Episode 1: Lunar Disaster (part 1)
Space. It's a pretty big place. Of course, we humans can only aspire to explore so much of it. That's why they had programs like Sunprobe. Of course, Sunprobe almost crashed into the sun… that's why those geniuses at the Space Administration decided to design a new failure system, to prevent malfunctions from going unnoticed until it was too late. Its first "in the field" test, was a rocket scheduled for a one month mission to the asteroid belt. Actually, the trip to the belt, and the time spent there went off without a hitch… it would be the trip back that was going to prove disastrous.
The pitch blackness of space was only illuminated by the many stars… that and the light on the hull of a passing by rocket. On the inside, crammed into constricting strapped chairs, sat 4 men. Medic Thomas Jendal, engineer Harold Greyman, and astronauts Edward Morris and Daniel Javich. They had all been anxiously awaiting the day of their return to earth, and it was today.
"There, all set! In five hours, we'll be touching down back on earth." Greyman muttered after adjusting some dials on his control panel.
Morris turned to face Greyman. "Fantastic. Can't wait to actually touch ground that isn't grey asteroid rock. First thing I'm doin is taking my wife out to dinner."
The medic then spoke. "That's good for you Morris. I'm pretty impressed by how few mechanical issues we've had so far."
"Well of course. We're using a new method for preventing system failures. The engineers back on the ground built this thing with sensors to do routine checks to make sure everything is working correctly." Greyman explained.
Javich spoke up. "But what if the sensors malfunction, and say something is wrong with the system, when it's all working fine?"
Greyman responded "They planned on that possibly happening. When the detectors are triggered, it sends the malfunction data to earth, where a monitor in some office reviews it, makes sure it's legitimate, and send back a report telling us the problem. The shift should have changed about half an hour ago."
"Sounds foolproof." Morris noted.
"It is. Even if a monkey were manning that station… we would know about any malfunction." Greyman added.
"Well I say we get some rest. We'll need all the energy we can get when we indulge the press with our discoveries in the asteroid belt." Javich said, as he yawned.
"Agreed." They all said as they laid back the best they could in those uncomfortable chairs, and waited for the alert to tell them they were about to enter earth's atmosphere.
If only they knew, that back in the processing computers of the rocket, the guidance chip, while performing its final adjustments, began to overheat. With that… the trajectory of the craft shifted a bit. The sensors of course took note of this, and sent an alert to the monitor's desk back on earth.
In a small office at the corner of the Space Administration building, I man stared excitedly at a screen. Not a computer screen however. He was watching a foot-ball game on his miniature TV.
The man was obviously enraptured in the sport, as he yelled at the screen. "GO! GO! GO FOR THE TOUCHDOWN! CMON…. CMON… YESSSSS! HE MAKES IT!"
In fact… the man was so pre-occupied with the game, that he didn't notice the monitor he was supposed to be watching… the red flashing one that read:
Guidance System Error
Trajectory Change Imminent
Eventually, after enough time going without a response… the screen shut down, and the trajectory change was accepted as a sensory error.
On the ship, almost 5 hours had passed. Soon it was time for the alarm to wake up the crew to tell them it was time for descent. But when they looked out of their front window… they didn't see that orb of blue green and brown they knew and loved. No. They saw the pale, white, meteor battered surface of the moon.
"What in Galvin Prime?" Greyman said under his breath.
"Greyman… what is going on? We were supposed to go to earth!" Jendal yelled.
"I don't quite know… Let's see." Greyman
For the next few minutes, Greyman typed furiously on a keyboard before looking up in horror.
"The computer has locked our return trajectory for the moon. Since we were aimed in the exact direction of the earth initially, it was supposed to lock on earth for the final descent. Somehow a slight trajectory change told the thrust computers that the nearest location for a landing was the moon."
"Well? Can ya fix it before we uh… you know?" Morris said, nodding towards the moon before them.
Greyman looked at his monitor, then continued typing… and after a few minutes, as the moon filled the window of the hull, Greyman turned to them with a sullen look on his face.
"Good news… and bad news… good news is I managed to restore controls to the steering columns. Bad news is, we're too close to the moon to pull out of this decent. We can prevent a head on collision. But we're going to need to land this thing… without landing gear. The landing gear is only activated by the heat of re-entry. With no atmosphere to trigger it… no landing gear."
The other astronauts looked positively shocked… a crash landing. On the moon. This was going to be grim. Morris grabbed the steering column, and began pulling up. As battered surface of the moon drew closer, the ship began to pull up a bit. The ground drew closer and closer, as the pilot became more determined not to become another crater on the moon's surface. Greyman looked up in fear.
They continued to approach the ground as they pulled up.
The ship began level out as they descended, but it was still pointed at the ground.
Closer and closer.
The impact… as the bottom of the ship smashed and crunched on the lunar surface, it bounced around a bit, before finally becoming grounded. From there, it screeched to a halt in the middle of a rocky outcropping, surrounded by large rocky hills.
Minutes passed before the four men sat up in their seat
Morris was the first to speak.
"Well… how bad is it?"
With this, Greyman was fiddling with the instruments at his station.
"Well… from what I can see, our radio's totaled. No way to send a message back to NASA. Even worse, the impact made a few micro-punctures in the sides. The system is used to adjusting the Crealeum filling to seal micro-meteorite holes upon impact, but they weren't designed to work such large holes."
Jendal spoke up. "Well how long does that give us?"
"About 10 hours and 57 minutes before our air is gone. Less if we start hyperventilating and use more oxygen."
"Well that's it then… we're gonna die here. They'll never know what happened to us until they start settling the moon and find this rusty hunk of junk."
They all looked out solemnly at the lunar landscape. It looked hopeless.
A few more minutes passed. They knew it was a bad idea to prolong the inevitable. But then… Greyman eyes lit up as he realized something.
"Hold on a minute guys… I have an idea. It's a long shot, but it might just work."
The others looked confused as Greyman left the cabin, and came back with a strange looking radio with a handset.
"What. Is. That?" Javich asked, obviously confused.
"Well… in my spare time, I built this radio… for calibration purposes on the ships radio transmitter. With a minor adjustment, I can transmit with this thing."
"But there's no way that thing is strong enough to transmit on the frequencies NASA uses… much less this far away!"
"I'm not trying to reach NASA. Besides, they couldn't get anyone out here quick enough anyways." Greyman explained as he opened the back and began changing a few wires.
"Well who is going to hear it, and actually help us out here?"
Greyman looked up as he finished his adjustments and put the cover back on.
"The only ones who can help."
He turned on the radio, and held the mouth piece to his mouth as he transmitted the famous words… in hope they would hear.
"Calling International Rescue. Calling International Rescue."