Sunday, February 24, 2013

Moon Landing 2

December 7–19: Apollo 17, the last manned Moon...


It’s been four days since launch, but I can still feel how it shook my bones. My fingers had hurt for a whole day afterwards, but now had gone numb. I couldn’t differentiate the feeling from whatever being in space was doing to us. The doctors told us that we would be fine, that we wouldn’t be in space long enough for any sort of effects to take shape.Nothing would happen, as far as they could predict. But that’s all speculation on their part, on our parts. No one really knows a god damn thing about what being up here is like or how it feels. I’m not even sure I’ve figured it out yet. But it’s different.

Neil tells me that the first motions of landing will be soon, but I already know. I’ve spent hours preparing the lander. I know her in and out. Of course I know the landing will be soon. I know because I can’t stop shaking. Not like the launch, not that sort of rumbling vibration. But my hands are having a hard time staying steady. I can’t do anything about it.The landing is the most dangerous part. They can prep us for everything; the g-force, the weightlessness, the way the ship glides through the atmosphere, the shaking. But they can’t prepare us to know that this will work. No one’s certain. This could all go wrong.

But I’m being counterproductive. I have to make adjustments before we prep the launcher for release. I have to make sure everything is proper, slid in right, locked in tight. I’m piloting a thin, miniature craft to the surface of the moon. This requires precision. Neil tells me I’ve checked it too many times, that I know what I’m doing and that it will all work out like the training. We’ve done this before, he jokes. We’ve landed on the moon a hundred times. Just do it once more, he tells me. I’m comforted that he’s trying.
I can see out the small port window behind him. I can see the Earth. It’s a blue orb with colors, swirling white over subtle forest green and earthen brown. I’ve seen it before, we all know what earth looks like.The planets where you expect them, the clouds wherever they want to be.It’s just like we’ve always known it. But from this view it feels as though it’s pulsating gently. It looks like its alive, throbbing away from us. I’m starting to feel sick, but it’s probably just the nervous tension.

Neil is confirming with Mike on the details, but I’m not really listening. Like Neil said, we’ve done this a hundred times. We’ve done the landing on a routine like most people have breakfast and read the paper.It’s instinctual now. Neil tells me that the boys back home just radioed in.We’re ready to begin the procedure, and that it’s time to ready the Eagle.

As Neil is putting his suit on, the Earth still pulsates over his shoulder. It’s subtle rhythm as almost audible, like a heartbeat. Neil sees me staring and smiles. He tells me they’ll be proud, this is what they’re all waiting for. Don’t be nervous, he says, I’ll get the first chance to make the mistakes on national TV. Michael pats me on the shoulder to let me know it’s time.

The Earth seems farther now, sucked in by the black wall of space behind it, pumping deeper and deeper away from us.

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