Chapter 2: Launch from the ISS

(The Story begins here

We’ve all seen the general thing that proceeds a launch into space with people aboard. Interviews galore, hundreds of journalists, explanations of the objectives of the mission and its difficulties by scores of talking heads, scenes from the control room in Houston, the works. Multiply that by at least four and thats what occured now. Even the smallest country and the Vatican had sent journalists. They all wanted people who could explain in their terms on their media what was going on. Of course, they all wanted interviews as well.

So the crew were giving around 5 hours worth of 10 minute interviews a day. With incredible patience they kept answering the two basic questions. Why did you volunteer to go on this mission? Their answer to that had been agreed between them and never varied. Who would not want to be part of the greatest adventure of mankind and be the first humans to live on another planet? The second was how do you feel about dying up there? That tended to be more personal, but was along the lines of you can die anytime from some kind of accident, if its for something more worth while, then that would be better.

Alex, being the most outgoing, had earned a big ear tweaking when he had replied to the next most common question, what do you think will kill you? Boredom, he had quipped. Scandalised, what, you mean you are going to be bored up there? Imagine you were sat in your car parked, day in day out for six months, how would you feel after four months? Ahhh, I see.

So finally they were left in peace for the day before the launch to concentrate on revision of the procedures and such. The two women were a little more apprehensive than the men, as they had not been into space before. Of course they had done all the preparatory stuff, the centrifuge to simulate the G force, the Zero G flights, and the simulators. The two men had each spent three months on the ISS. They were partially reassured — theres a lot of noise, a lot of discomfort until the engines stop, but then its much beauty and a piece of cake otherwise. When they got there, they agreed it had been a good summing up.

The problem of the accomodation on the ISS for four extra people had been solved easily enough. The two men and two women from the ISS would use the Cab of the Mars Flyer and the two women would take the place of the two from the ISS two days before departure. To get there would require a space walk, which meant they would twitch a bit, but by now it was no big deal, apart from those having to do it!

The cab of the Mar’s Flyer had a great feature, fully configurable and comfortable chairs with several inflatable cushions. They could be set to any position, including horizontal to serve as beds. They also served as exerecize machines, like pulling up the arm rests against resistance or pushing them down, ditto, same for foot rests and appropriately for head rests. To give the illusion of comfort and privacy a cover with magnets sown in could be pulled over and it clamped to the sides of the chair. When the first couple of weeks of stores had been removed from the load module, a classic treadmill machine would be revealed.

Everybody in the ISS was very happy to have the newcomers, new faces and stories were always welcome. Unkown to everybody, the outbound crew had made a secret agreement during their trail period of isolation. This was nowhere near as easy as it might sound. Everything they said or did was recorded, there were cameras everywhere and time marks made that corresponded to the telemetry from their medical sensors. The only place that had no camera was the toilet.

One had had the bright idea of writing on the next piece of toilet paper that would be used after them with a felt pen. So the next user in would read it and either copy a reply and/or add to it. Of course, the original was flushed down the toilet. Nobody seemed to notice that the consumption of toilet paper was somewhat greater than normal use. Over the three months the plan had emerged.

Things followed the normal planning, the presidents of the two countries both wished them farewell, congratulating them on their courage and wishing them a successful flight. Both were sincere and unknown to both was that in a weeks time they would be cursing them. The crew ignited the small pilot rocket that would slowly move them away from the ISS to avoid damaging it when the main thrusters ignited. After an hour it was over a mile away and the main engines started. All the waving observers on the ISS could see of them, all with tears in there eyes, was the flare from its engines, slowly diminishing in size, next stop MARS!

Mars, Space Exploration, Space Flight