Writing & Writing About Writing
“I can’t let you stay on the moon by yourself.”
We sat at the table Major Romero liked to use as his desk.
“The next crew is launching in less than 2 weeks. I’d been here for 12 days.
“We don’t leave a man, or woman behind. You are coming back to earth with the rest of the crew.”
I waved at the report in front of him. A report I’d written on the sly over the last week. Not an easy task when you are living in a goldfish bowl with four other people.
“You’ve seen the data. You know how much more we could learn if we didn’t have to stop and restart all of the experiments. Imagine how much bigger the soy plants would get if they grew for the length of two missions.”
That’s the ticket, appeal to his pet project.
“This is a ridiculous request. You can’t stay in the hab module by yourself. This report sounds like you spent too much time reading *The Martian*.”
I didn’t tell him that I had read Andy Weir’s book often enough to have Mark Watney’s log entries memorized. Or that for most of my teen years, my ideal man looked like Matt Damon (movie version) and sounded like Wil Wheaton (audio book narrator). Or that I waited in line until midnight to get the graphic novel when it finally came out. That would just cloud the issue.
Instead I answered his most obvious objection. “The difficult part of the habitat is the start up. All of us are cross-qualified for maintenance on all of the machines. We have back-ups and doubles of everything.”
“It’s too dangerous.” He said.
“Dangerous?” I asked.
I gave him my full-bore respectfully disagree glare, emphasizing the respectful. I had to get him to agree. Well, I didn’t have to. I had a back-up plan that involved airlocks and giving them no choice. I really didn’t want to go that route. Cooperation from the start was better.
“We are sitting five feet from the most hostile environment know to man. Everything we eat, drink, or breathe has to be produced for us. From lift-off to touchdown, every moment of our lives is dangerous.”
I continued. “If I went with you, the ship could explode on launch.” We both unconsciously touched the mission patches on our shoulders in memory of the Challenger explosion.
“We could burn up on reentry.” Another touch. Columbia.
“A micro meteor could punch a hole in the wall and wipe out the entire mission ten minutes from now.”
I could see that appealing to the past was softening him up. Keep going.
“Remember the fire on MIR in 1997? I remember a reporter asking an astronaut if she would go to the space station, given all the problems it was having. From the tone of voice, the reporter was clearly expecting a “No” answer. The astronaut didn’t even hesitate. She said she would go back in a heartbeat.”
“At the risk of sounding like a recruiting poster, We are astronauts. Danger is what we do.”
That’s good. Remind him we are in this together.
“Won’t you be lonely here by yourself?” He asked.
Excellent. He had stopped refusing outright. Now he was arguing logistics.
“Look around. There are cameras in every room. I would be the most observed person on … I paused. Restarted.”… the most observed person in the solar system.”
“I came to you first to get you on board. You are much more likely to persuade the generals back home.” A blatant attempt to appeal to his command vanity. Too much? I dialed it back.
“I know that this needs to a group decision. The space program is too big and too expensive to be a one-person show.” We’d had this drilled into us enough times in training.
“This needs to be a group decision,” I repeated, “both within the crew and with ground control. But I think my vote carries some weight here. I’m the pig. You all are the chickens.”
Major raised his eyebrows, “Chickens?”
“The chicken is involved in breakfast. The pig is committed.”
He chuckled. I gave myself a point. Laughter was a good sign.
I reached forward and closed the file folder in front of him. I left my hand on the cover. I put on my most earnest talking-to-bosses voice.
“We both know that my being on this mission was a fluke. Sandoval had that accident. Bryne and Hicks came down with the flu. I was third string at best. You’ve seen my test scores. I got through astronaut training by being adequate at everything, without being a standout at anything.”
“If I go back, I will never have chance to be on another mission. This is my one shot.”
He did not deny this.
“I’m not your favorite crew member. I’m no one’s favorite crew member. You’ve seen my personality profile. I’m not a natural leader. I don’t play as well with others as I should.”
He failed to deny this as well.
“Let’s put those traits to good use. Let me use who I am to make a contribution to science.”
I sat back, sewed my lips shut and folded my hands on the table. No one here but us good little subordinates awaiting the verdict from a commanding officer. I oozed honesty from every pore.
The honesty was a cover. There was something I wasn’t telling him. There was something I wasn’t telling anyone.
When the descent shuttle touched down on the lunar surface, when I looked out at the stark, bleak world, I felt an overwhelming sense of rightness.
The moon was my home now. I wasn’t leaving. Ever.