They say that space is huge, unimaginably vast, an overwhelming void of blackness illuminated with only a few pinpricks of light. Technically, this is true. But in practice, it is the opposite. You can’t go outside. You are trapped in a cramped and claustrophobic spaceship. The blackness is oppressive, keeping you trapped as surely as a submarine in the depths. You are an ant, trapped in a tin can at the bottom of the ocean. Only a thin layer of glass and metal and plastic keep your blood from boiling in your veins. I know only too well how true this is. I can still hear the screams.
I’ve been dreaming of space travel for over twenty years now. Ever since I was a small child in France, watching science fiction, dreaming of the stars. I moved to America. I got a job. My life was perfectly average and utterly boring. Then I heard about the mission to Mars.
Due to financial strain within the government, NASA had been closed down, but dozens of private companies were making their own way into space. Some for prestige, some for profit, some for the sheer scientific research. One of these was Mission Mars, a crowd-funded effort to found a colony on the Red Planet headed by a forward-minded CEO. Estimated date: five years.
I had nothing to keep me here. No family, no real friends, no interest in the future of this planet. I had grown thoroughly sick of politics, natural disasters, pollution, bureaucracy, the looming Third World War. So I signed up. I focused everything on training. I put myself in peak physical shape, I studied everything to do with space travel, I took acting lessons to make myself more charismatic for the selection process, I did everything. And I made it, second to last pick.
Most of the startup space programs ended up going under, but Mission Mars stuck it out to the end. It ended up getting some pretty major tax breaks and government grants. The US wanted to tout the colony as an example of capitalism at work. Showing off to the Communist countries. It was all playground posturing in my opinion, but if it helped me get to space faster, then it was worth it.
I got along well with my fellow astronauts, an international mix of men and women from a variety of backgrounds, united by a common desire to set foot on a new world. We hit it off well, which was a good thing, since we’d be spending the rest of our lives in close quarters.
That’s how I met Rosa, my first and only love. She caught my eye during training exercises, we flirted over freeze-dried asparagus, I proposed just before we boarded the rocket. We were perfect together. We held hands during liftoff.
About two months into the journey, the other crew members were taking a spacewalk, both as a photo opportunity and to perform maintenance on the solar panels. It was the third spacewalk of the voyage. It was also the last.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a star gave it’s dying breath and went supernova, tearing a solar system to shreds, and reducing planets into slag and gravel. A few pieces survived the blast and were hurled away to travel through the void for all time. How long had the debris been flying, how far had it come, before it hit us? What truly astronomical odds that we two microscopic specks coasting through infinity would collide?
The moment was short and violent. A cloud of minuscule asteroids crashed into us like a hailstorm of bullets, unannounced, unanticipated. Our solar arrays were shattered. Hoses were torn apart, tanks punctured, antennas snapped off.
And in an instant I was alone in space. Read More…