MoonRising, Commander’s Journal, Friday Review
There is no comfort in the wonder. The wonder is we are here, have been here for now almost 10 years, and still the view outside is stark, glorious, awesome. In Buzz Aldrin’s words: “That Magnificent Desolation.” The Moon. The wonder is that we are on the Moon. Living on it, staying on it, exploring it, trying to discover how Mankind can ever make it a permanent part of Mankind’s compass. The three outposts: Gagarin Base, on the rim of Shackleton Crater at the South Pole: the Russian/American/European/Japanese (does Algeria count as European? For the matter, does Sudan?), we are by far the largest and oldest; The Chinese outpost: Qian Base, up near Eratosthenes Crater, – newer, smaller, and touchily standoffish, but getting year-by-year more neighborly, and the newest, the private commercial outpost: Shepard Base, overlooking the Apollo 14 landing site on the Sea of Tranquility, all smiles and helpfulness and brash. Courtesy calls had been formally exchanged between the International Outpost, and the Chinese Outpost, and Shepard Base, carefully following the letter of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, but curry and bootleg slivovits have been exchanged between the commercial Shepard folks and the internationals, and you can easily find a Russian or Italian in the commercial compound on any day, or a Sikh or a Manxian in the International compound, and technical problems are worked in concert, as far as the intellectual property treaties will allow, and people are working on mutual waivers to smooth even those over.
But there is no comfort in the wonder. No comfort in the stale sweat-sock smell that slinks through the whole International Outpost, or the stale curry and new plastics smell of Shepard Base. No comfort in the continual pinging, chunking, and swooshing of the noises made by the fans, pumps and engines that keep us alive, that keep the vacuum and harsh temperatures at bay.
The sharp edges of the light and dark outside mirror the harsh, sharp edges of even the finest Moon dust, and the harsh, sharp edge between everything working right and keeping us all alive, and one thing going wrong and leaving 50 dead bodies on the airless Moon. There is no comfort there. There is the stark, dark, glorious Magnificent Desolation, and that will have to do. There is no comfort in the wonder, so the wonder will have to do.