Authors: Raymond L. Weil
“I’m glad to
hear that your research is going well,” Mase replied with a friendly nod. He
could easily detect the enthusiasm for her work in LeAnn’s voice. “Have there
been any complications or problems with the equipment so far?”
“Only a few
minor computer glitches, but the programmers have already ironed those out.”
Turner will begin some studies on the Ort Cloud that surrounds the solar system
in another week,” Professor LaRann added. “He hopes to discover and map a
number of new comets with the telescope.”
to map everything in the solar system,” LeAnn spoke with a grin. “It’s all I
can do to keep him from moving the telescope when he comes on duty. He will get
his turn next week while I study the data from the observations we’re currently
Mase knew that
Charles was an accomplished astronomer interested in the solar system, comets,
and the Oort Cloud. “Finding anything interesting?” Mase asked his voice filled
He had always
enjoyed studying astronomy and hoped that someday, between Star One the giant
orbiting space station and Tycho City, they could launch deep space missions on
a regular basis. Perhaps even to the nearer stars.
“Just some impressive
galactic clusters,” LeAnn replied. She loved astronomy and this new telescope
was amazing. “We will have the most recent deep space photographs ready
tomorrow. They will be something to see.”
“Have some of
the photos sent to my office; I would like to see them.” Mase was genuinely
interested in seeing some of the photos from the new telescope.
“Sure thing, Commander,”
replied LeAnn, knowing Mase had a keen interest in astronomy. She would pick
out some of the more spectacular ones and send them over. It never hurt to stay
on the good side of the commander of Tycho City and the Farside facility.
Professor LaRann spent a few more minutes touring the dome and talking to several
of the other scientists and technicians. Everyone was excited about the
prospects of the Farside facility finally going into full operation.
Then, after a
quick tour of the rest of the facility, Mase returned to his shuttle. Professor
LaRann would be staying, as he wanted to ensure that the array was ready to go
online as scheduled. He wanted to be the one to throw the switch that put the
array into operation.
couldn’t wait to use the large array to scan for pulsars. Once that scan was
completed, he had arranged for the array to be used to search for black holes. LaRann
had an affinity for black holes. Over the course of the last few years, he had
written several long research papers on them, which had been extremely well
received by the scientific community.
As the shuttle
flew across the desolate surface of the Moon, Commander Colton stared out
thoughtfully at the cold, harsh environment. They were flying high above the
Southern Lunar Highlands. There was no atmosphere on the Moon and the colors
were harsh and bleak. Black, white, and various shades of gray were all the
colors that were visible. The potted landscape where meteors had impacted, the
occasional hills, and even a few mountains were all a stark reminder that life
had never existed on the barren lunar surface.
the front cockpit window, Mase could see Tycho Crater coming nearer. It was fifty-two
miles across, with rim walls nearly three miles high. In the heart of the
crater, near the central massif, a base had been constructed. Over the years, its
name had been changed to Tycho City.
A number of
communication antennas were atop the massif, which was nearly one mile in
height. There was also a small operations center on top, which routed much of Tycho City’s communications. Most of Tycho City was underground in a large cavern which had
been blasted out with high explosives and then finished up with several large
excavators brought up to the Moon. The project had taken years and a lot of
perseverance to complete.
As the shuttle
came over the rim of the crater, Mase took in a deep breath, looking at the
vista that spread out before him. The crater had been formed over 100 million
years in the past and was now home to Tycho City. Nearly 2,500 people called
the crater their home, with another 200 living at Farside.
Anthony said with a smile on his face.
flying the shuttles over the lunar surface. It was his passion, and he never
missed an opportunity to fly one of them. It was also the main reason he was
still single. He enjoyed female company, but he was not ready yet to settle
“Yes, we are,”
responded Mase. It always felt good to get back to Tycho City. He had lived on
the Moon for years, and Tycho City had become his true home.
spoken to your brother Phillip recently?” Anthony asked. The pilot knew that
Mase’s brother lived on Earth and had been considering retiring and bringing
his family up to Tycho City.
“Not in the
last couple of weeks,” admitted Mase, realizing he really needed to talk to his
brother more often. “I need to touch base with him about coming up here in a
few more months.”
as he checked in with the Control Center at the shuttle landing facility just
outside of Tycho City. After receiving landing instructions, he lined the
shuttle up with the indicated landing pad.
Mase let out a
big sigh, thinking about what he needed to do yet today. Once they landed, he needed
to make out a report to send to Earth on the progress at Farside, as well as
contact Steve Larson on Star One. Star One was the huge space station in orbit
37,000 miles above the Moon at the Earth-Moon Lagrange point. Steve and Mase
were very close and talked almost daily about the current projects they had
the small shuttle smoothly in for a landing on one of the dozen landing pads
just outside a group of small buildings that dotted the lunar landscape. This
served as the main landing field for the underground complex. Once down, the
landing pad was lowered into an underground hangar and a green light came on,
indicating Earth normal atmosphere.
out of the shuttle and through a small airlock door that led to the main part
of the shuttle bay. The shuttles could be moved out of their small hangars and
worked on by the many technicians that kept the base and its equipment
functioning. As he stepped out of the airlock door, he found his secretary,
Linda Arleen, waiting for him.
was your trip to Farside?” she asked, stepping up close with her friendly brown
eyes focusing on the commander.
“Just fine,” replied
Mase, wondering why she had felt it necessary to meet his shuttle. Normally she
would be waiting for him in his office. He suspected there must be some type of
problem that had come up. “What’s going on? It’s not like you to meet me as
soon as I get off a shuttle.”
“We received a
message from Jane Kinsey,” she replied in a serious tone of voice. “She is at
the cape today and would like a quick update on the Farside array. I think
Senator Farley is still complaining about all the money being spent on the
array and the telescope.”
was the current head of NASA and the chief administrator at the cape. She was
also a very big supporter of Tycho City as well as Star One.
“Farley will always
be unhappy with any money we spend,” Mase responded with a heavy sigh. “I think
he makes a living out of trying to make our lives miserable with all of his
had been opposed to the new telescope and deep space antenna array from the very
beginning. If not for the money Tycho City made off the mass driver, it was
doubtful the telescope or the antenna array would have ever been built.
to all the refined metals that were launched to Earth daily by the mass driver,
Tycho City made a tidy profit each month off the operation and had footed
nearly half the bill for the astronomy projects. It also helped that much of
the equipment for the array had been constructed on the Moon in the many shops
and construction facilities available in Tycho City.
called from the mass driver, and they are experiencing problems with some of
the magnetic coils,” Linda added, her face showing some concern.
spoke with a frown. He suspected this was why Linda had come to meet him.
The coils had
really been giving them problems recently. Jackson Pierce had been wanting to
shut the mass driver down for several weeks now to do some much needed
maintenance. He was afraid that if they didn’t shut it down soon, it might become
too unsafe to operate.
“He wants to
shut it down for 48 hours to recalibrate the coils and install the new inductor
relays,” Linda informed him. She had spoken for quite some time with Pierce and
had promised she would do her best to get Mase to agree to the shutdown.
Mase stared at
Linda for a moment. She was a pretty brunette and her brown eyes made her look
even more appealing. Mase knew that many of the eligible bachelors in Tycho City had asked her out, but she had been very choosey in who she was seen with. She
had been at Tycho City for nearly eight months and had resisted getting into
any serious relationships. She was also the best secretary he had ever had.
back and tell him I will be out later this afternoon and he can show me the
problems,” Mase said, letting out a deep breath, not sure what he could do to
help the situation. “With all of our current delivery contracts, I just don’t
see how we can shut the mass driver down for 48 hours unless it becomes too
unsafe to operate.”
“He will be
glad to hear you’re coming,” Linda replied with a nod. “I know he is extremely concerned
about the mass driver or he wouldn’t have called in the first place.”
about the situation for a long moment. He had the authority to shut the mass
driver down for repairs, but it would be a last resort. He wondered if the
situation was as bad as Linda and Pierce had indicated. The only way to know
for sure was to make the trip out to the crater wall and do an inspection
himself. If there was a potentially serious problem then he would have no
choice but to shut it down.
Mase and Linda
walked out of the shuttle bay and took a small transit vehicle to Tycho City. A small two-way transit tunnel connected the landing facility to the main section
of the underground community. The small tunnel was nearly 2,500 feet in length,
and it didn’t take long for the small electric transit vehicle to arrive at
their destination. At each end of the transit tunnel was a double airlock to
protect the main part of the city from accidental decompression.
the airlock, they stepped out into a miraculous manmade world. Thanks to the
two fission reactors that furnished their power, the main section of Tycho City had artificial gravity of nearly three quarters Earth normal. There were plans
to install a fusion reactor like the one on Star One and to take the gravity up
to full Earth normal in the near future.
They were in a
cavern nearly 2,600 feet in length and 800 feet wide. The ceiling was 120 feet
above their heads, with large lights carefully spaced to provide abundant lighting.
The lights were set to provide a normal Earth environment, with eight actual
hours of semi-darkness. Large Luxen braces every 200 feet reached to the
ceiling to provide added support to the gently curving ceiling. Luxen was a
special alloy made in the fusion reactor on Star One that had unbelievable
strength. It was also tremendously expensive.
On the floor
of the cavern was Tycho City. This was home to the 2,500 people that made the Moon
their permanent residence. There were a number of homes, apartment buildings,
businesses, and small skyscrapers that reached nearly 60 feet into the air
built across the center of the cavern. There were also a number of small shops
and factories on the perimeter.
most amazing thing of all were the numerous growing plants and trees. They did
amazingly well in the lunar soil and the controlled environment of Tycho City. The cavern floor was green with growing grasses as well as small trees and
shrubs. It almost looked as if you were back on Earth. The growing plants also
did wonders for the air, taking out some of the CO2 and replacing it with
oxygen. There were also hidden machines that quietly circulated the air and
made sure the air quality remained breathable.
Mase took a
moment to look around. This was his home. It seemed so Earth-like and if not
for the lower gravity, you would never know you were on the Moon. He took a
deep breath, drawing in the fresh air. It was like this every time he returned
from an inspection trip. He smiled inwardly to himself. So much had been
accomplished and there was still so much more to do.
quietly, watching the commander. She knew how he felt about Tycho City. In the eight months she had been here, she was beginning to feel the same way. Tycho City had that type of effect on you and the man beside her had built it.
“I can’t wait
for us to get the new fusion reactor installed,” she mentioned, looking over at
Mase. “It will be nice to have normal gravity.”
will,” responded Mase, in agreement.
He had been
here for such a long time that he scarcely noticed the difference anymore. In
the early days, there had been no increased gravity until the first of the two
fission reactors had been installed.
as the two walked over to a small electric car. She really enjoyed her job, and
Mase was easy to work for. He was exceptionally polite and did an excellent job
running Tycho City and the other operations on the Moon. Sometimes Linda didn’t
see how he did everything.