THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 73

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 73

“What happened to your lousy English and didn’t your hair used to be black?”…

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The Plot Thickens by Donna MacDonald

“Then why has his hair color changed?” On a thin whim he says, “Let’s pay Gherkin a visit.” With time dwindling, hunches played trump hunches ignored.

Roy Crippen douses power to the what-not room as he and Francine scamper over to the nerve center of mans’ first colony away from Earth. From scamper to gallop, their pace quickens and if Francine had any doubts as to the seriousness of the situation, all she need do is keep up with the bulldog in front of her.

In a big building with odd angles and unexpected transitions, Roy barrels over an unsuspecting  technician, sending him sprawling. He excuses himself, sort of, while acquiring a limp in the process.

Francine mostly ignores the tech, asking, “Are you going to be alright Roy?”

“What…. Oh yes, come on,” not a complete answer.

“I hope I’m not out of line, but are we chasing a ghost here. You are making a pretty big fuss about one little man.” She is not privy to Roy’s unfolding theory.

He stops to collect himself, address her issues with a glance and a right hand thru his floppy brown straight hair. Francine straightens his tie thereby restoring the look of a man in control.

He speaks, seemingly into the thin air, alerting security as to the nature of his pending confrontation, rejoining the previously frantic pace, with a newswoman bring up the rear.

At this late stage of the approaching launch, less than an hour now, nearly every eye sneaks a peek at NASA’s man of the hour. He looks like a man under the gun, acts like a man possessed, and don’t you dare get in his way.

With Roy grabbing the Spatial Debris tech by the shoulders, spinning him around in-your-face style, the man is startled by the aggressive move, “There is no problem in the launch window, Mr. Crippen, only some small stuff out at 500,000 out.”

“What happened to your lousy English and didn’t your hair used to be black?”

“I do not know what you are talking about, Sir.”

“What is your name and when did you get here?”

“My name is Gurkhas Shah Dhangotma and I have been here all day, except for a short break early this morning. I had been on duty for sixteen hours. Someone relieved me for an hour, no more.”

“You could barely speak English when we spoke this morning.”

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THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 73


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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…

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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.

At one point Sampson peers out of the main hatch, mouthing the words, ‘Hi Mom’, hamming it up for thatbeanie hat 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. 


THE RETURN TRIP

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

Episode 26


 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 23

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 23

Two key Mission personnel are dead, in one day at that

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“Planetary conditions are stable, touchdown grid confirmed.” Roy Crippen has settled in at Galveston Launch Facility to oversee the crowning moment of 20 years of work. Once Tycho comes back home to roost, after its

The New Mayflower

The New Mayflower

18 hour maiden excursion on Mars, his stay on the Texas coast will shift gears;

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Mars City Mock-up

to sending off the 21st Century version of the floating boat filled with Brits, the New Mayflower, the first of three people-movers that will add a decidedly human touch to a previously hominid-less planet. Mars City will be filled to the brim with 21st Century ground breakers.

But that is tomorrow and today is today and other portentous profoundness. The Lovell Space Center’s attention is equally split between Mars and Galveston, with Roy Crippen as the connecting driving force for both. He contemplates those that he supervises, a sea of techs and specialists, tops in their field worldwide, 100 people comprising man’s future as good space citizens.

There is one console, Spatial Debris Traffic for the Colony and Satellite tracking, which has an unfamiliar body seated there. For as long as Roy can remember, Phil Jansky has filled that seat.

Spatial Debris

“Where is Philip Jansky?” Something has slipped past him. He asks roving security, “Is he taking a break………now!?!”

“Jansky is dead, sir; we found him in his quarters when he didn’t confirm his 04:00 wakeup call.”

Roy’s mind starts somersaulting through any number of questions he could ask. He settles on, “Why am I the last to know?”

The security chief is embarrassed, if for no other reason than not knowing who dropped the ball. “The Coroner said he’d get back in touch with both autopsies.”

Two key Mission personnel are dead, in one day at that.

“I should hire a full-time mortician, set him up with an office,  he spends so much time here lately.” The mission head is losing control of personnel matters and his patience is flagging. “Who is Phil’s replacement?”pickle-b

The guard checks his roster, “Gurkhas Shah-Dhangotma, from Kathmandu.”

“Never heard of him.  Who hired him with Fred Cabell gone? My God we have a Nepalese debris tracker. Aren’t they still Sherpa guides? This is space for crying out loud, not the Himalayas!

“Mr. Gherkin better be qualified. I do not like this, not at all!” he punctuates his rant sharply, while walking off a disquieting combination of anger and grief… even though “Gurkhas” in not a pickle.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 23


 

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