THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 37
…The Space Family McKinney, most recently of Mars, peers jointly out onto the planet outside…
The Mars landing fracas adds ½ mile, bringing them closer to the Tithonius Peninsula, but the averted disaster has raised everyone’s pulse x 2. When Tycho’s four pads contact Martian firma, they sense that it sinks down a bit, not like on Earth’s Moon where scientists had predicted 18 inches of moon dust when only 4 was present.
Heartbeats recede to mission norms.
A hazed yellow sun looms an hour above its dawning and even though the rays were reaching out 150 million miles, the equatorial latitude takes in enough radiation to raise surface temps to a balmy 35 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Space Family McKinney, most recently of Mars, peers jointly out onto the planet outside, from opened viewing portals, with all the bluster settling down around them. Though their ground level perspective is less lofty, it does not temper their excitement.
Mars’ eerie serenity has the feel of an Old West ghost town. It has the feel of aged stillness, devoid of activity. Pay attention and you can imagine the passing of occasional tumbleweed. Listen closely and you can hear the sounds of a creaking one-hinged saloon door. Feel the wind sweeping down dusty streets. All that is missing are cobwebs and the ancient strains out of an out-of-tune piano, played by a shapely blond beauty bedecked in silk and sequins.
“The red sky is going to take some getting used to,” Celeste admitting her blue bias, “with nothing out there but craters and sawed-off mountains to break things up.”
“New things are popping up all the time. How about my landing skills? They are going to program that one into the simulator.”
“And we better improve that approach angle, seeing we are going to be doing it every two weeks for the next 8 months.”
A fresh voice joins in, “I hate to interrupt, but you have but 12-odd hours of daylight to burn… and the matter of soil depth consistency is an issue.” Roy Crippen is getting itchy, along with a developing stress rash.
“Sounds like a plan Crip! What would we do without you?” Sampson quips.
“You would fly straight into the side of a foothill, that’s what.”
“It’s time to drop the wheels and see what we can see. You can be the backseat driver, Crip.”
The newest “manned” Mars Rover’s batteries are fully charged.
“Cel is driving that buggy.”
“That will drop our insurance rates!”
“I believe you are breaking up, can you repeat that wisecrack?”
“All right Sam, just check in before returning to the Colony.”