THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 64

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 64

…“Damn,” Sam galumphs into spread-eagle prostrateness. (he trips & falls) “Maybe we should be using the helmet lights,”…


The outside hatch slides open, allowing Martian air to encounter the interior of a man-made object for the first time {man-made}, the clarity of which comes as a surprise to two earthlings who are accustomed to a smoggy haze.

The first steps outside onto Mars itself are understandably tentative one, gravitational forces being less than Earth but much greater than our more regular exo-atmospheric strolls on the Moon. Practices jumps are the recommended test for knowing one’s limits, in this case two feet is a reasonable vertical, with a walking gait that compares to ice skating on Earth, a little extra giddy up in the get-along.

With sea legs established, Mars’ most recent visitors set out to investigate the other ill-fated alien presence. Now if this were the American Old West or CSI Anywhere USA, Sampson and Celeste would split up, one going to the front door, while the other covers the rear with guns drawn. Weapons may or may not be appropriate here on the Plain of Xanthe; they are guessing the latter.

With each yard closer to the craft and the next new revelation, another “look at that!” moment is shared.

“Look at this thing,” Sampson’s shod foot kicks up an oval onyx object, with marking similar to those on the Mothership. It receives close scrutiny from both, but for now it is securely sacked in his handy-dandy Mars pouch, next to a pointy metal thingy and a vile of Mars-mud.

Image result for swiss armyCloser still, looking straight up one side of the massive pewter colored shiny ship and Sampson decides to scratch the surface with his titanium knife.  The knife loses, shattering like so much cheap plastic, “Wouldn’t Swiss Army like to see this,” speaking of Switzerland’s contribute to the mission.

After traversing 2/3 of the roughly rectangular vehicle’s exterior, they find themselves at what appears to be the threshold of the apparent entrance, if it has such a thing. Assuming that nobody is home and the door is locked, gaining access should prove to be futile, with no knife to jimmy the door. The 4-foot-wide notch in the ship’s wall runs several feet into its 150 foot expanse. It is away from the sunlight, which does not make all things bright in these parts, as dark as Celeste’s native Sweden during its sunless winter swoon.

“Damn,” Sam galumphs into spread-eagle prostrateness. (he trips & falls) “Maybe we should be using the helmet lights,”...



Apparition of Weightlessness by Adriena Šimotová

Episode 64

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 36

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 36

…“Pull up Sam,” Colony Control sees the same obstacle in the landing zone on real-time feed…


Onsite observations are off the charts, Colony Control conversations titillating, and the possibilities innumerable, but Roy must  keep abreast of the landing.Colony Control

Tycho had already reached the prominence of Syrtis Major, which looks like a dust-covered garden without the greenness of an ecosystem, with the helm responding to a 180 degree command, negotiating a wide sweeping turn that heads it across a desert-like sea of indigenous reddish {soil}. These and other features mark the Tithonius Lacus landing threshold.

Sampson has the lander that could, skimming at 350 foot altitude as they cruise handily across the Plain of Xanthe; a rather dull ending to what had been to this point a most enlightening flight. One thousand feet of “desert” is anything but exciting, but distractions are not necessarily a good thing, when landing is the objective.

Celeste is manning a forward monitor, the very vantage view enjoyed by those back closer to the sun. As they slow to airspeed of 220 mph, her right index circles a proper landing spot on the touchscreen at her disposal. The area she has chosen is about the size of an old American Football field, relatively flat with a good view of all horizons.

So, without fanfare or even a single Martian marching band led ticker-tape parade, “Okay Cel, I am putting her down rrriiiggghhtt heeeere,” pre-programed landings are for sissies.

Just as they were slowing to nominal airspeed, a misshapen mound appears out nowhere; small enough to mars-surface2blend in, but big enough to avoid.

“Pull up Sam,” Colony Control sees the same obstacle in the landing zone on real-time feed:
NASA Digital. No more 5 minute delay.

“…that did not show on the graphics, absolutely did not show on our flyover,” out of what had been to be flat ground. Like a mirage, it has abruptly reared itself into their intended way.dust-storm-on-mars

Fortunately the pilot clears the phantasm by fully 5 feet, which is not much considering he had applied full vertical thrust. The fiery blast raises huge amounts of red-hewed particles which ride the lightweight air, obscuring the area, thus moving the landing further down range.




Conquering the Sun’s Empire by Harry Lange

Episode 36

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 26

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 26

…Silky smooth, in the groove…

…Something to prove…

…Then click those hooves…

…The natives are booing…


All that political posturing and football frivolity aside, suddenly the Mars orbiting station still-shot will soon be exchanged for Tycho perspectives now poised for its descend-ent leg. And after a full-day’s fun, of course we will have THE RETURN TRIP.beanie hat

At one point Sampson peers out of the main hatch, mouthing the words, ‘Hi Mom’, hamming it up for that camera. Celeste is sporting a doodly-bopper helicopter hat given her by son Gus for good luck.

If the pioneering pair is nervous, their space-happy antics debunk that concern. Like Venetian silk or Mercurial milk, there is nothing but solid greens across the mission dashboard; neither machine nor man providing a reason not to go with a bullet.

“Silky smooth, in the groove,” is the way Braden King describes the morning.

“Something to prove,” Sampson rhymes.

“Are you ready to move?” Roy’s turn.

“Then click those hooves!” Braden is a part-time rancher.

Martians“The natives are booing…..You should approve.” Lt. Commander’s antennae beanie topper is off, game-face on. “In 11.75 hours the Plain of Xanthe is going to be a dark negative 143°. I want to be back in orbit before that.”

By this time Roy Crippen has set to pacing again, nervously covering most of the 40,000 square foot Galveston Launch Control, in search of that illusive glitch, those pesky flies in the ointment. He stops to view certain critical kiosks along the way, manned to a man by a qualified tech.

The comprehensive tour affords him the opportunity, more accurately a good excuse to drop in on the Spatial Debris/Traffic desk and this new Gurkhas Dhangotma fellow. He ambles as nonchalantly purposeful as he can, in the direction of the Nepalese newcomer who has seen Roy’s roving anyhow. The former “sheepherder”, as Roy so sensitively put it, tries to look busy enough, yet he spends an inordinate amount of time looking like he is sitting on a wet pile of wool. 


Nomadic Himalaya Sheep Herder – Ghandruk, Nepal – Photo by Chris Streeter

Episode 26

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 22

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 22

…“Good Morning you Martians!!”…


At 04:30 Greenwich Mean Time (who knows what spot it is in the Martian day), the lonely corridors of Space Colony 1 are filled with a rousing rendition of “WE ARE THE WORLD”. Every so often Braden King decides to awaken the heroes of the heavens with song; a weak, but suitable choice.

Martian Welcoming Committee

“Good Morning you Martians!!” There is a huge Earthly buzz about the 1st manned landing on the planet surface.

His enthusiasm has taken several minutes to travel the many-miles emptiness, but largely ignored by the sleeping sojourners. They are doing their best to be fresh for the frenetic days ahead. Presently entangled in a pretzel-like position, Sampson uncoils himself to speak into ceiling, “McKinney’s Bakery, head crumb speaking.”

“I want to order one Martian Muffin and two of your Deimos Donuts.” Braden plays along, as if he has a choice. He and everybody else on Earth is excited about this phase of the mission; getting a bird’s- eye-view of the goings on, up close and personal. “I bet you guys have been up for hours getting ready for the landing.”

“What’s it to ya’?” Sam counters with a dash of insincerity.Image result for that's a joke son

“You sound a little groggy old man; you haven’t contracted some indigenous bug, have you?”

“No Braden, just some hyperspace-lag,” Celeste is new to the party.

“Ah, the better-looking McKinney weighs in. Are you set to cavort about the Martian plain?”

 “Tithonius Lacus is on our event horizon and it ain’t going nowhere buddy.”  

“Never mind him Braden; he slept like a cement mixer last night,” Celeste attempts to mitigate the coming seminal agenda, by changing the subject.

“Hey, I think we are all on edge Celeste and I don’t want you to worry, but Deke has a compound fracture of his femur, fell from the hayloft at the feed barn. He is in and out of consciousness, but Doc Jim thinks it is temporary.”

“I think those millions of miles have gotten to her, King. Can we save the good news for later, or isn’t there any?”

“You guys are the good news.” Braden King assures. “I thought you would want to know sooner-than-later.”

“We know you will take good care of him, King. Hell, I broke my clavicle jumping from my turbo-cycle when I was his age.”

“Let’s get on with it guys,” Celeste regroups, marshaling every ounce of her famous bluster. “We have initiated video, all systems are a go, be prepared for the thrill of a lifetime!”

“Roger that Lieutenant Commander, we will be on the edge of our chairs.”

Braden was going to toss in a “good luck”, but decides to say a quiet prayer instead.



Episode 22

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