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


“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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