Golf and Outgassing

Graphic by Shannan Albright

Golf and Outgassing

 

Annie MacInturner glanced at the space-suited figure moving toward her across the lunar surface. It was her rookie crew-mate Milt Johnson. She noted the ease with which he moved. He had difficulty moving during training on Earth, since his suit hindered him. She had figured he would get his moon legs, and it pleased her to see it come true.

“Looks good,” she said as he reached her position near the crawler. “We get these garbage cans set out, we’ll call it a day.” She referred to the fifty-gallon-drum-sized experiments they needed to unload from the six-wheeled crawler. The setup of the experimental packages had been the goal of the first EVA. Throughout training before the mission, they had managed to do the work in three or four hours. They had started hour five a few minutes ago.

“You’re the boss,” answered Milt in his relaxed style. She had known him for two years, since he joined the space agency. He had a reputation for resourcefulness. He always managed to have the most information about anything, including rumors. He also had a know-it-all personality that grated against many in the astronaut office. Even though Milt seemed to have the answers, many times he was right. Annie was glad she gave him a chance to join her on his rookie flight.

“Okay, lets get after it.” She grabbed one of the garbage cans. It contained a soil mineralogy experiment. She grinned, taking the can and knocking herself off balance. “What the –?”

“Problem boss?” Milt asked in a tone suggesting a joke.

“Damn thing is off balance.” Annie realized that, even though the weights of the experiments were much less, moving their mass was difficult. It had been affecting her most of the day, but this last one turned out to be worse than the others.

“Want me to take it?”

“No,” she answered after a moment. “I’ve got it.”

She struggled a moment, finding the package top-heavy. She didn’t recall the same being true on the simulator. The simulation team had forgotten something when they made the training item. On the moon, it only weighed thirty pounds, though having some of the mass off-center meant it carried significant inertia. Plus it outweighed her, making it difficult to move. The fact she had her Earth strength to wrestle with it made the movement possible.

“Have the experiment design team make a note,” she stated as she moved the trash-can experiment into position. “Having these things so close to our mass might not be a good idea.”

“Understood, Mac,” said the voice of her astronaut husband Cy, who acted as the ground communications. “Should we also shine ‘em up for you as well?”

“Ha, ha,” she answered, shoving the trashcan into an upright position. She pulled out the antenna and solar array, setting up the experiment for surface activity.

They would be leaving the experiments much like Shepard and Mitchell had left behind experiments sixty years prior. The difference would be improved electronics and solar power. In this case, it would pull lunar soil into a reaction chamber, using sunlight to break oxygen from the rocks. The experiment acted as a prototype. It would prove that such a unit could make a two-week supply of oxygen during a single week of operation, providing in situ resource capability.

After turning on the power, she glanced south at the fifteen-hundred-meter-distant Apollo 14 descent stage atop a small rise. It was the part of the Apollo 14 lunar lander, Antares, left on the lunar surface. At first she did not see it, but the gold foil covering part of its structure revealed it. Their own lander, Steamboat, sat some two hundred meters closer to Antares.

After seeing a green light on the garbage can, “I’ve got Tango-Charlie-Six operational. Do you have telemetry?” she asked. She waited for the answer, hoping the electronics within the garbage can communicated over the radio, indicating that it was operating correctly.

“Stand by,” Cy answered after the two-second speed of light delay. Annie glanced at the TC1 trashcan sitting a dozen or so meters away, noting the antenna that was unfurled and pointed toward the Earth. She knew that link had been established, but wondered about the WiFi link between TC6 and TC1. If the WiFi connection failed, she would have to reboot TC6 – an easy procedure. After a few more moments, he continued, “Looks like Tango-Charlie-Six is go. Good work, Mac.”

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