get to monitor the boring areas of the universe. The ones that people know about and admire, those are normally assigned to more popular areas of the territories.

 As he sweeps and mops, Stevenson likes to put on some music and dance to it while he does his chores. Many days, not caring much about the security cameras and the visual diary he must keep, he takes off all his clothes and walks around naked, doing everything he normally does only that with not one fabric over his body. Is not really a statement or something funny to do, but just the fact that people get bored really fast and easy when nothing happens around them.

 One of those naked days, Stevenson was preparing dinner. It had been another uneventful day for him and he was looking forward to his weird sleep. For dinner, he made a sandwich, which he had to create in the microwave. When he was eating, one of the emergency sirens started. It was a very loud noise and he had never heard it. Actually there were many things he didn’t really know about the station and he normally learned on the way. He went to the command center but it wasn’t clear what had happened. The siren was turned off and no reason was found for its activation.

 However, the onboard computer declared that the siren had been activated through movement in a forbidden area but it couldn’t really tell what actually moved. Stevenson thought it was a moving cable that wasn't working anymore or maybe it was something worse. He had heard of parasites bigger than fists infesting stations all over the place. Of course, they weren’t creatures that lived in space, but they attached themselves when stations were built or launched into their positions.

 He decided to check everything before going to sleep. He spent several hours on the computer, checking everything on the corresponding monitor and holding the station’s manual on one hand to verify he was doing all he standard procedures correctly.  It took hours but at the end of it all he didn’t find any actual proof something had moved anywhere around the ship. He also found out there were no parasites. The ship was in perfect shape, working like a well-tuned clock.

 As he walked to his room, he thought about the possibility of something actually exciting happening there. He had been alone for long, so bored too, that he had been excited because of the siren. It was scary at first, but it made him feel alive and useful, instead of useless, which was what he felt every single day of his life. As he covered himself with the bed sheets, he looked one last time to his window and wondered if he would ever feel like more than just some lost guy.

 Stevenson had a nightmare: it was about him running all around the station. He was running away from something but he never saw in the dream what it was. But it had to be something really scary because he could feel on his body when it came too close. It was a very tense situation. He would scream sometimes and run. He would also get into areas of the stations that didn’t actually existed. Then, whatever was after him finally caught up with him and jumped and it was then when he woke up.

 Not only the scare woke him up, but also the fact he had fallen from his bed, covered in sweat. He took all his clothes, what he used as a pajama, and threw it on the bin that was actually a washing machine. He had never experienced that kind of nightmare. It had really been scary. He even realized his face was covered in tears when he removed his t-shirt. He decided to get into the shower, as even cold water would help getting his ideas in order and all of the bad thoughts out of his mind, at least for while. He needed to feel calm once again. But that didn’t last very long.

 As he walked out of the shower, the alarm was activated again. This time the computer was able to tell him way with one word: asteroid. He ran still naked and wet to the command center, holding a towel on one hand. Stevenson put the towel on the chair and sat on it and then pushed some buttons and wrote some words in a keyboard. He was chatting with the computer. On a screen, he got an image of whatever it was that had activated the alarm. He had to enhance the quality because it was very small.

 Indeed, it was an asteroid. It had a very classical shape and was travelling slower than most asteroids did. But that wasn’t the reason the alarm had been activated. In the last few months, he had encountered other rocks like that one. The difference this time was that all the instruments onboard the ship had detected life on the rock. Some form of life was around or inside that asteroid and he had to be able to get it for himself as that would be his ticket to a much better life.

 The station couldn’t really move but he did have a vehicle for outside exploration. He ran to the hangar, put on some piloting clothes and hopped into the small vehicle, which was shaped as a tennis ball. The idea was to grab the rock and carry it back to the station with the mechanical arms the vehicle had. It shouldn’t be hard as the rock was not that big and he only needed some pieces. So he went out inside the ball and navigated bravely towards the floating rock.

 An incredible velocity pushed it though space but it was too slow for asteroid standards. So breaking it a little bit shouldn’t be hard at all. He started doing so when a powerful sound almost made him deaf. It was coming from the station, another alarm. He had to complete his work fast with the asteroid first, so he decided to use a laser to extract a good chunk of it. His operation on the rock was successful and he was able to take a very good part back to the station, where the sound seemed to get stronger.


 Apparently, it was an urgent message and that piercing noise was the way to get it through. He was surprised to see it was not only a short written message that said, “Stand by”. He didn’t really understand. Besides, his mind was with the rock he had just brought back. But then, the alarm ended and a screen that had never worked had been turned on. There was a face there, it was his boss. He was pale and looked very skinny and tired. He declared they had encountered something and that, whatever it was, it had attacked them. He failed to explain it further. But his next phrase was the one who made Stevenson feel heavier: “The Earth has been destroyed. Don’t come back”.

domingo, 1 de marzo de 2015

Mars

   Although Mars had always appeared to be empty and lifeless, things were different now. For the last six months, people on Earth knew that if they stared up at the sky, some humans might be doing the same very far from them, on Global 1. That was the name of the fist Martian base in human History and was an object of pride and joy for many humans, specially those in the scientific community who had wanted this dream come true for a long time.

 Many governments had once and again postponed the so-called “colonization” of Mars namely because of budget problems and health issues. But they had never really tried to solve any of those problems. When scientists, the private sector and other countries decided it was time to pay a proper visit to the red planet, solutions were created for every single problem.

 The hardest trip was the one of the first group of people as they would never set a foot on Martian soil but they would organize everything for when others came to get them and replace them both up in the orbital station as in the new base on the ground. At first, only seven men and women orbited Mars for about two years. Occasionally, ships would come in from Earth carrying all kinds of supplies, mainly food and new equipment to help make the base and instruments to investigate the current state of the planet.

 They built everything by remote control, using last generation androids that could be controlled by computer, from the space station, and that could last for many years, even in the harsh conditions on Martian soil. It was fun to program the robots to do different things. Mainly, they acted as construction workers although these workers built their own tools and used them only when they were told to, in specific time frames and according to a long schedule that aimed for the opening of the first Martian module in a two-year time.

 The people on the station would often check that everything was properly done and proceeded with their on-site investigations as scheduled. After the first few months, they stopped automatically looking through the windows of their ship. Mars was beautiful but it was also visibly violent and the sandstorms proved difficult for the construction of their base. Many times a special robot had to be activated to “vacuum” all the sand and dirt that caused any problems to the other machines.

 Two years passes and those humans orbiting Mars were replaced by a new group, one of only five people, every single one from a different country. This was because the organization that was after the construction of the base, had to guarantee that every single contributing country had at least one representation on the base, for a short period of time. You see, they only had permit to stay a year. No astronaut could stay more than that on Mars. It wasn’t because they thought it was dangerous but because they needed to study them to see how their bodies had adapted to another planet.

 Everything was science and investigations and reports. That first group really didn’t have a lot of time to waste on having fun or merely looking at the planet they had come to visit. As they were the first group, they had to verify that everything was in good shape. The robots were great but there was nothing like two human eyes to verify everything was good for a group of people to actually live, permanently, down on the red planet.

 Half of their year, they spent it on the orbiting station and the other half on the newly inaugurated base. They transmitted to Earth the images of their celebration and every single human at that time saw their joy and their expectance for the future. One of the astronauts, a French woman, had been authorized to bring a bottle of the best wine she was able to get before leaving Earth. It was perfect for the occasion.

That day was special, not only for Humanity as a whole but for that little group because they suddenly didn’t feel like just scientist or people on a mission. They actually felt like they were home and were just celebrating someone anniversary or birthday. They had cake, a proper meal, the French wine and chatted for hours and hours. Of course, they did not spoke a word about work.

 After that, they rested nicely for the first time in a long time and the following week, even with the heavy load of work, was just the best they had on Mars. They shared observations about the planet, the messages they got from their families on Earth and the pictures of their old and new homes that a satellite, released by them, had taken recently. It was all perfect and the idea of having more and more people living there, on Mars, was just natural and almost mandatory.

 From then on groups of people would come and go and with the construction of new quarters on the Global 1, more and more people were able to stay there, for longer periods of time. Some of them weren’t even scientist or anything like that. They were just people who needed a fresh start or who had always dreamed of doing something like this. Mainly, they were adventure seekers, dying to get to know everything there was to see and do on Mars.

 With time, they were able to organize walks near the base and, years later, motorcycle rides to a near canyon and back. Of course, humans had to wear special suits but they had become much easier to wear and less constricting. When stable population passed one hundred individuals, investors from Earth decided to expand Global 1 to the first big town on Mars. Construction started ten years after the arrival of the first people on the planet and was expected to be fully completed in fifty years, making room for at least one thousand new Martians.

 Then, the first proper Martian was born. A woman and her husband had arrived a year ago to town and they had loved it so much that they had decided to stay. And apparently their eagerness for this new environment had also had other consequences, such as the birth of Juno, the first human to be a Martian. She was issued a special Martian passport and many journalists interviewed the family for the following years. She was an instant celebrity without even knowing.

 Juno was one of those who really loved to get around the city and loved even more the feel of the Martian dirt between her toes and fingers. Eventually, a suit had been designed that was only used on the face and around the waist. It would cover all of the body if the person wearing it decided to press a special button on the waist but the people that lived there for a long time had learned not to be a friend of nature. They actually felt Mars was no different than Earth and that nature had found other ways to do things there.

 The young girl grew up to be an environmentalist, opposed to the exploitation of various natural resources found on Mars such as nitrogen, lithium and titanium, all very important for future buildings on Mars and Earth. But Juno had learned the beauty of her homeland and fought the ruling committee of Mars on every turn. Even people on Earth were backing her organization, calling for someone to control what the private sector tried to do off world, due to the lack of clarity of the law.

 But the mining for many resources had already began, in remote areas, and it was fuelling the creation of a new space station around the planet, that would allow humans to take the next step in their cosmic journey: their arrival on the Jovian system. Jupiter was key to travel beyond their system, if that was ever to be attempted and many organizations on Earth were eager to do that and, of course, to get their hands on the massive resources of the Jovian moons.

 Suddenly, many people on Global 1, now called Bellona, were beginning to think about a new adventure, the worlds of possibilities that were about to be opened to them. It wasn’t a surprise that, on Juno’s elderly years, Bellona had seen a flux of emigration like none before. Some stayed and people kept coming from Earth but the new hotspot of their system was Assaracus, a city built for one million people and the new bright star made with the money won on Mars on Earth by the private sector.


 Every newspaper registered Juno’s death, but the news was relegated to the inner pages of every publication. After all, it wasn’t every day that humans discovered they were not quite alone.

martes, 23 de diciembre de 2014

Antares

   Aslana was reclined on her chair, barely looking at all the screens she had in front of her. She had been commissioned with surveying a barren part of the Cosmos no one really cared about. Neither did she, but it was her job and she complied. After the first hour, however, she had bored herself to death by watching the screens with practically nothing showing.

 That had not been the idea she had had when in college, trying to decide what to do next. Antares space station was hiring but becoming an actual astronaut also interested her. People saw them as adventurers and explorers and she wanted that, to feel that she was doing something special.

 She decided to become an astronaut and went to Star City, near Moscow, to become one. With at least fifty others, she trained hard for a whole year but at the end of the process only ten were finally chosen. It had been decided they were the only ones fit for space travel. Aslana was not chosen. Her performance on skill and intelligence tests was formidable but the physical demand of the career had proven a bit too much for her.

 However, her tutors had recommended her to the Science Academy of Moscow, who were about to open a new observatory orbiting Triton, near Neptune. The observatory was located, funny enough, on Space Station Antares. So she had wasted a whole year of her life to do almost exactly what she had thought of doing when coming out of college.

 And now, there was Aslana, sitting on her chair, legs up on the dashboard, looking at Triton through one of the many windows in the space station. Antares was home to about five hundred people and its builders were already trying to get the permission to build another wing to it and get five hundred more to come and live almost at the edge of the solar system.

 Aslana enjoyed it sometimes, and other times she hated it. She loved space and she hated people there. They got to be so annoying, judgemental and hypocritical. Well, there were some people that were very kind and lovable too but they weren't a vast majority.

 Suddenly, an alarm made Aslana fall from her chair. The sound had come from the dashboard, which she hadn't been looking. To be honest, she had fallen asleep for a couple of minutes, tired and bored at the same time.

 She sat down again, combed her hair with her fingers and started tapping and clicking and writing. The signal seemed to come from a quadrant of empty space. Of course, it was not actually empty but nothing really big seemed to be there. Yet, the alarm had been set off.

 She ran all the tests, to know if the signal was actually foreign in origin or a Earth signal bouncing between the stars. After a half hour, she could certify that the pulse, the call if you will, was from deep space. No human had traveled there. There was a science base in Haumea and that was it. That was the farthest place humans had gone from home. But this signal was from deep space and, somehow, it had reached Antares.

 Aslana aligned every dish available towards the quadrant from which the message was coming. The pulse got weak at some point and then strong again. It was like the people, if that word could be used, were having problems keeping up the strength of the pulse.

 When the woman activated the audio machine, she let a loud squeak come out from her mouth. The sound was awful, it was like if a thousand bees and wasps had suddenly entered the station. She screamed because of the volume, which was unusually high. She thought that, for sure, someone in the station might have been woken up by the sound.

 And that reminded her. She should report what was going on immediately. The machines were all recording the event but she needed to send a message to Earth, for them to check the message out. Very large telescopes had been built on the Moon, capable to trace the message more accurately that what little potential the Antares station had.

 - Moon base Tycho, this is Aslana Tromaterova. I'm in charge of the observatory for the night. I have    detected a pulse coming from this space. I'm sending the coordinates encrypted in this message.          Please check. I'm monitoring the event. All tests have been done. Waiting for instructions.

 She sent the message, which would take several hours to reach the Moon. Meanwhile, she started playing with her audio machine to clean up the noise she was hearing. Aslana moved every knob, button and switch and listened carefully. After a while, she thought she had heard something, like a mumbling. She did her best to clean the sound with the computer, but, of course, the distance had disrupted the signal and it wasn't coming clean.

 Then Aslana remembered a class she had received at Star City, when an old german professor had taught the everyone how to clean sound and video feeds coming or going from space stations. He said it would help tremendously on occasions of distress or emergency. One thing he had said was that sometimes video could help clean sound waves. The sound could be translated by a screen and then cleaned properly.

 So Aslana did just that. One of the many screens helped her accomplish something she thought would have been impossible due to the circumstances. After two hours on it, she had finally cleaned the pulse. And the woman was very nervous, unsettled.

 She had not thought of the signal to be dual, to be sound and video at the same time. But it was. Aslana realized she was the first person in History to see the face of an extraterrestrial, a being from another planet. They were different, true, but she could see humanity in them, in their eyes and behavior.

 There was some data being sent on the video feed too. It was on some other language but she could conclude, from the video and some of the statistics, very similar to human ones, that they were on a ship. And that this ship, was in deep trouble. Some of the creatures seemed to be controlling a fire and others ran in several directions.

 Then something happened that almost made her fall from the chair again: the creatures spoke towards the camera, probably asking for help. And Aslana cried, realizing they would die there in the middle of nowhere, only been heard by one human woman so far away.

 The woman cleaned her face and decided to do something useless: send a message. Judging from the distance between her and the quadrant they were calling from, Aslana knew all of them were already dead, probably for many years, maybe even hundreds of years. They had died alone, horribly. So she wanted to honor them by sending a message. She thought her words carefully and then sent the message, which she later sent towards Earth with all the data relating to the event.

 It was important to her to do this. She had been alone half her life and, with this gesture, useless maybe but sincere, she wanted to tell anyone hearing that they would never be alone, not while there were others around caring for their well being.

 When her shift ended, she spoke briefly with her boss and told him she was very tired but that all the data had been sent to Earth and was saved in the station's main hard drive. The boss granted her her wish and, as she laid down in bed, she realized she still had a life in front of her and that she could do whatever she wanted with it.

 - My name is Aslana. You will never know me and I will never know you. But I wanted you to know    you have a friend now and I hope I have one or many too. I'm a human and is probable you won't        understand what I'm saying. But I trust someday you will. And when you do, I want you to know        that we,  I, will always be here for you. We are now bound to each other and I will try my best to        keep this  promise. Sorry for your loss.