March 16, 2009

Chapter VI - Space Brothers

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The two American astronauts waited, sitting in silence, while tension - like dense cigar smoke - hoovered around them.
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The rain from previous days didn't stop when it was supposed to, and an even greater storm threatened to wash away any hope of making things on time, as Mission Control had decided yet another delay. Planets wouldn't alter their voyages around the Sun, thus the never ending cosmic ballet created too short a window for launch, aggravated by the fact that the Namaste mission was right on schedule, having left Earth orbit 28 days ago.
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William Steiner was mentally reviewing procedures for the launching sequence, while Rick Shepperd kept looking at the only door in the room.
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-"We still have almost 48 hours before it becomes too late" - Rick said, not facing his commander but expecting to hear a confirmation from him.
-"Yes. Nothing is lost, we're still good to complete our mission." - William noted, although he knew that each minute passing by was increasing pressure on them.
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Both men were well prepared, physically and mentally, as any other military should have been when chosen by the US Air Force to become members of the first manned mission to Mars. From the initial twelve candidates, these two were the chosen ones; they were the recreation of primordial space heroes, of military background, ready to sacrifice themselves for the mission and in the name of their country.
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Suddenly the door was open and the American Mission Manager entered the room, immediately followed by their Chief Mission Controller.
The astronauts stood up but the General dismissed any protocol by going straight to the point:
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-"Last delay was cancelled, you're going up in 10 hours time, Major."
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William looked at Rick and saw in him the same determined expression.
At last! The moment they had been waiting for.
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-"Captain Shepperd and I are ready and willing, Sir!"
-"I know you are, Major. You two are the best among the best, and will make our nation very proud."
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Things had come a long way.
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Since the Google Mars Prize was announced, thirteen years ago, a political turmoil had changed the space community in dramatic ways. NASA was one of its earliest victims when competition and efficiency were taken to the highest levels in decades, but entire nations were affected by a new notion: competition no longer was limited to countries but also included private companies, partnerships between countries and companies... and even odd alliances with former enemies.
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The later being the case for the United States of America.
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Four hours left for take off, and both astronauts were dressing their suits with the help of several technicians. Everything was checked and double checked.
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The last six years were a mixture of success and disappointment. After NASA was completely ruled out from the race to Mars, it was the Air Force that took the next step by creating from scratch an entire system of launcher, crew vehicle and an astronaut corps. With a spirit and tenacity that soon were compared to the Apollo days, eight men and four women were selected and sent to orbit in seven test flights that held a wide showcase of space walks, structures assembly in space, reentries, safe landings and docking with the deactivated International Space Station; but not everything needed to perform a complete mission to Mars was available yet.
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Two and a half hours left for take off, and both astronauts started their walk towards the vehicle that would lead them to the launchpad, where the gigantic Solaris launcher awaited.
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As the world didn't stop to watch, and the Hindi-Brazilian alliance was way ahead in preparations and results, the inevitable decision was hard to take... but nevertheless taken: the United States of America would not go alone to Mars.
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Two hours and ten minutes to take off, and both astronauts arrived by elevator to terminal deck, the highest level within the launching tower.
At this point, amongst a few technicians, three other men in spacesuits awaited. As the American astronauts saluted them, cheerful retribution came from the Russian cosmonauts. They all considered themselves "space brothers", but the commander of the American crew couldn't help but to feel envy of the man now in front of him.
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-"At last, Bill, we're going to make history!" - said Sergei Moravitch, the Russian Colonel commander of the mission. He was right. Specially him, the designated soon-to-be First Man on Mars.
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The United States of America, once indisputable leaders in space, could not go alone to Mars.
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-"Final check on intercom" - a metallic voice cracked inside the ears of William and Rick, with the Russian version being sent to the cosmonauts. After clearing this check, technicians made some last minute verifications and wished good luck to the five men.
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The three cosmonauts and two astronauts entered the Super Soyuz capsule. The hatch was closed and locked. In two hours time they would blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, and soon after... the docking in orbit with the most well-kept secret of the last few years.
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6 comments:

Mo said...

Can't wait till they land

Monsal Varga said...

Will they?... ;)

Thanks for visiting. I enjoy your blog on a daily basis, it is fantastic!

C. Taylor Brown said...

Hey Monsal, your a talented writer and interesting. Keep up the good work.

Monsal Varga said...

Hi Chris!
Thanks for your comment. I hope you keep enjoying it (thumbs up)!

Stanis said...

This is great Monsal! I can see i am going to have to visit daily! Lovely!

Monsal Varga said...

Thanks for the enthusiasm, Stanis!

It's nice, because we both have such different "styles" in our writings, yet I also like to visit your blog and read your stuff.

Cheers!