THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 34
…“Please be on your toes Sam,” Braden fears for his friends, with double-zero-zilch for backup and the associated helplessness on both ends…
As Tycho, containing the McKinneys, continues to penetrate the presumed vacuous atmosphere, particulates are found to be very real and a navigational headache. VFR is scrapped in favor of IFR, due to what Celeste describes as a sandstorm with a floor of 5 miles and a ceiling of 25, but seemingly only at the dawning of dawn, “Temperatures in the landing zone are rising at 4 degrees per second.”
“That accounts for the winds; the rapid rise in surface temperature is spawning radical regional spikes in barometric pressure. Damn, am I the first meteorologist on Mars or what?
“And a memo to Director Roy, I’d be hiring a weather geek among your Mayflower settlers. We encountered massive turbulence at 123K and who knows what we will run into down there?”
“Roger that Sam. Please be on your toes boy,” Braden fears for his friends, with double-zero-zilch for backup and the associated helplessness on both ends.
“At 50K level off and circle,” Crippen recommends after assessing the threats to safe navigation, “and the same goes for 30 and 5, before setting down on Tithonius Lacus.”
Mission Control cannot exercise as much control as they have in the past, at least for this landing. The initial Martian Expedition differs from the lunar versions from way back in the 1960’s and 70’s, in that the Moon of Earth is mere ¼ of a million miles from terra firma; a stark contrast to 200-fold distant positions now. Once Tycho is clear of doubting circumstance, they will be flying by the seat of their pants.
“Leveling off at 50K, preparing to circle quadrants 31 to 34,” states Sampson who scans the 12000 square miles or so.
Surprisingly, or maybe not so much, both the turbulence and blinding sand lessen the closer they get to the surface. As the drop to 30K and finally 5, the landmarks resemble those in the mockups, not unlike driving thru a town you have passed thru before.
“Things are improving steadily Mission Control, descending the final 5K… and there you go… the dunes of Mare Erythraeum, one peak in the range.” He stops to look over to Celeste, asking, “Am I seeing things?”