Endless space – that’s all one can see when standing on any of the 305 decks of Spaces StationΔ9: the first, and possibly last station to be built at the exit of a wormhole.
Wormhole WH_102Δ9ΞΩ3 – or WormholeΔ9 in short - was discovered in 2151 only a light year away from Earth. A short hop when it comes to space travel!
Earth, the planet, we all originated from almost 5,000 years ago, is five billion light-years away. Out of reach!
It is the year 7288. My name is BellaΞΙ,I am 18 years old, and I was born onΔ9 - as were all the other 5,123 inhabitants.
Earth to us is less than a distant memory – it is ancient history.
Long distance space travel took off big time in the year 2076 when Dr Glenys Marven - a physicist and engineer at MIT - managed to fully harness the powers of antimatter. She went on to build the prototype of the Antimatter-Propulsion (AMP) drive, which won her the Nobel Prize for physics as well as eternal fame.
AMP drives allow us to travel at virtually the speed of light – the only delay being the nanosecond it takes to convert matter into antimatter and back again.
Suddenly, distant planets and galaxies became accessible and wide open for exploration. The universe invited us, and we followed its call.
If we can trust the historical records, which are still stored and curated in the archives of space stationΔ9, we charted every planet in our solar system within the following three decades and had our galaxy fully mapped by the end of the 22nd century.
Travelling at the speed of light requires computational powers far beyond what was available at the beginning of the 21st century. Spatial positioning data and navigational command signals need to be transmitted and processed faster than the travelling speed of the vessel. Only the development of neuronal network based nano-computers made travelling at the speed of light possible. The late 21st century prospered in terms of technology, and the gargantuan explosion of knowledge created an intellectual climate that allowed inventors, enterprises, governments, and dreamers to thrive equally.
Marven’s successors improved and scaled her AMP drive to power large vessels, and so laid the foundation for the engineering of self-contained spaceships. Those were designed to travel for years, decades or even centuries at the speed of light before they found their final orbit in some far away part of our galaxy.
Mankind started to colonise space.
Like space plankton hundreds of ships drifted through the interstellar abyss, powered by the most sophisticated technology known to mankind as well as driven by scientific curiosity, and the urge to explore. Thousands ventured off into the unknown; most of them never returned. They settled at their final anchor place, and so colonised the galaxy. The space plankton became sessile and made a hostile environment home.
* * *
Today – we assume – there are still thousands of thriving space stations within a hundred light-years from Earth. They are dotted throughout the deserts of outer space, and like oases, they are welcoming refuges for the nomadic space traveller community. The space nomads travel the vast expanse of the universe, bringing goods and news and a much-welcomed change to any space station’s routine. In exchange, they take goods, news, and gossip with them and so distribute them throughout the universe.
The nomads live a life in motion – much like the space pioneers, who first ventured on a no-return journey to explore and learn - or just for the sake of the adventure.
The first of those missions dates back to the 21st century when the first manned mission to Mars saw a group of 100 selected individuals set off for their one-way journey on the 25th of November 2035. The group reached the red planet almost eight months later on the 12th of July 2036.
A mere century later, Mars was fully colonised, reshaped, tamed, and left with little secrets to be explored. By this time, it was about as tricky to visit Mars as it was to get to town in the early 21st century.
When the red planet was at its maximum distance from Earth – just over 400 million kilometres away - it took no more than 18 minutes to get there. On average it would take only two and a half minutes, which made the journey to Mars about as daunting as getting sweets from a 21st-century corner shop – that’s a ‘retail lounge’ in today’s terms.
Not that we do much retail anymore. OnΔ9 the concept of retail and money has been abolished early in 2701 at the beginning of the New Era.Δ9 is situated five billion light-years from Earth, in a galaxy known by its historic name PKS B1740-517; or simplyΔ9 galaxy. There are no other space stations around in this quadrant of the known universe.
The idea of space stationΔ9 was conceived shortly after the discovery of WormholeΔ9 in 2151. The ability to convert travelling matter into antimatter and reverse the process opened the possibility to use wormholes as shortcuts through space and time. Matter cannot travel through wormholes, but antimatter can.
Pioneering wormhole travels began in the year 2200. The technology got developed, established and soon thereafter an ambitious project took shape – the construction of ‘Space Station Delta 9’ at the exit of Wormhole WH_102Δ9ΞΩ3, which connected the Milky Way galaxy with PKS B1740-517. The construction ofΔ9 started in the year 2231 and was completed by 2340. The following colonisation and expansion period lasted until the year 2500. During those 160 years, the size ofΔ9 increased considerably from the original 30 decks to the current 305 decks.
Population increased, and demographics shifted over time. At first, there were engineers, scientists, pioneers, and historians, who flocked to this alien environment. The far distance enabled the historians and geologists to study Earth in a very early stage of its development when it was still nothing more than a bulk of hot loose gases in the solar nebula from which our solar system formed by gravitational collapse about 4.6 billion years ago.
The discoveries were so exciting and groundbreaking, that many paradigms shattered, shifted or vanished altogether, and entire new theories and ideas emerged from their rubble.
Those caused such controversies all over the scientific community, thatEarth government decided to engineer exit ports along WH_Δ9 to allow for the establishment of scientific observation posts, equipped with permanent scientific machinery to take continuous readings of Earth as it developed over the aeons.
It was agreed to build such observatories at distances of a billion light-years along the stretch of the wormhole. Technologies to create wormhole-ports were developed fairly quickly, and the construction of the closest Earth Observatory, EO-1bn, was completed before the end of 2599.
By this time, scientists and engineers started to leaveΔ9 and made space for the settlers, who arrived to make a living in an environment as exotic and alien as the abyssal plains of the oceans were back at the end of the 20th century.
* * *
I know a lot about Earth’s history. I am a descendant of 166 generations of historians – a space-stationer born and bred. In our society, it is tradition, to pass on trades and their accumulated knowledge from parent to child; much as it used to be on Earth thousands of years ago before the size of family groups decreased and family ties could easily be severed. Family breakups became common, and in some cases, families were never formed. Globalisation contributed to the decay of family values, and novel forms of societies got established. Families and friendships still existed, but frequently the ties were forged globally rather than locally.
Some people never met in person but got acquainted via mutual-interest social media sites. Life on Earth was very different from life as we know it now onΔ9.
In a confined space like ours, it is virtually impossible not to know each and every one of the other 5,123 inhabitants. We stopped relying on telecommunication systems since physical distances within our habitat can easily be bridged, and so face to face communication became the norm again.
We also have a long time to get to know each other. Our average life expectancy increased from a mere 99 years in 2200 to over 300 years within the last five millennia, courtesy to the virtual exclusion of new pathogens to the space station, which resulted in an environment, that is as good as sterile to us, where only beneficial microbes exist. All human pathogens – including bacteria, fungi, and viruses - have been eradicated well over 4,000 years ago. And since we had no outsiders contaminate our habitat in over 4,500 years, we do not need to take great precautions to prevent epidemic illnesses.
When we first started to colonise space, we noticed, that the vastly reduced strain on our cardiovascular system proved beneficial in the long term.
It was feared, at first, that reduced gravity might result in weakening of the muscle tone, and lead to cardiovascular problems. It turned out, though, that in the long run, human bodies adapt perfectly well to reduced gravity and reduction in gravity allows the cardiovascular system to work under significantly reduced pressure. The combined effects of a beneficial environment and cardiovascular stress reduction allows us to live to an average age of 300 years.
As I said before: it is a lot of time to get to know each other.
We all have the same access to food, shelter, education, medical treatment, and leisure activities. We are all equal, and nobody is valued more or less; nobody is judged for their heritage or discriminated against based on their ancestry.
Everybody has their place in our little society. We do not judge, and we do not punish. Rebellion is a rare occurrence. Besides - what would one rebel against? We cannot just wreck the place, leave it, and go elsewhere.
There is not a lot we can do to make changes happen.
We live in a closed and self-contained system. We do not mine or harvest any materials from space. We do not have provisions shipped in. To us, recycling is not just an ideology; it is what sustains us. It is our lifeline!
Refining and fine tuning our recycling systems allowed us to survive in the hostile environment of outer space.
The first decades of the New Era were dire. The population ofΔ9 was at its maximum, counting almost 10,000 souls. This was at the time estimated to be an ideal population size but was based on the requirement to receive regular supplies from home. Our population size was by far too large to maintain a self-sustaining environment. Calculations showed us that we needed to reduce our population size to about 6,000 individuals to be able to sustain our people.
The average age of the space station’s inhabitants at the time of the cataclysmic wormhole collapse, which left us stranded in outer space, was 45 years. In 2700, the average life expectancy for women was 123, and for men, it was 121 years. This meant that we had at least 50 years of severe austerity to face before the population would naturally decrease to a level, where starvation, ill health, and squalor would not be threatening the fabric of our society.
Our ancestors did not anticipate the social unrest, that was triggered by rationing and cramped living conditions as much as despair, homesickness and an epidemic of general poor mental health.
Many stationers had families back on Earth, whom they would never see again. This – although causing unimaginable pain amongst those affected - was perhaps not the worst. Many of them buckled under the strain of not being able to let their loved ones know, that they were still alive and well.
To this day we have no idea, if anybody on planet Earth knows for sure, that space stationΔ9 survived the fatal collapse of WH_Δ9. For all we know, they assume us long gone.
* * *
Five billion light-years is an almost unimaginable distance. The light we detect coming from planet Earth in the space station’s observatory has travelled for five billion years when it finally reaches us.
What we see today, is five-billion-year-old news in terms of Earth’s history. Light travelling fromΔ9 towards Earth, has yet to travel for almost five billion years before we will start to exist as far as an observer on Earth is concerned.
Venturing this far into space, allowed us to study the ‘younger light’ and therefore the present of constellations, stars and galaxies, which we could not back on Earth due to their immense distances. We were able to considerably update the ancient stellar charts we brought with us from Earth and also explain some of the more obscure observations made back in those long gone days.
Five billion years allow for a lot of changes and evolution. In a sense, we are time travellers by observing what we see when looking at stellar objects at a variety of very long distances. Living in space that far away means, we have lost all communications with Earth. If we send a light-based signal, it will be received in five billion years time. To receive an answer, would take 10 billion years.
Current calculations estimate, that Sol – the sun which powers life in our solar system – will swell up to become a red giant and bake our planet to a crisp in about five billion years time. Things may go pear shaped in our solar system well before, though. Scientists believe, that planetary orbits could become unstable and planets could smash into each other within the next 50 million years - give or take.
We space-stationers will not know for sure what happened to Earth until five billion years have passed. And who knows what will have happened to our tiny, vulnerable space-tin by this time anyway.
These and other issues have occupied our thinkers, scientists, and historians for a long time. We have none or only very limited data available to predict a possible outcome.
Some geneticists tell us not to worry because our station will outlast our society by a long time; just because inbreeding will ultimately limit the genetic pool, which eventually will become too small to sustain a healthy genetic variety. While this is a theoretical problem at the moment, our society had to face more serious issues over the centuries.
The decades following the collapse of WH_Δ9 were especially challenging:
The immediate need to feed, cloth, and medically treat a population, which by far exceeded the space station’s carrying capacity, overtaxed the people. Although stocks were immediately rationed, and all resources redirected to improve recycling and sustainability, social unrest grew.
Fear of starvation was not the first issue to arise. Most people, who lived and worked on the space station, had no intention of spending their entire life here. The majority came for the adventure and the opportunity to distinguish them from competition back home. The average worker clocked around seven years onΔ9 before they left for new horizons.
At the time of the wormhole collapse about a quarter of the population was due to leave the station within the next couple of months.
Those were hardest hit by this catastrophe. Not only did they have to deal with the immediate isolation, despair, and fear of the future, but also with the immense disappointment of not being able to see home - ever again! The dreams of soon being reunited with their loved ones shattered, the loss of a future, they might have wanted to carve out for themselves when coming back… 10,000 people stranded in space; 10,000 hopes, dreams, fears, and paranoias. And only precious little resources to keep them from going into mental overdrive.
The confinements of the station and the hopelessness of the situation resulted in an outbreak of cabin fever of unprecedented extent.
People went stir-crazy! There was not enough space to get away from each other, and not enough distraction to occupy their minds. Ironically the psychologically trained were amongst the first to buckle under the immense pressure of what seemed like an unsolvable conundrum.
The status quo could not persist, and contingency plans had not been made. The scenario of becoming cut off from Earth, and getting stranded in deep space had not made it into the emergency books. In hindsight, this seems like an obvious blunder – one that could have been avoided entirely.
This lack of contingency and the absence of a strong leader at a time of big turmoil created a hotbed for social uprising and mutiny.
Bad fortunes had it that the commander in chief had been sent off to Earth prematurely because he suffered a rare form of cancer, which we now know is attributed to extensive travel through wormholes.
The standard protocol was for a station commander to stay with the station until a relief-officer could be shipped in. Commander James L Lewis’s condition, however, was so grave, that doctors decided to breach protocol and send him off duty early. We believe, he died on his way back in the collapsing wormhole as did relief-commander Nathan B Thorne, who never made it to the station.
Left without a commander, Second Officer William James Howard took the helm.
Unfortunately, Commander Howard was of somewhat fragile mental health. His unstable psyche made him prone to a lack of good judgement and a tendency to ignore good advice from his subordinates. The mental instability of Commander William J Howard had been noticed and reported by his physician Dr Adam Carmichael, but lax bureaucracy prevented his swift detachment from the high ranking position he held on the leadership team of the space station.
At first, everything seemed to run a normal course; emergency procedures needed to be carried out. The collapse caused many minor and a few major incidents, which needed to be addressed urgently. Repairs and resets got carried out swiftly and according to protocol. It took less than four weeks to repair all the life support systems and to restore communications – not that communications mattered much at that point in time, and in hindsight, putting vital resources into the effort of rebuilding a redundant system was probably William J Howard’s first severely flawed decision as commander in chief ofΔ9.
Because the repair of non-vital systems was given priority over covering the basic needs of the 10,000 inhabitants, essential resources got withdrawn from the life support systems, and hundreds were weakened and died of malnutrition and exhaustion or committed suicide due to poor mental health. Four months after the collapse, the population ofΔ9 was in real trouble. Once the emergency rations were used up, it became clear, that life support systems – including hydroponics and recycling services – would not be able to cope with even the basic demands of the population.
The situation was dire, and the first voices of uprising became loud. Darwin and his ‘survival of the fittest’ was one of the most commonly abused concepts of this time.
At the time of the collapse, the youngest inhabitant was 23 years of age – a student, who won the trip to the space station in a raffle. The oldest – a shield engineer - was still hungover from his 60th birthday party, when the mighty eddies of the wormhole collapse shook the space station.
There were no children, teenagers or pensioners present. There were five pregnant women; a sixth lost her baby due to shock following the catastrophic events. In total there were 7,132 men and 2,868 women on the station – a massive imbalance that favoured testosterone fuelled conflicts, which started to break out sporadically shortly after.
Fights over food or blankets broke out - the heating systems were running at a minimum and temperatures inside the station were freezing cold; they rarely crept above minus five degree Celsius, and people were permanently freezing and always hungry.
The ‘leadership cast’ - as they were to be called soon after the collapse - lived in comparable luxury, well fed, and in comparatively warm quarters. It was reasoned, that the leaders needed extra sustenance and warmth to be able to make the best decisions for the crew of the space station. And despite being warned by the station’s leading physicians, that hunger and cold could soon result in an uprising, Commander William J Howard dismissed their concerns and carried on striking the wrong path.
In the second year of the New Era, William J Howard’s blunderings, total disregard of common sense, and social justice led to the Great Uprising, in which a group of hundred mutineers captured Commander Howard and put him on public trial. The trial lasted almost a year, and everybody who wished to give evidence of their sufferings was invited to do so. The overwhelming evidence gathered against Commander William J Howard was collected, in what got to be known as ‘The 100 books of Injustices’, each volume being over 1,000 pages long.
Commander Howard was relegated to an administrative position after he served three months in the Community Recycling Centre, where he managed to set the foundation for an improved matter recycler, after experiencing first hand, how much such a device was needed. An environmental engineer by trade, he invented a system, which allowed virtual loss free separation of any organic matter into its mineral compounds, amino acids, fats, and carbohydrates. He then reversed the process in a manner, that allowed us to create basic foods by reforming those building blocks. Crude and basic it was, but it was the crucial step in the right direction to meet the minimum nutritional demands of the community; its much-refined descendant feeds us space-stationers today.
With social unrest beginning to settle and people gathering more confidence in their new leaders, a fresh spirit created a healthier, more emphatic, and better-organised society.
The New Society, as it came to be known, slowly but surely transformed a cauldron of fear, hate, and defamation into something amicable at first, and quickly evolved into a model society of mutual respect and understanding within two generations. After five generations of confinement in space, most of the inhabitants were bound to one another by either blood ties, friendship, or both.
Hating your neighbours, declaring war, and killing them is only easy if you don’t know them or their background.
All the petty circumstances, which have the potential to easily spark a feud or even wars, did not exist a century after the wormhole collapse. Along with people forging bonds, forming families, and learning to live and work with each other rather than against each other, technical advances in food production, waste recycling and general improvement of the social and physical environment helped to create a convivial and pleasant atmosphere.
Population control measures were in place, and frequent assessments of the emotional state of the inhabitants were carried out.
Now, 4,500 years after the collapse of WH_Δ9, life on the space station – however uneventful it would appear to an outsider – runs its course like a well-oiled machine.
One of the biggest challenges 500 years after the event was boredom. With no influx of either new discoveries or innovative ideas, the floodgates were open to boredom. It crept in – slowly at first – but more rapidly with every year that passed.
Initially, the government was able to keep it in check by encouraging people to learn as much as they wanted for as long as they could. People were satisfied at first, but especially the younger generation craved for something more adventurous than what the antiquated books had to offer. Everything was outdated – science, medicine, engineering – even history had not advanced as far as Earth was concerned.
500 years of living in the sump of a stagnant lifestyle, and with no forward thinking ideas felt like hell to many of us.
Boredom is a fertile breeding ground for discontentment and unrest. The government was bogged down with the more mundane importances of living on a space station, which was cut adrift from its mother planet, and did nothing much to alleviate this ennui. Monotony was not classed a serious enough threat to society.
The discovery of The Sphere in the year 3205 provided a much-needed break. On the 23rd of October, the spotters on duty got lucky! Their scanners picked up a small, but very dense spherical object about 50 million kilometres from the space station. A stone’s throw away!
The only remaining space glider, Eagle I, was dusted off, and prepared for launch. The trained pilots had never before piloted the space glider for real – only ever in the simulator, the existence of which was solely down to the fact, that it was one of the very few facilities, which served a purpose and provided a certain level of entertainment for a society, which slowly, but surely succumbed to boredom.
Space glider pilots Jason Kwist and Susan Rome were sent out on a reconnaissance mission to The Sphere.
After much deliberation it was determined, that this globe with a diameter of five meters posed no threat, and it was decided, to make use of this unprecedented and unexpected bounty. The blob - made of an unrecognisable material - was towed into the quarantine dock, where it spent the next six months undergoing extensive and repeated decontamination procedures as well as scientific scrutiny.
For the first time in centuries,Δ9 buzzed with excitement! Scientists spent hours on end examining the globe and discussing its possible origin. Non-scientists got themselves equally involved; it had been a long time since the communal areas within the station were filled almost 24/7 with people engaged in animated conversations.
Nobody knew where The Sphere came from. It appeared out of nowhere! Nobody saw it coming – not even the long or short range sensors, which constantly scan the vicinity as well as the more distant neighbourhood of the space station for interstellar threats such as meteors or ionic radiation waves.
The existence of aliens, deities and even the possibility of it being a rescue pod sent from Earth via another putative wormhole portal were topics, which set minds and imaginations on fire.
The Sphere itself is an unassuming artefact: five metres in diameter, the material, it is made of, is of unknown composition, and in spite of completely absorbing light of all wavelengths, it appears grey-green, like Earth’s oceans, and not black as expected. It hovers a metre off the ground on a pillar of compacted light.
And although the material itself is very dense, The Sphere can be moved around with little effort, and it rolls mid-air on its cushion of peculiar looking greenish light.
It took another century before scientists and government finally decided it was about time and probably safe enough to get up close and examine The Sphere. A team of scientists and anthropologists (there was still a vague possibility of alien life forms residing inside) approached The Sphere.
Emotions ran high amongst the space-stationers. Voices grew louder to abandon the mission and ‘send The Sphere back to where it belongs’.
The truth is – to this day, nobody knows where it came from – so these voices were soon drowned out and ridiculed. A sense of aliveness swept through the community and people were generally in high spirit – apart from the ‘doomers and gloomers’, who painted an apocalyptic scenario; much like the fanatic, self-proclaimed messiahs of the pre-antimatter area used to back on Earth.
Scientific evidence tells us that apocalyptic events are not triggered by the wrath of the gods, but by powerful natural phenomena, which humankind has no personal experience of within the confines of a space station. Of the possible extinction level events, like volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, mega storms, or global warming, the only ones, that may be encountered in outer space are collisions with meteors or deadly high energy ion radiation waves.
The space station is well equipped to deal with those.
Early warning systems for approaching stellar objects or smaller debris, which can be equally destructive if colliding with the station, are in place. Ion radiation shelters are set up in the innermost core of the space station, to where the deadly high energy rays cannot penetrate. Compared to the constant lurking geophysical threats back on Earth, natural hazards to a space station are by far less. Centuries of living in an alien environment have taught humankind to be careful.
With only limited resources and redundancies, approaching The Sphere was a risky undertaking. Dr Clarissa Walker, the lead scientist of ‘Operation Approach’, was the first one to make contact with The Sphere.
The events that unfolded, following her touching The Sphere, are written down in historic scripts, scientific books, and fairy tales. It can also be watched on Space Station Channel I: it is a classic!
* * *
Clarissa Walker cautiously approached The Sphere – right arm stretched out tentatively. She was wearing a hazmat suit, kitted out with a helmet camera, and a communication system. They could hear Clarissa’s breathing; raspy and a bit too fast to sound comfortable. The people in the observation area surrounding the quarantine dock - where The Sphere was still hovering on its pillar of light over a century after it entered - were on edge.
The observation area was separated from the quarantine dock by a two-meter thick layer of Nano-Steel – a see through polymer composite – a hundred times stronger than steel; yet flexible like rubber and extremely lightweight.
The science spectacular was broadcast via the visual communication unit in a rare holographic display.
As Clarissa approached, The Sphere changed. The solid grey-green surface seemed to blur and swirl and form eddies.
Perspiration dampened the inside of her hazmat suit. She felt uncomfortable, hot, and bothered. She wanted to rip the suit off and take a cooling shower, but she proceeded in her approach.
A soft glowing waft of greenish mist surrounded The Sphere, which only got visible to Clarissa once she got closer.
Then - almost in touching distance - she vanished.
She didn’t just fade or blur. One second she was there – the other one she was not.
A scream rose simultaneously from 6,000 throats; then silence, heavy with shock, settled over the spectators.
The scientists who were inside the dock with Clarissa when she disappeared, were the first ones to move again. They took to their heels and scrambled to be first in the decontamination lock.
Exactly 10 seconds passed before Clarissa reappeared as instantaneously and unexpectedly as she had disappeared earlier.
She looked around somewhat puzzled before she marched purposefully towards the decontamination lock and demanded: “Open up the dock! There is no threat to be feared from The Sphere!” The engineer in charge of the high-security locks obeyed in his trance like state and freed The Sphere from its confinement. As soon as the dock opened, The Sphere made its way towards the main observation deck, where it rooted itself firmly on its pillar of light - not to be moved for the next 4,000 years.
Clarissa’s account of what unfolded after she was taken in by The Sphere - to this day - reads like science fiction.
“I got sucked in by The Sphere – I can not describe it in any other way. I stood outside, ready to touch the structure when the layer of surrounding gas swallowed me. One second I was outside, the next one I found myself inside the blackest, vastest, and emptiest space I have ever been in. It felt like I was floating through the farthest parts of the universe, and it was so dark, I could not even see the usual flashes of light that appear when closing my eyes. There was no sound either, yet I felt calm, so calm, and happy.”
A dreamy smile, full of awe and childlike curiosity lit up her face.
“I should have been anxious or even panicky, but all I felt was serenity and a sense of well-being.”
She slowly shook her head in disbelief.
“Perhaps I was so close to breaking point, that my emotional pendulum swung the other way, but I don't believe that. I think, The Sphere made me feel relaxed and happy. I saw a dimly glowing glove-like structure floating right in front of my face. It hovered in front of my eyes as if it was just waiting for me to pull it on. I couldn’t – my hazmat gloved hands were far too big. So I did the only thing that made sense to me in the situation: I removed my hazmat glove and slipped my free hand into the floaty object in front of me. The glove fit my hand like it had been made to measure.”
As she continued to speak, her expression remained calm and relaxed, clearly enjoying the rendition of the events.
“What happened next was the most amazing thing I ever experienced: in front of my eyes and all around me, the blackness vanished, and I found myself on the surface of Mars – or at least a landscape that looked exactly like the surface of Mars - just as I remember it from videos and books of the first manned landing. Everything was there in minute detail. And I stood there – I could breathe, and I felt warm and comfortable, although I had no space suit on and should have died within nanoseconds of either expanding tissue damage, exposure, or both.
I remembered my childhood and the countless times I dreamed of this first manned mission to Mars. How I wanted to be a space explorer, a pioneer, and how often I imagined standing on the surface of Mars before it got fully colonised. Now I WAS there. I was there, and I experienced every little detail! I could see for miles and miles, and I started to walk. I saw the habitats of the first settlers built, I saw the Orion – the ship that took The First Hundred - which now served as part of the habitats. I entered, I explored, I saw all the achievements, I encountered a Martian storm and had to hunker down in the ‘Greenhouse’ for three days before I could carry on. I took a Mars-rover and drove well beyond the outer perimeters of the camp. It was breathtaking – everything looked pristine and was well maintained. The only thing missing from the scenery were people. Where The Hundred should have been working, sleeping, exploring, and chatting, there was nobody. Nevertheless, I found everything I needed to allow for a comfortable stay on Mars for the 10 days I spent there.”