THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 184

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 184

…we have lost not only two of our finest astronauts, but the very first colonists on another planet…

Roy Crippen takes his turn as, mourner, moderator and commemorator.

“I do know Sampson and Celeste McKinney and I can proudly say that they counted me as their friend. To know them is to know the definition of reliability. If I had a dollar for every time I heard them say, ‘You can count on us.’ I would be materially rich beyond measure.

“As Braden King would tell you,” he points at BK sitting between the boys, “there isn’t anything they would not do for their country and their space program. And if we could hear them now, they would be telling us, ‘Do not stop with Space Colony 1. You must press on; you must come out and be with us.”

He pauses to reflect on what space exploration is all about.

“When one decides to become a working astronaut, there are certain things you must come to terms with in your mind. Topping that list and there is little question as to its reality, is that constant companion of dealing with the speculative unknown: d-e-a-t-h. We at NASA, as well as our global partners at the World Space Consortium, deal with technology at its finest, but because of the distances involved and other uncontrollable factors, danger is:

  1. one step behind every single manned mission
  2. when we step out of a vehicle exceeding 100,000 feet of altitude
  3. each time we take that next step baby step closer to the edge of the solar system

“I need not remind you of the Challenger or Columbia and the brave men and women who gave their lives. Did they believe they would return to Earth safely? Yes they did. Did they know there was a possibility that they wouldn’t? Yes they did.

“We have gone 27 years without a fatality in space. We now find ourselves coming to grips with terrible realization that we have lost not only two of our finest astronauts, but the very first colonists on another planet

“…. both were keenly aware of the perils they would be facing. Did they know that Space Colony 1 was destroyed by jealously and hate not a meteor or electrical malfunction? No probably not.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 184


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 182

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 182

…”I remember where I was when”…

The Garden of Her Memories by Jamil Afridi.

Though it has been almost two years since the Mayflower Incident and 2+ years out from the last audible words spoken by the McKinneys, no one seems willing to let go of the dwindling hope, admit to their apparent demise, and pay final tribute to the first two true colonists in space. As the country regularly follows the growth into manhood of the brave remaining McKinneys, Deke & Gus, the gloom of the past is set aside for the promise of the future they represent. The pioneering spirits of Sampson & Celeste live on in the persons of the two young up-and-coming astronaut-brats; raised on all things space and flying head-on into its present future. —

— But it is time. With the hot humid days of late spring 2032 settling into the American Southwest, the memory, not the bodies of Sampson J. McKinney and Celeste Bergestrom-McKinney are to be laid to rest.

The stage is being set for one of the most memorable memorial services in recent times. The other notables:

  • 2030 — United Korea wails in shock over the elimination of Kim Jung-Un
  • 2025 — The passing of the ageless Sir Paul McCartney
  • 2018 — All of Britannia mourns Queen Elizabeth
  • Any ISIS reign of terror
  • 2012 — The Sandy Hook school shootings

Before the “I remember where I was when…” eyes of one million+ people in Houston and the billion+ linked by satellite, the grieving heart of the world in splayed for all to see.

The nearest and dearest are here to console each other:

  • The Bergestrom’s from Sweden attend in great numbers,
  • As do the Scottish/Irish McKinneys headed by Aunt Sassy.
  • Braden King whose heart has been torn from his chest.

And of course, the McKinney children:

1.1       Deke McKinney, the oldest son who is the new rock of the family.

1.2       Gus McKinney, the eager, bright-eyed dreamer who has his sights set on the stars.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 182


page 173

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 171

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 171

…“How do I politely kick the butt of the first female presidential candidate since 2016?”…

To his credit, Roy Crippen has been coached into being an eloquent speaker, once some of that Texas drawl is withdrawn and his quiet ways set aside for super-sized Roy.

His sneakily crafted campaign assault against Pete Sanchez and his policies are working. The once modest crowds are increasing steadily. He seems to be growing in popularity with people who are taking the future seriously, not just along for the ride.

His speech today at Chicago’s Lincoln Park & Zoo expects to draw 100,000; none of them Republican Party plants, as opposed to the Kool-Aid drinking poster-wavers at {Sanchez VP} Sylvia Freelove’s scripted stops. Sometimes it’s hard not to think that he is running against Pete Sanchez.

How do I politely kick the ass of the first female presidential candidate since 2016?”

“Let me see that tie,” insists Francine and far from the first female first lady hopeful. By virtue of a scheduling snafu, Francine is in the Windy City to speak to the convention of Aeronautic Manufacturing Contractors in her newest/continuing duties as Public Relations Executive for NASA. Today she will wear both gaudy hats, much like her candidate hasn’t completely left NASA behind, “Did I pick that one out?”

He proudly cinches up his favorite Orion Constellation tie. “I am, after all, “The Hunter” in this campaign…..hunting down an obstacle to social progress and an opponent to a second Mars Colony.”

“I’m not sure the voters are going to make the connection Roy. It looks like you splattered paint on it from 30 feet away. Maybe the one that matches your eyes would be a better choice.”

“Bloodshot?”

She completely ignores that comment, spoken by a man with his mind set on his, ‘This is my lucky tie.’

“Wasn’t that the tie you were wearing the day the New Mayflower landed on Mars?”

“Okay it may not be all that lucky, but there is something about it that is consoling.”


 THE RETURN TRIP

Lucky Goldfish by Pan Xiao Ling

Episode 171


page 162

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 167

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 167

… I am issuing a gag order, no network feed until further notice. I don’t want Deke and Gus finding out their parents are missing…

“Mission Control, we have a problem,” Rick Stanley reports. “We are seeing some surface disturbance in Space Colony 1 lander’s landing field and it looks fresh, real fresh. Can you see what we see?”

Braden King and Roy Crippen are only separated by their cuffed shirt-sleeves, side-by-side to rely on the other for support.

Braden wonders why neither McKinney is signaling their brave rescuers in any way…. or answering the hails… .or firing a single blast from the quieted Tycho.

Roy is in possibilities mode… they are conserving fuel… they are low on oxygen…that impact crater, maybe a meteorite knocked out their communication gear.

Anxiety levels on Earth can be measured at the Moon Station and the beating of hearts drown out any other sound. Even the successful landing of the New Mayflower fails to break the spell.

“Two of us are going EVA. We can see lights on inside the lander and one of them is the green airlock beacon!”

“Doesn’t that mean they’re out of the lander?” Braden knows enough about procedure to be dangerous.

“You’ll need to close the airlock manually to balance the air and pressure before you enter,” Roy cautions and informs those who have not been around a lander simulator for a while.

It seems like only yesterday that New Mayflower had Mars within
hailing distance. Was it too much to ask for Sampson & Celeste jump on the horn and say “hey!”? Shouldn’t monumental effort be rewarded when expectations are being met?

Those damned Koreans officially leapfrog Osama Bin Laden as “Satan of the Century”? It is a very long line of evil and growing.

“It’s a good thing we did not run a live feed to the networks, in fact I am issuing a gag order until further notice. I don’t want Deke and Gus seeing this stuff.”

One doesn’t read a book from back to front, right?–


Extra-vehicular activity (EVA) is any activity done by an astronaut or cosmonaut outside a spacecraft beyond the Earth’s appreciable atmosphere. {Wikipedia}


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 167


page 158

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 166

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 166

…“Mission Control, there is a problem…

“This is Rescue Mission 2A-1B, the New Mayflower approaching Mars orbit, range 225,200 miles and closing.”

To say that this April day has been anxiously anticipated is a colossal underestimation. Few like comparisons can be made, with the almost three month build up to this historic moment.

“We have been attempting to make contact, but Tycho is giving us an away message. Image result for emotional rollercoaster gifThe signal is strong and there is no sign of distress. She’s a good sight for sure!”

Roy Crippen, Braden King, and the entire GLF staff are poised to witness a watershed moment in the agonizing saga of Space Colony 1. The minimum expectations of the rescue mission involve flattening the emotional roller coaster that has been this colossal project, one that has dominated the past two years in everyone’s’ life.

High-highs followed by the lowest of lows are not a healthy prescription for the faint of heart. Braden can attest to how mounting mental pressures can manifest itself into the physical.

And hope is the most powerful drug at our disposal and you do not need a medical doctor to prescribe it. Suppressing it today would require a cold wet towel or a badass, who-cares attitude. To have gotten the mission organized and off the ground, overcoming relentless interference from determined enemies, and reach this point is a testament to the audacity of hope.

“Take it down to 200 miles and make two orbits at 0º degrees latitude. When you have a good fix on Tycho, use the Plain of Xanthe as a landing strip, just like we did out at White Sands {Missile Range N.M. simulator).”

“We still have not established voice or visual Roy.”

“Let’s not borrow trouble now Rick. Take her down on the smoothest 200 yards you can find.”

This newest incarnation of the Mayflower circles Mars at its equator twice, the first orbit locates Tycho; the second has trouble locating anything that resembles smooth. An area to the left of the lander has the appearance of a recent Xanthe neighborhood to-do.

“Mission Control, there is a problem…..”


THE RETURN TRIP

Emotional Rollercoaster – fightingwithstrength.com

Episode 166


page 157

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 159

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 159

…A weak field of contenders leaves the door wide-open for a simple astronaut with the honest face, gorgeous wife, and a perfectly vetted past…

Good Horses and Wide Open Spaces by Tim Cox

It is mid-2030, the time for Presidential contenders to step forward and declare their intentions for 2032.

In some cases, as with Roy Crippen, you may be touted as a frontrunner, never having expressed public interest in the nation’s highest office. He is as popular a man there is around the country, even more so in Texas and with Southerners in general. It is a well-known fact that he is not content merely fronting the heroic rescue effort in an otherwise failed NASA project.

And as much as he is going to see the McKinneys back into Earth’s embrace, he is surprised that he cannot ignore the ovations of the Republican National Committee. A weak field of contenders, many of whom are dodging the label of “hawk” or falling all over themselves to appeal to the “Minority Majority”, leaves the door wide-open for a simple astronaut with the honest face, gorgeous wife, and a perfectly vetted past.

He does not take that bold step into the political arena lightly, with the bitter taste of Space Colony 1 on everyone’s palate and the stench of a potential nuclear war wafting over continents and oceans.

One has to wonder what the American public would think, if it came about that Sampson and Celeste McKinney were stranded on Mars, instead of being rescued. Who then takes the blame, the evil empires or Roy Crippen?


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 159


page 150

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 158

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 158

CHAPTER EIGHT

 Going Somewhere? {very far?}

…The most noted casualty from the space-spat-dust-up is President Sanchez, who had to stand up in the moment, to straddle the fence…

The Mercury Seven in 1960. Back row: Shepard, Grissom, Cooper; front row: Schirra, Slayton, Glenn, Carpenter. This was the only time they would appear together in pressure suits. (wikipedia)

The intervening months in the lives of Roy Crippen and his new bride, now a hyphenated-lady {Francine Bouchette-Crippen}, are quite tranquil in comparison to the preceding 80 eventful days. That Sunset Hill house-ienda that Braden King had started has taken full form. With the national space program on the back-burner for a few more weeks, much of Roy and Francine’s time is spent interior decorating and bonding with Deke and Gus, the McKinney kids whose given names intentionally, not coincidentally mirror those of the pioneering Mercury 7 astronauts {D. Slayton – G. Grissom}, in NASA’s infant forays outside the ionosphere.

 Those young men, with their adolescent world in flux, have taken to the new arrangement with determined zeal. They have no shortage of foster parents who love them like their own and the youthful refreshing presence they offer may be the very reason that Braden has recovered from his health issues fully intact. His debilitating concern about Sampson & Celeste has waned, primarily in the final days before the New Mayflower scoops them up and brings them home.

As for the world in general, the moral fallout from the United States’ assault on the enemies of  the World Space Consortium has been swept away like the dust in a stiff wind. The indisputable evidence about Sang-Ashi’s intended mission removes any need for justification, as civilian casualties in the affected areas were negligible and both of those countries do not publicly acknowledge setbacks that aren’t caused by earthquake, monsoon or outside propaganda.

The most noted casualty from the space-spat-dust-up is the man who had to stand up in the moment, to straddle the fence that divides right and wrong, but only history may judge him correctly in the future.

President Pete, as he likes being called, has been skewered by the court of public opinion, by those who hide behind their AnonyMssg, Twitter, Facebook, and blogging bravado. The ironic thing is, that for the first time in his 6+ years in office, he made the tough call and is paying a political price for that.

Even though he was hailed privately for employing brilliant strategy while accomplishing a perfect measure of revenge without reprisal, critics of such bravado hound for using the end of his second term to bolster his already weak legacy; damned if you do, damned if you don’t.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 158


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 150

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 150

…Braden King feels like he has been granted a fresh lease on that life and he needs to take full advantage of it and that means a change in lifestyle…

A NEW LEASE ON LIFE by UZO EGONU


This picture was drawn by Erika Aoyama 11/16/ 2002

Home is where the heart is; a tired old phrase with new meaning for Francine and Roy. Their days of freewheeling solitude are coming to an end; work like a dog, return to an empty apartment, check all social outlets, make sure the world hasn’t gone mad, grab a quick bite and do it all over again tomorrow. —

— And until Sampson and Celeste packed their bags for Mars, Braden King also lived to work, he would come home to help work his 2500 acres and 1000 animals, catch up on the nightly news, eat some beef, steal 5 hours sleep and do it all over again.King Ranch logo

But King Ranch now teams with the vitality of two teen-aged McKinney dynamos, never more important to him, considering the status of their parents, not to mention his own recent health scare. There isn’t anything that cannot wait, unless something can’t wait, then it is filed neatly into a simple list of priorities; family first, everything else second. Never having married has made for tiny family reunions. And you can’t choose family, we all know.

Friends on the other hand, you can choose and do, while at other times they choose you and the fun is in seeing where you stand in a year, five years, etc.

He feels like he has been granted a fresh lease on that life and he needs to take full advantage of it. That means a change in lifestyle, from the high octane excitement of daily interaction at the Galveston Launch Facility, with whoever is outside Earth’s atmosphere at the time, to working at home from the ranch, keeping track of now ten ranch hands and two McKinney children who depend on him for everything. Braden King will not be making the same mistakes.

New projects are a good way to take your mind off of your old ways, the old days when the International Space Station required attention or that shiny-new Space Colony 1 was being towed into place or you could hardly pull yourself from watching it crawl away from SpaceDock.

With Francine and Roy coming over to spend some time, he has dusted off a 3’ cylinder that has been sitting in his hall closet, taking it over to the dining room table, removing the coiled parchment inside. It is an architectural rendering of house, three bedrooms, two baths poised on a west-facing slope about 200 yards from the main house.

As he remembers, he and Roy had been in serious discussions over the project that would be Crippen’s home away from the space program.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 150


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 148

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 148

…“What do I tell the world? And will they believe me?” asks the President of the United States…

Francine could not possibly guess what Roy is about to tell the leader of the free world, of all people.

“Please don’t beat around the bush. What the hell happened to the United Korean Peninsula’s sovereign property? I have to tell them something…… and I have a stump speech to deliver in 10 minutes.”

“I’m sure that will be a Democratic knee-slapper!” Roy is sure that the President has heard the rumblings about Roy’s possible political plans. “We have thrown a wet blanket over the whole Sang-Ashi thing and I guess you can spin it any way you want.”

“Well then just spin-it-out man!”

“We have indisputable proof that Sang-Ashi was built by the Koreans for the sole purpose of sabotaging the Space Colony program, doing whatever it takes to stop it in its tracks. To that end, they have used a deep-space probe to disguise their destructive ways.

“In response to that aggression, we needed to disable Sang-Ashi as it was about to take out the New Mayflower as well. However, the crew did not pull the trigger, the onboard mainframe did.”

This information produces differing reactions; Francine cannot believe Roy was so blunt. President Sanchez sits down, aghast at the notion.

“We can’t do that!” he proclaims.

“We had to take defensive measures,” Roy indirectly crediting Aldona Afridi. “We are not going to sit on our hands while two rogue global powers have their way with us!”

“Two? Who is the other one?”

“Talibanistan.”

“That’s impossible. My Secretary of State tells me that he has a working relationship with Kamran Khan-Nutkani.”

“Sure it works for them! And who do you think is behind the freeing of Samiq Gaad and the kidnapping of the McKinney boys?” He warns, “Do not be hoodwinked by a Talibanistani Trojan Horse.”

“What do I tell the world? And will they believe me?”

“Think about Sampson and Celeste McKinney, stranded on Mars, running out of food, water, and oxygen.”

“The country would not stand for news of their deaths, they adore that couple,” he makes a politically generic statement.

“Exactly.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Talibanistan

Episode 148


page 140

THE RETURN TRIP -Episode 138

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 138

…Roy Crippen’s 3-2-1-0 plan is already as obsolete as Sputnik…

3. Elucidate his concept of Francine employment,

       c) to her and NASA.

2. Clarify the status of the McKinney boys care,

       b) as neither he or Braden can do it right now.

1. Describe his feelings for her,

       a) when he doesn’t fully understand them.

Oh. Pray that she feels the same about him,

       No) now that he has left himself open for a huge fall.

PEMS

1. It doesn’t hurt to pray.

2. She must have quit her job or she wouldn’t be here now.

3. She has the whole ranch eating out of her hand.

“I am impressed Francine! For a city slicker, it looks like you have taken to life out here very well,” Roy kisses her on the cheek, just as if he has been doing it for years. There is something about assumed affection that is good for building a solid relational foundation…. he thinks.

“I like it out here,” she kisses him back, “and forgive me for wondering why you don’t have a house of your own on the ranch?”

“That happens to be on my “someday” list of things to do, but there never seemed to be any hurry, with me eating, living, and breathing Space Colony 1.”

“And I guess you will be doing the same with Space Colony II?” Francine is fishing.

“Things are happening, even changing so fast that I may have to make some mid-flight adjustments. Like right now, for example: If I could, I would head for the sawmill shed and start picking out lumber for that house. Trouble is, I’d be borrowing bits and pieces from everyone else’s life to make something out of mine.”

“Did you ever stop to think that that is how it is done?” Francine is setting the hook.

“Well, I guess I should start by delegating more at work…”

“You can start by coming into the house and talking to me. I think we have some new ground to cover.” Francine begins to reel him in.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 138


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