I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 33

Space is the ultimate getaway…

Our mission, to explore other galaxies and find, if there was, new life forms, was one that we knew might be a life long mission. It was one of the reasons I signed on; put simply there was nothing back on earth to keep me there.

Everyone had signed on, knowing that it was possible they might never return home, and, indeed, at the start of the voyage, that had been a distinct possibility.

We had not known about the upscaled propulsion, nor the weaponry the ship had, but that, I worked out in the end, was more deliberate on the part of space command. The less people back home who knew of our capabilities, the better.

Having got past the attack, and the discovery of a base on Oberon, one of Uranus’s moons, we were free to go back to our primary mission.

To be honest, I was happy we’d been told to resume our mission. There was a lot of items on the ship that needed fixing, modifying, or upgrading, and it would take time, that time it would take us to get to the first stopover on a long voyage.

And perhaps a little relieved that the Admiral had confirmed my appointment as Captain, not his first choice, but that given experience and time in space, I was certainly the most qualified.

There was something else he was going to say, you know when people stop short, and I though about asking him, but in the end, decided it couldn’t be anything that was a deal breaker.

That first day after leaving Uranus, I gave the speech that the former captain was going to give, and whether he wrote it or not, it seemed fitting, and poignant.

Ftom the outset, it was going to be a voyage measured in years, and it still would be, though not quite as long as first thought.

At the speed of light, it was a four year journey from our planet, to the next known earth like planet in the next galaxy, a planet named Proxima b.

By all accounts it was unliveable, but making observations from 4 and a half light years away was hardly what I would call a thorough review.

Perhaps closer up it might have more redeeming features. It might even support life. We’d find out when we got there.

In that, there was a debate about the true speed of this vessel, and over the ensuing weeks, the subject of a guessing game that all crew members could participate in went from a rumour to reality, except the engineers.

As we approached what might be Pluto’s orbit, it was a strange feeling being so far out from home, and I had expected to see more than just the inky darkness outside the ship, but any impression we might have assumed we would see from watching old Scy Fy episodes of interstellar travel was far from the reality.

In fact, there were times when it hardly felt like we were moving. There were times when it felt like just like being back on earth, except the city was within the confines of a very large ship with no roads out of town.

A holiday was a trip to the virtual reality centre, where it was possible to go anywhere or do anything without leaving your armchair. There were theatres, restaurants, sporting facilities, even a mall. There was a library, a school, and a group of crew representatives who were there to work on issues any member of the crew had.

I played squash and tennis and the occasional game of basketball, and the rest of the time, meetings, inspections, and the watch. My favourite was the night shift, not that there was any distinction between day and night, but one of the crews concerns was that lack of a boundary that designated days, so we instituted a version of day and night, and Engineering marvel at creating a world based on New York’s standard time.

All that took three months before everyone had settled into a routine.

Of course, it couldn’t last.

© Charles Heath 2021

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