Golf and Outgassing

Graphic by Shannan Albright

 

A sixty-year-old Moon mystery prompts Colonel Annie Macturner to make a risky decision. Intrigued by an interview designed to manipulate, Milton Johnson, a candidate that conflicts with her highly distinguished military background, is selected as her crew-mate. Can Annie solve the landing site mystery and unravel Milton’s enigma before a life-threatening collision with the past occurs? Join Annie on every bounding step of her journey as she traverses the Lunar surface and keeps you on the edge of your seat!

 

Golf and Outgassing

I

“Annie Mac, you’re looking good.” Said Capcom’s voice, my husband Cy MacInturner.

“What’s my time?” I asked, wondering how much time we had left for the first moonwalk.

“CDR, I show you with five seven minutes remaining. You just passed hour number five. Okay say it.”

“Say what?” I asked.

“I told you so,” his voice cracked after a couple seconds. “You did warn me.”

“Confirmed.” If we hadn’t wasted so much surface time celebrating me being the first woman on the Moon, we might be finished already. Cy had thought it would not take much time. I feared otherwise. Not including the fanfare of a conversation with the President, I stood alone on the Moon’s surface while the Administrator read the commemorative moment on live television. I imagined my space suited figure standing dumbfounded on a monitor screen for the fifteen or so minutes for the presentation. It was all time that should have been spent working.

I glanced at the space-suited figure of my crew-mate Milt Johnson moving toward me across the lunar surface. I noticed him move with ease, which contrasted to his difficulty during training on Earth. I figured he would get his moon-legs, and it pleased me to see it come true.

“Looks good. Once we get these garbage cans set, we’ll call it a day.” I said, referring to the fifty-gallon-drum-sized experiments we needed to unload from the six-wheeled crawler. We had intended to set up the experimental packages during the first EVA, and throughout training, we had done the work in three or four hours. Damn, this takes far too long. We need the margin for EVA 3.

“You’re the boss,” answered Milt in his relaxed style. I had known him for two years since he joined the space agency. He had a reputation for resourcefulness. He always had the most information about anything, including rumors. He also had a know-it-all personality that grated against many in the astronaut office, including myself. Many times, he was right, making it far worse.

“Okay, let’s get after it.” As I grabbed the garbage can containing a soil mineralogy experiment, it knocked me off balance. “What the–?”

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

“Damn thing is off balance.” I realized that even though the weights of the experiments were much less, moving their mass was difficult. It had been affecting me most of the day. I figured it contributed to us being behind schedule. The last experiment proved worse than the others.

“Want me to take it?”

“No,” I answered. “I’ve got it.”

I struggled a moment, finding the experiment package top-heavy. I did not 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 mass off-center meant it carried significant inertia. Plus, it out-massed me.

“Have the experiment design team make a note,” I stated while moving the trash-can experiment into position. “Even though we practiced with one-sixth weight, we didn’t practice large masses.”

“Understood, Mac,” said my astronaut husband. “Should we also shine ‘em up for you as well?”

“Ha, ha,” I laughed. Smart ass! I shoved the trashcan into an upright position. I pulled out the antenna and solar array and set up the experiment for surface activity.

We would leave the experiments much like Shepard and Mitchell did over fifty years prior. The only difference was that our experiments had improved electronics, wireless data feeds, and solar power. Here, the experiment pulled lunar soil into a reaction chamber use 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.

After turning on the power, I glanced south and saw a glint of gold atop a small rise. I did not recognize what it was at first, but then realized it was the lower half of the old Apollo 14 lunar lander, Antares, left on the lunar surface over fifty years prior. Our own lander, Steamboat, sat some thirteen hundred meters distant from Antares.

I turned on the unit. After a few minutes, a green light turned on, showing activation of the experiment. “I’ve got Tango-Charlie-Six operational. Do you have telemetry?” I asked. I waited for the answer, hoping the electronics could communicate over the radio, showing normal operation. Far too many of them needed reboots this afternoon.

“Stand by,” Cy answered after the two-second speed of light delay.

I glanced at the TC1 trashcan sitting a dozen meters away, noting the unfurled antenna pointed toward the Earth and the series of green lights on its side. I wondered about the wireless link between TC6 and TC1. If the wireless connection failed, I would have to reboot TC6—an easy but time-consuming procedure.

After a few more moments, Cy continued, “Looks like Tango-Charlie-Six is a go. Good work, Mac.”

About time!

 

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