The Old Astronaut

spacesuit

© A Mixed Bag 2012

I finally made it. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Never thought I’d get the chance to visit. I always wanted to see all these exhibits. I spent my childhood, my whole life really, admiring astronauts and their accomplishments. I used to spend hours pretending I was wearing a spacesuit, just like the one I’m standing in front of now.

It doesn’t look as impressive in real life, but then, it’s just an empty suit. What makes spacesuits heroic are the men and women who’ve worn them, who were blasted into space, who walked on the Moon. I was in high school when Neil Armstrong wore this suit and declared, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

I wish I could have had my shot at even sub-orbital space. I can afford a tourist’s ride on SpaceX now, but I’m too old.

My grandson’s not, though. Next month he and five other astronauts will be launched from the Kennedy Space Center to the International Space Station, and from there, they’ll board the Ares One spaceship to Mars. I’ve got my shot into space because my grandson will always be in my heart. Thank you, boy.

I’m writing this in response to the Sunday Photo Fiction – March 12th 2017 hosted by Al Forbes. The idea is for authors to use the photo prompt above to write a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words. My story is exactly 200 words long.

Oh, I really did grow up with the NASA manned space missions, from Mercury, to Gemini, to Apollo, and beyond. I even got a chance to see and touch (I wasn’t supposed to touch it) one of the Apollo command modules once, although I’ve never been to the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum (I wish). I’ll never go into space, but my grandchildren’s generation will. To the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

To read other tales based on the photo, go to InLinkz.com.

The Five Billion Year Love

ancient mars

Image: NASA.gov

Juan Villanueva’s name was often mentioned in the same sentence as Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk, and yet all he really wanted was to be alone. The thrill of starting one company, amassing a fortune from his work, and then selling it for another fortune had lost its allure, at least since Carrie died.

Carrie, his beloved Carrie. How could he go on without her?

But he did, because that’s what Villanueva was all about, overcoming challenges, even grief and death.

Continue reading

Rocketship to Mars

flight to mars

Image: From the 1951 film “Flight to Mars”

The four glittering, silver tail fins of Space Ship Ares One settled firmly on the red sands of the planet Mars as Colonel Bradley Graham flipped the toggle switch cutting the rocket thrust.

Then he picked up the microphone and depressed the transmission button on the side. “Space Ship Ares One to Earth Space Control. We have landed on the planet Mars. Repeat, we have landed on Mars.”

It would take minutes for the radio waves carrying his message to make the trip from Mars to Earth, but Graham vividly imagined the cheers of the crowd at Space Control and all of the Americans watching on their televisions or listening on their radios when they finally heard his voice from across the void.

“Okay, let’s get to it. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Continue reading

A Boy and His Dog on Mars

space hab

Image: Bryan Versteeg / spacehabs.com

Seven-year-old Timmy Robinson threw the tennis ball as hard as he could, sending it sailing over the Martian surface. Rusty, his pet terrier, scrambled after it, his paws spewing little clouds of red sand into the air behind him.

“Go get it! Go get it, boy! Timmy was screaming at the top of his lungs as the dog followed the now bouncing ball.

“I think this is the last one, Timmy. We’ve got to go down into the gravity lab now.” It was the voice of Joyce Robinson, his Mother. In all the excitement, he hadn’t heard her walk up behind him.

Rusty returned skidding to a halt at the little boy’s feet and obediently deposited the slime covered ball near his left shoe, a red high-topped Converse all-star.

“Ah, Mom. Can’t I stay out a while longer? I’m having so much fun. I never get to play with Rusty except when we’re on Mars.”

Continue reading

Should We Be Searching for Extraterrestrial Intelligence and Are They Trying to Kill Us?

seti

Image: SETI.org

I just read an article called “SETI’s mega alien hunt shovels more data onto IBM’s cloud” at The Register, which is a UK-based tech site with a satirical twist. The article’s subtitle is “Citizen boffins: Help find the alien that ultimately kills us all.”

SETI, the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence, uses radio telescope arrays to gather hundreds of terabytes of data each day. That’s a lot of data to process. So they’re releasing 16TB of radio transmissions from the Allan Telescope Array (ATA), located near San Francisco, to IBM’s cloud under SETI@IBMCloud. The idea is that citizen coders can build apps capable of querying the data and possibly detecting information SETI technicians might have missed.

Theoretical Physicist and Cosmologist Stephen Hawking has gone on record as stating he believes aliens will destroy us if they ever find us. It’s not like they’d even have to be all that hostile. They could destroy our culture the way Europeans destroyed Native American cultures when they first arrive hundreds of years ago, the ramifications of which are still being keenly felt today.

I suppose that’s possible, but is it likely?

Continue reading

Dreaming of Arabia Terra

mars

Image: Wikipedia

Commander Amanda Nichols was disappointed as she opened the Mars lander’s hatch and saw that her helmet obscured much of her first view of the upland region of Arabia Terra. Major Terry Chang, the lander’s co-pilot who was standing behind her, always referred to the Martian terrain as “planet Nevada,” but for Amanda, the stark beauty and even the romance of Mars far outweighed a more objective observation.

This is supposed to be one of the oldest terrains on the planet, heavily eroded and very densely cratered, which is part of the reason NASA chose this part of the Arabia quadrangle as the landing site of the first human mission. There’s a distinct possibility of studying evidence of tectonic activity and even volcanism here, plus previous robot landers detected the likelihood of ice water under the surface.

To Amanda, the landscape before her looked like God had taken the ancient red crust, rock, and dust in her field of vision and etched, crumpled, and then pounded it, creating a texture and fabric that spoke of a life lived long and hard resulting in a face marked with character and even a hint of majesty rather than merely scars and age.

Continue reading