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Virgin Galactic facility under construction at Spaceport America. Jeff Foust
Spaceport America’s main terminal squatted like a huge horseshoe crab shoved into New Mexico’s desert floor. Dry mountains rose in the distance and roads crisscrossed a sandy plain to launch pads, past low scrubby trees raising gray-green leaves to the blue sky. It was the end of the rainy season and birds flitted across the landscape, searching for ripening seeds.
The reception party was canceled after Ingra’s death, but a banner still hung at their arrival gate: Welcome Colony Mars Settler 3 Explorers. Colony Mars ground support teams met them, accompanied by spaceport officials. They’d spend two nights in the spaceport’s elegant hotel before shuttling out to the launch site.
Emma carried two duffle bags to her room. Settlers took few personal possessions with them and she dropped the small bag on the closet floor. The second bag held what she’d need for her time at the spaceport. She’d leave it behind.
The room was huge. The bed alone was larger than her room on Mars would be, where she’d have a bunk in one of the repurposed ship modules. Kamp’s dormitory bay wouldn’t be built for years.
She activated her link and made a voice contact.
“Hi Mom. I’m at the spaceport.”
Her mother had vacillated between congratulations and tears throughout Emma’s training. Today it was tears.
“I can’t believe you’re really going,” she said with a sniffle. “Living on Mars! It doesn’t seem real. What are you going to do every day?”
“Mom, didn’t you read the Colony Mars mission site?” She’d tried to explain a dozen times. Her mother never listened.
“Yes. Well, some of it. What’s this about you eating worms? Sounds dreadful.”
“It’s practical. The first two missions have been living on space rations while they build the basic settlement bays. There’s room to plant gardens now and – yes – raise mealworms for protein. Fish, too, if that sounds better to you. But the exciting part is the exploration gear – we’re taking the rovers and walkabout suits I designed at Dad’s company.”
Her father’s early business ventures had all failed, according to her mother. But the robotics company he started about the time she was born took off. Her mother wasn’t interested in robotics or business and Emma couldn’t remember a time when her father wasn’t working long hours. It was no surprise that her parents divorced shortly after she started college.
It was her father who got Emma interested in Mars. After she finished her engineering degree, he gave her a job on his contracts with the colony. All his talk about humanity’s destiny in space inspired her to apply. That, and the chance to personally test the robots on the Martian surface. Emma’s enthusiasm bubbled up as she talked about the walkabouts.
“The adjustable seals on the walkabouts were a real challenge. I had to…”
“It sounds very interesting, dear. I’m sure your father’s thrilled, though I haven’t heard from him lately.”
Emma sighed. She should know better – Mom could only listen to technical talk for so long.
“I’ve arrived at the gallery opening, so I’ve got to go. I’m going to miss you so much,” her mother smiled through tears. “I’m proud of you and so happy you’re following your dream.”
Emma flopped across the coral and turquoise bedspread as the link closed. Her mother never shared her zeal for engineering – Emma was her father’s child in that way. He’d encouraged her, though mostly from a distance. She’d treasured every message he sent her and saved them all. Sometimes it was hard to tell where her father’s passion stopped and hers began. Emma hoped she was following her dream. Continue reading