Thursday, July 16, 2015

Short Story: Christmas on the Moon

Trying to post a story a day in July!

Christmas on the Moon

December 22, 1981

Twelfth day since lift-off and Lunar Mission-18 is preparing to depart the surface. The end of the seventh successful manned mission to the moon was barely even newsworthy back on Earth. Although the US was starting to look better, there was still a recession underway. NASA was also showing off their new Space Shuttle, a toy that was the future of manned space missions since it was reusable.

LM-18 Commander Doug Shepherd and Lieutenant Alan Moss were busy putting away the storage bins of moon rocks and other things to bring back to Earth.

“Houston, we are on schedule for an 0800 launch” Commander Shepherd reported as he bounced around the lunar lander towards the hatch. They would be leaving behind a science module, a solar powered camera, a flag and the rover.

“This is the final scheduled mission to land man on the moon. I think we will be back, someday and we will build permanent settlements” Shepherd said, knowing this was being shown on television, at a minimum on the new cable news channel, still in its infancy.

Soon enough the two men were strapped into their seats and a countdown was running. They would launch at the perfect time to be captured by the command module orbiting the moon, with Alex Simmons up there “bored” as he kept saying.

“I still think there should be enough fuel in the lander to make two trips up and down, so we can all have a chance to walk around down there” he said, again. He knew of course, that the landers legs and such would be left behind once it took off.

“Splashdown on Christmas” Alan Moss said “Might be home before my wife's birthday on January 8th”

“Yes, NASA planned it around your wife's birthday. Now it makes sense” Shepherd replied sarcastically. They both laughed.

“All systems are ready” The Commander said flipping through some screens. “I'm showing all green down here”

“Roger that” Mission Control replied.

“Launching in 5....4....3....2... engine start” Commander Shepherd said but the engine did not start. A red light began flashing on his control panel. “Engine has failed to ignite” he said “We can try again on the next flyby Alex”

“Just figure out what happened” he responded “I want to get home in time for Alan's wifes birthday too”

“Houston here, we're looking through all the telemetry to try and isolate the problem”

“I'll go through the system readouts up here” Alan Moss flipping the little computer through different status displays.

They didn't find anything but decided that it must not have been armed properly so they made sure for the next time the Gallant (name of the orbiting Command module) came around. The count down was uneventful, the computers all said everything was fine.

“3...2... engine start” he said and the landing module began to shake and vibrate, dust and smoke could be seen out the small window but it did not get off the ground.

“Houston, we have a problem” Commander Shepherd reported “I think the engine or the fuel has gone bad on us”

Him and Alan were staring at each other. They were both thinking the same thing. Alex sent them a message directly, NASA didn't hear. “Oh my God. I'm so sorry guys”

“Yeah” Doug Shepherd replied.

The two astronauts just sat there without moving for a good while. The lander would never be able to get them off of the moon. They would never get off the moon.

“Houston here” came a message “We are analyzing every possible scenario right now to get you guys home”

“Does the public know yet?” Shepherd asked

“It was live on one of the networks and they are all covering it now” the reply came

Alan Moss was putting on his gloves and Shepherd did the same. If one of them was going outside, the whole ship had to be de-pressurized. So Commander Shepherd decided to go outside too. He followed Alan all the way to the edge of a crater they had landed near. You could see quite a distance from the rim, the moon usually had a pretty close horizon.

Alan wasn't looking down, but up at the Earth. Half covered in shadow the Earth looked like a beautiful marble.

“You know the scripture they read the first time they went around the moon” Alan said without taking his eyes off the Earth. “It was so right”.

Shepherd remembered, he was also a believer, so he recited it too.

"'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
‘And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
‘And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
‘And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.'"

Alan pointed at the planet “We can see all of that, right in front of us”

The two astronauts stood and watched the Earth for several minutes before Alex broke in. “I don't want to interrupt you guys but the President is about to speak”

Unfortunately they could hear almost none of it. “As it says in 1st Corinthians, The last enemy that will be abolished is death...” was the only part they could make out.

11:59PM, December 24

“Roger Houston” Alex said “Initiating insertion burn in one hour”

In one hour he would begin the trip home, alone. He had adamantly refused to abandon Alan and Doug until the last.

Alan and Doug below had spent the last couple of days saying goodbye to loved ones over the radio link with NASA. Those below could see them now and then using the built-in television camera but they did not use this too much. It caused heat and used up a lot of the batteries, which were dwindling.

Commander Shepherd had spent some time taking pictures of the rocket engine under the lander to send to NASA. “It is possible the fuel was corrupted somehow, maybe by the cold if the insulation failed”

“Hey Doug, come here” he heard and looked around. Once he figured out which direction Alan was in he went to him. Once he arrived through long strides, to the boulder he saw what had been done. Alan had drawn a Christmas tree on the big rock.

“Merry Christmas, Doug” Alan said

“Merry Christmas, Alan” he said, choking up. The LM was already out of breathable air. The air in their suits would not last much longer.

“Christmas on the moon” Alan said “Would be more interesting under better circumstances”

Houston came in “Thanks for the pictures Commander. Merry Christmas to both of you. Your journey was not in vain. You have done a great service for all mankind”... then “Since you are both believers, I only have to give you one more thought instead of two separate messages...May God grant you the peace you deserve and welcome you into heaven”

They climbed aboard the LM and chatted for several minutes until there was nothing but quiet. NASA medics reported that both heartbeats had stopped within a minute of each other.

Humans have not returned to the moon since.

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