On August 31, 2012 a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona, erupted out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT. The coronal mass ejection, or CME, traveled at over 900 miles per second – This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
The sun simmered red as it slunk towards the jagged horizon. Herman Pope and Krista Hubbard stood watching it from the parking lot at the Houston Space Center anticipating their last day on Earth.
“When will the Object reach perihelion?” The twenty-eight year old systems engineer grasped the older gentleman’s hand without taking her gaze off of the sunset.
The fifty-five year old senior operations manager looked at his watch, which had been his father’s before his. “Less than thirty minutes.”
“That’s how long we have?”
“Maybe. Are you sure you don’t want to go back inside? The Argonaut is transmitting continual status updates.”
“Round trip communications between here and Mercury’s orbit is something like 13 minutes.”
“If it happens, we won’t feel the effects for a while.”
“Yeah, but my brother in Hawaii won’t be having a good day. He’s supposed to graduate from college there next month.”
“Come on, Krista.” He gently tugged on her arm.
“No.” She pulled back harder than she had to. “I want to stay out here.”
An artist’s illustration of a flare from Proxima Centauri, modeled after the loops of glowing, hot gas seen in the largest solar flares. The planet Proxima b, seen here in an artist’s impression, orbits Proxima Centauri 20 times closer than Earth orbits the sun. A flare 10 times larger than a major solar flare would blast Proxima b with 4,000 times more radiation than Earth gets from solar flares.
Credit: Roberto Molar Candanosa/Carnegie Institution for Science, NASA/SDO, NASA/JPL
Meredith Wallace stood outside the lander and stared up at its magnificence visible only because of her helmet’s shielded visor. The gigantic loops of glowing hot plasma from Proxima Centauri were large enough to be seen from 4.6 million miles away because they were twenty times as large as solar flares from Earth’s sun.
No one had predicted such a massive build up of magnetic energy within this star. The cluster of sunspots, the flare’s eruption site, was just north of the sun’s equator and positioned almost directly at the planet. The electromagnetic radiation wasn’t visible to the unaided eye, but for Meredith, the coronal mass ejections were like an astonishing Phoenix rising from its ashes, climbing far into the space between star and this world only to follow relentless magnetic forces back down like a brilliantly flaming Icarus.
“There’s no hope then.”
Photo of the Apollo 15 command module above the Moon piloted by Al Worden – Photo credit: NASA
Air Force Major Ezekiel “Zeke” Johnson watched the LEM drop away from the Command Module as he approached the terminator that would take him over the far side of the Moon.
“Hey, Zeke. You hearing what I’m hearing?” Colonel Clay Philips, the mission’s commander sounded like a kid on Christmas morning when anyone else would have at least been a little bit worried.
“I sure do, and I remember the briefing. It’s just interference.”
“That’s right.” Captain Brian Osborne, sitting in the LEM’s number two seat chimed in. “It’s caused by VHF radio interference between the LEM and the Command Module. Really does sound like alien music, though.”
Zeke laughed. “I’ll try to keep that in mind when I’m out of radio contact with you and Earth for the next hour or so.”
“Not scared of those nasty old BEMs, are you Zeke?” Philips was laughing with him or was that at him?
© Justin Peters
“I must be dreaming. I mean, you can’t be God.”
“Yes, you are dreaming and I am a manifestation of the Almighty that won’t totally blow your mind.”
Lucas Todd still felt like his mind was being blown. He’d just been accepted into UCLA’s Astronomy and Astrophysics graduate program. Ever since his Dad told him about watching Neil Armstrong setting foot on the Moon on television, he wanted to go there, too.
NASA’s manned space program had gotten pretty disappointing since then. His Dad always thought he’d see a permanent Lunar Base or maybe even a colony being established during his lifetime, but poor Dad died of cancer last year. Lucas didn’t want Dad’s dreams to die with him.
If either NASA or a private space agency was going to establish that Moon Base, then Lucas was determined to be a part of it
“I mean, I don’t even believe in God, well not really.”
Gale Crater – Mars
“Temporal Shift Unit is powered up, Commander Sharp.” Physicist Jamie Benjamin and her team had spent a week assembling the complex machinery in Gale Crater, which was believed to be one of Mars’ long dried up lakes.
“If this device works as well as it did in the tests on Earth, we could very well see what this crater looked like over three billion years in the past, Benjamin.”
“I suggest we all anchor ourselves to a specific spot, Commander.” She was speaking to the entire team who had been living out of their twin solar-powered rovers for the past ten days. “When the unit activates, it will seem like we’re 5,000 meters underwater.”
The thin air around them rippled and twisted, and then it was as if they were at the bottom of the ocean, which was expected. The true marvel was that they weren’t alone.
The What Pegman Saw flash fiction writing challenge was an unusual one this week. Normally, writers are prompted to craft a story no more than 150 words long based on some Google Maps view on Earth. Today, J. Hardy Carroll uses a virtual reality tour to take us to the planet Mars. I ended up somewhere in Gale Crater, scanning a 360 degree view provided by the Curiosity Rover.
Approximately 3.5 billion years ago, it is strongly believed the crater was a water-filled lake. I decided to manufacture a little “virtual reality” of my own to give astronauts a look at what the crater was like all those billions of years in the past. As you can see, they found something startling and wonderful.
To read other stories inspired by this prompt, go to InLinkz.com My story is 150 words long.
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.