“The proper definition of E.S.P. is extrasensory perception.”
The professor — a lean, well built man in his early sixties — spoke up for the first time in an hour of introspection, a much needed recourse within moments of time upon vast and arid stretches of desert lands.
They comprised of no less tough a team: fifteen personnel in total including the professor and were also of scientific background, drawn up primarily from Earth Forward Space Research Labs located upon Earth whilst several amongst them had been assigned to duties at Advanced Space Research Labs on Mars and Moon stations. Their near-permanent station duties were designed to assist the Earth space labs.
Pluto’s first moon afforded no less formidable a habitat or climate except for the regions around its north and south poles wherein the weather may have been categorised as a lesser devastation of sorts.
They appeared content in travelling at zero-gravity levels occupying comfortable chairs within “Pluto Car,” an oblong-shaped vehicle covered at the upper portions by one transparent, semicircular, plastic-glass dome. This dome allowed Pluto’s sunlight to seep inside the vehicle via built-in mechanical sense filters. Combined with the totally icy temperature inside the confines of Pluto vehicle, sunlight filtering inside compelled one to feel as though he were travelling on fifteen-thousand foot high mountain routes upon Earth.
As a matter of fact, as an anticipated physical firm-up exercise — though more for the sake of acclimatization — the former group of fourteen personnel were assigned to move around the higher reaches of Earth stations, particularly upon heavily guarded routes at altitudes surpassing fifteen thousand feet. They even crossed the twenty-thousand foot barriers during certain directional journeys.
“You, ladies and gentlemen, shall need to maintain your identities and your personalities, not to mention your selves, if at all you wish to join me again upon the first moon of Pluto!” The professor’s voice was curt and businesslike, inside decompression chamber upon Pluto’s first moon. That meeting had occurred forty-five Earth days ago.
The fourteen personnel were previously brought upon Pluto for the express purpose of debriefing. They were advised by Earth Advanced Research Space Lab to accompany the professor to Pluto’s first moon for the single purpose of experiencing the climate for the first occasion in their lives. The group was however, denied access to, and not permitted to cross observatory perimeters or go beyond them. Matters were of security concern, World Council had explicitly told them many months prior to the excursion.
An immediate and steady descent back to Earth’s mountain-based Forward Space Research Labs via Mars first, and then, later on, bypassing outer atmospheric reaches of Earth’s Moon, was listed in their itinerary.
A month and a half duration of Earth days spent on total journeys at upper heights and reaches of Earth’s mountain regions amounted to an added exercise before the select personnel were duly translocated to lift off docks located in Earth’s desert areas.
* * *
Travel at normal and 5120 C.E.-derived speeds relative to Moon’s primary recreation coordinates, was duly followed by twelve hours in observation of sky limits. Thereafter, healthy Earth-water baths and good food also formed part of an eventful curriculum. They were advised to keep away from study material. “Please remember, this is not a scholastic journey, by any means. You need to toughen up, sort of. This is more of a physical related outing, which we shall discuss!”
At the end of their fifteenth hour upon Moon soil, their space rocket was blasting a silent, noiseless path upon defined, pre-calculated orbital space routes, which coordinates existed only upon Moon lab records and in the data banks of the Forward Research Space Labs upon Earth. It was required to reach the Moon before commencing to lift off towards any of the remaining fourteen planets comprising their solar system.
Reaching the second planned destination next to Mars’ Forward Space Stations, they found themselves upon Pluto, inside the initial decompression chambers. The professor’s voice brought them back to another deviated reality.
“Good evening folks. May I advise you that the atmospheric pressure, or simply speaking — air pressure inside your interplanetary rocket ship, was comparatively higher than that of Pluto, and therefore you are now undergoing the process of experiencing a situation comparable to your primary and initial decompression procedures.
“Taking into consideration that this excursion forms your first visit upon Pluto’s moon and also outside of its observatory parameters, allow me to state firstly that those decompression procedures shall adjust your vital organs to yet lower atmospheric pressures! Yes, indeed so.
“Incidentally, Earth command is planning to install yet another milestone of Earth’s progress upon Venus and Saturn. Perhaps our first human colonies directly on venture from Earth, shall settle upon Saturn as a first priority. At least this is what Earth Command and Advanced Earth space teams have been discussing the past six months. Well, that and World Council’s final decision are for later times. First, however, is our approach to Pluto’s first moon.”
* * *
Two Earth days passed, which were consumed in plenty of research topics pertaining to higher astronomical calculations and their effects upon Earth and Mars. The outer space personnel spent leisure time during dinners and heartily devoured each delicacy offered to them, for the interplanetary journey inevitably increased one’s appetite too. At the end of 56 Earth hours, or two Earth days, they were prepared and mentally alert for the final progress to Pluto’s moon.
“You have got to be in total control of your mind and you must not take chances during and directly after your flight!” The professor had forewarned them.
Several hours spent in the decompression chamber while regulated air pressure auto-adjusted to their physical functions, including their heart rate did not cause any untoward effect upon their usual outlook, mainly because they were becoming used to anticipating the unusual. However, the second moon of Pluto defied human logic in conception.
A complete planet surface which formed one continuous desert and a single, undeviating climatic atmosphere. Even the mountains were covered by layers and further layers of desert sands, devoid of snow: however mists and foggy weather formed part of usual occurrences at upper heights and rain fall went unrecorded.The oceans upon Pluto’s first moon were yet to be mapped.
* * *
The astronomer-cum-astronaut driver manoeuvring the Pluto car applied gentle air brakes to the vehicle as it glided to a complete stop within a few inches. The vehicle operated on principles of zero gravity.
“Zero gravity is a simple definition, meaning that the effects of gravity do not exist upon this vehicle. Gentlemen, you surely recall my explanation last evening upon Pluto, that every planet tends to pull an object — whether human or not is immaterial — towards its surface level. This Earth magnetism, or planetary attraction if I were to be precise, exists up to the core of a planet in question and extends upwards to a certain level, perhaps for several scores of miles into space. This particular attraction is also known as gravitational pull of a planet.
“I am nevertheless certain that you shall experience difficulty in identifying your primary class lessons wherein you may have studied this particular subject upon Earth.” He added with a smile.
There was a gentle round of subdued laughter. It was an accepted fact amongst certain circles that the professor never really indulged in wise jokes.
“Therefore, may I... er... ah yes,my dear man?” He obviously referred to the driver.
“Professor sir, may I begin decompression to Pluto moon’s present surface atmospheric readings?”
“And you, my dear lady?” The professor caught sight of a lady astronaut attempting to catch his attention.
“Do we have to sink our toes into the dry sands of the moon, professor?” Her voice sounded dismayed.
“Simply a scholarly attitude, my dear. You can surely withstand desert sands under the protection of your protective steel-chrome boots! I can assure you however, that the temperature outside is less warm than the desert in country five, back upon Earth.” He heard genuine laughter from his companions: humane explanations of the rational kind.
“On the other hand, allow me to deliberate upon testing the planet’s soils at a later time and date. You were inculcated simply for an icy atmospheric ride for this occasion, folks. Stepping outside from Pluto vehicle to test the ground realities do not form your part of the voyage. Rest assured, we shall remain inside the vehicle, my dear.” The professor addressed them all though speaking pointedly to the lady space scientist.
Modified temperature inside the spacious vehicle registered slightly above the colder months at Earth’s more pleasant winter recreational resorts. They felt exhilarated as the professor began an initial appreciation of Martian coffee handed out in big mugs by the astronaut waitress accompanying them from Mars for this one time.
“And hence, if the effects of gravitational force of Pluto’s first moon are capable of being countered by computer-controlled mechanical processes built into this vehicle, well, we can sort of afford to float half an inch above the surface level of this moon. I would mean that Pluto Car’s lowest chromium-steel decks, which are supposed to be continuously in contact with the soils, are in reality, suspended half an inch above the ground and devoid of ground contact.
“The very same instance may be observed at the ocean surface levels of Jupiter’s first moon. Thus I conclude here that with the assistance of zero gravity activating devices built into the vehicle we are floating above the soil! Who cares if we have accomplished this feat by half an inch?” The professor beamed as he ended his last sentence in manly defiance belying his age. He had raised his hand holding the coffee mug as if in a toast to the future of mankind.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2003 by Deep Bora