April 07, 2009

Chapter VIII - The last Gandhi

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The silence in outer space acted as the perfect soundtrack, as if the absence of a roar lent even more status to the meteor-like event caused by the ascending rocket.
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-"Amazing, you can see it perfectly clear." - Roberto Galhardo stood in wonder while the GSLV Mark V stroke the atmosphere farther ahead and below the Namaste.
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-"Quite a bonus to be at this precise spot in our orbit." - Sameer D'Costa added, also looking outside the window - "And as we pass right above my ancestors' land."
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In fact, the lights on the west coast of India clearly delineated the shores of Goa, and Sameer forgot the man-made fiery show for a couple of seconds and admired a more natural kind of show, the daylight line marching like a mighty army defeating the darkness that covered the Earth. To the east, on the other coast of India, laid the Satish Dhawan Space Centre from where the incoming spacecraft had just launched.
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Even having two incoming missions the previous week, it was the first time such an opportunity was given to them, and the trail left behind by the rocket caught the sunshine in a beautiful way.
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-"God speed." - whispered the Brazilian, still following the Indian launcher as its first stage burned out in the upper atmosphere.
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As an answer to his prayer, the voice of Paulo Souza echoed through the intercom:
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-"Gandhi NM-12 within expected parameters; everything's Ok. In-orbit arrival time: less than four minutes."
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-"Ah! Our brave 1st Officer always on time with the right amount of info." - a smiling Roberto looked at Sameer.
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-"Quite true, my friend." - replied the Indian biochemist - "And this means that they'll be spiralling upwards until docking with the Namaste in about two cycles, so let's get going with our work and leave this sightseeing laziness."
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Although still smiling, both men felt a certain level of anxiety.
The arrival of this last Gandhi spaceship represented their final moments evolving around Earth, as the Indian orbiter was carrying the remaining stocks of technical and medical equipments, as well providing them the visit of the three last people they would see for a very long time - besides themselves, the crew of the Namaste.
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News about the Russian-led project was another case for worrying, as the Namaste mission was redesigned counting on many of the items inside those two ATVs now orbiting Mars, a decision taken in the last four years as no one else seemed to be capable of beating the Hindi-Brazilian endeavour.
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But now, as Russia wouldn't disclose the structure of their mission - besides the obvious and official fact that it had now the Americans by their side - some speculation created a sense of unease. The fact that someone could take an in situ possession of the prize could cause severe damage to the Namaste crew, and only humanitarian reasons would then prevent a tragedy...
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Nevertheless, India and Brazil kept their pace and were decisively leading the race.
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The following two cycles - or 24 hours - were a bit of a frenzy, but everyone acted according to a timetable previously rehearsed to the smallest of details. The crew felt the pressure of having just another couple of cycles before leaving Earth orbit and commander Anshul Singh was relentless in making them check and double-check everything.
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When Gandhi NM-12 reached the orbital level of the Namaste, it initiated the necessary manoeuvres to act as a small satellite of the bigger spaceship, thus allowing its crew a visual verification of all the external surface including several devices such as antennae, thrusters, solar panels, the enormous shield and several other important features.
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Despite all the telemetry that kept a tight control over Namaste's health, everybody felt relieved when the Gandhi crew announced that visual inspection had not detected any evident damage. So the mission went on according to the plan, and a risky docking sequence was perfectly executed thus leading to the enthusiastic meeting between the newcomers and the Namaste's fabulous six.
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-"Welcome aboard the Namaste!" - was the sincere greeting from Anshul Singh, acting solemnly as the commander he was - "We hope you'll enjoy the next 24 hours spent with us - you, the last earthlings visiting our grand spaceship before leaving to Mars."
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But schedules were tight and after the excitement cooled down a bit, work was the rule again.
Of the three visitors, one was there to check on each of the resident six and report to Mission Control on their health status, both physical and mental; the other two were already preparing an EVA - or Extra Vehicle Activity - that would complement in a more thorough way the previous visual inspection of the Namaste's exterior, besides substituting a thermal sensor with erratic functioning since the very first day.
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Meanwhile, the service module of the Gandhi spacecraft was emptied of its cargo under the supervision of Paulo Souza, second in command in Namaste's hierarchy. As an electronics and computer engineer, Paulo was particularly double-checking the technical equipment's packing list, where computer spare parts, electricity and electronics basic components were expected to be.
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Gabriela Sacchetti was there, helping Dhatri Sharma carry the small packs already checked by their 1st Officer. Both women stopped when Paulo's voice mentioned the next item to check:
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-"Two folded incubators plus two unmounted structures for incubators, packs labelled NMed34a, NMed34b and NMed56 to NMed59; total: six packs."
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As sequential beeps from the bar code reader indicated each pack being checked, the Indian medical doctor and the Brazilian biologist felt awkward; in such a detached way, they had looked into their destinies, as future mothers of the very first Martians.
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8 comments:

Stanis said...

ah! at last! and you did not disappoint, my friend! another nice chapter and my appetite is still wet!
"The silence in outer space acted as the perfect soundtrack, as if the absence of a roar lent even more status to the meteor-like event caused by the ascending rocket."

Monsal Varga said...

Thank you for your support, Stanis :)

Strange.. reading the small part you transcribed, it almost seems like poetry wrote by someone else, not me! What an odd feeling :)

Mo said...

Oh no I am behind in the story. Must catch up with the missing bits

Monsal Varga said...

Take your time, Mo - as in your photographs :)

Mo said...

Ok next edition now please.

Monsal Varga said...

next edition: coming out! :D

I've been a bit busy with the other blog, but now things are coming back to normal.

Stanis said...

Glad to know that Monsal, looking forward to the next installment!

Stanis said...

hey, Monsal, hope u ok? cheers!