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Sasha’s Story. Part 1: Awesome

"It's awesome, Dad!", Sasha gushed, a little overwhelmed and momentarily frozen in place.

"I knew you'd like it," he replied, "don't forget to look around you."

She slowly panned left to right, hardly noticing the bulk of the oversized space helmet. As she looked down, her spacesuit and gloved hand shimmered reddish pink, reflecting back the otherworldly objects that dominated the scene. To her left, an astronaut was securing a flag on the alien surface. As he tapped the pole, streaks of pink-grey soil flew out in graceful arcs for many meters, some striking Sasha's spacesuit and bouncing off. The ground around them was awash with footprints. She squinted, and could see a tiny tear of pride in the corner of the astronaut’s eye as he stood next to the flag. Carefully, she turned around in place scanning the sky, and there it was. Barely larger than a star, and the only blue object anywhere in sight. The Earth.

She couldn't contain herself; "It's exactly like the IMAX movie we just saw!"

"That's right, Sash. But remember, what you're seeing is not a movie, it's a recording. This actually happened six months ago on Phobos, one of Mars' moons."

"I know that Dad! We’ve been following the mission in school for a couple of years now. And Mars has another moon called Deimos... I can't believe how close Mars looks from here. It's just huge! I guess it should look big since it's the same size as all the land on Earth, huh?" While only fifteen years old, she was confident she knew much more about astronomy than most of the people in line behind her.

"And you made all this happen, right Dad!"

"Not by myself!" he chuckled. "I just worked on the software for the virtual reality helmets, like the one you have on. The astronauts you're looking at now used the same technology to remotely control the robots down on Mars – that's how they found the fossils."

Sasha's father was a little envious of his daughter and the thousands of others gathered at the Science Center's Mars Exhibit. They were enjoying for the first time – with clarity very close to that experienced by the astronauts – the scene that now defined this generation. He had been in mission control during the actual landing, but was far too busy monitoring engineering data to really appreciate the history-making moment. But Sasha was right; the landing on Phobos made for an awesome picture, immediately surpassing the iconic space images from the previous century. For his daughter's generation, the 'Earthrise' image taken from Apollo 8 in 1968 was now merely an ancient weekend holiday snap, and the pictures of the first astronauts on the surface of the moon were by comparison grey, dull, and uninspiring.

A voice in Sasha's earpiece announced she had just 30 seconds left before she'd have to relinquish the virtual reality helmet to the next person in line, so she took one last look around. Above the undulating and cratered surface of Phobos hung the rusty visage of Mars, with its spectacular canyons, record-breaking mountains, and snowy frozen ice caps. From here it took up a full third of her view – 6000 times larger than the Moon when seen from Earth. At the horizon, barely perceptible, was the shimmer of the tenuous Martian atmosphere.

Sasha didn't appreciate it yet, but this amazing view of an international crew of humans visiting alien worlds so far from home had done more for international relations than a decade of UN diplomacy. Just as the entire world had claimed the 1969 Apollo 11 lunar landing as a success for all Earth-people, this landing had united the planet and fostered a sense of optimism for the global future that many had thought impossible.

"I want to go!" Sasha declared, as she handed the helmet to the attendant. "I want to be the first person to walk on Mars!"

Email link | Printer-friendly | Feedback | Contributed by: Adrian Wyard

Sasha’s Story. Part 1: Awesome

Space Exploration, Positive Stewardship, and Christian Identity
Notes on Part 1: Science Fiction vs. Real Life
Sasha’s Story. Part 2: Disappointment
Sasha’s Story. Part 3: History
Notes on Parts 2 and 3: A New (Moderately) Bold Space Program?
Appendix: The Science Behind the Story
Suggested Links


Adrian Wyard

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