Everyone had gathered around for the big event. The day marked the One Thousandth Space Expedition to date. The year was 2130 and NASA was still in charge of the major shuttle launches in the United States. Most of the remaining eight planets had been explored, studied, and later inhabited. The only one people were most skeptical to go to was Pluto. The distant planet was cold and not many people were up to the long adventure.
All of the people were crowded at the launch station in Florida. Even more people were watching this historical event on their televisions and satellite connectors at home. There were five men and five women going on the year long expedition. No one knew their true plans or where they were exactly going. Many citizens felt that they were just going for the sake of the “One Thousandth Expedition”.
A loud speaker announced ten minutes until lift off. The shuttle was situated on the launch pad, awaiting departure. Maintenance people were checking safety modules and adjusting knobs or tightening screws. Nothing could go wrong. The ten members of the crew walked out of the station as five minutes approached. They were happy, smiling, and waving to the people they didn’t know. Billions of people had their eyes on them, but they were the only ones who knew what lay ahead.
The name of the shuttle shined on the exterior. Gorgon I34-90. The crew saluted to it, as was the tradition for the past five hundred successful missions before lift off. They walked to the elevator that would take them up the hundreds of feet to the main cabin. They were wearing their white space suits minus the hoods and trained personnel helped them lock into their seats. The man’s deep voice on the loudspeaker came on again announcing the one minute marker. The personnel began their descent down the elevator, leaving the crew to communicate with the tower.
“Jones?” asked a voice coming from tower.
“Ready to roll!”
The loudspeaker boomed over the crowd, starting the thirty second countdown. People became antsy gathering up their binoculars, trying to catch what was going on. The loudspeaker began the last leg of countdown. 10…a loud noise started buzzing from the shuttle….9…8…7…6…the booster started charging…5…4…3..2..1…Lift off! The boosters launched and the shuttle shot fast and far into the sky. The crowd awed and as soon as it lost sight, they applauded the successful mission.
Inside the tower, cheering was going on. Many men and women got up and congratulated each other at the successful take off. The man who had voiced through to the crew, Roger, was staring at the radar screen on his computer table.
“Frost, how’s it going up there?” Roger asked through the mic attached to earphones.
“Everything a-okay Roger. Stop worrying so much. We’re almost out of the galaxy.” Frost answered.
“Just checking.” Roger said staring at the screen.
A few hours later the blip that was the shuttle disappeared. Roger, who had been checking every few moments did not realize it until later. He came up to the screen, panicking.
“Frost? Lafferty? Come in!” Roger said into the mic. “Gordon! Jones! Hope! Anyone?”
Roger received static from the other end. He looked around, the place was almost empty. A few people, noticing his panic, came over to see what was going on.
A short woman put her hand on his arm and made him sit down, “Roger, didn’t you know what this mission was about?”
He shook his head, “No.”
“They were going out of the galaxy. We found a portal that could shoot them into another. That’s why they went off the radar.”
“But…” he said thinking. “That portal won’t be able to shoot them back. Did you find the exit?”
“Well, no. We hoped they’d have better luck being there and everything. It’d be easier for them to find it.”
He wiped his forehead, rubbing off the sweat. “You know they won’t find it. That was a death mission.”
“So it seems. But we wanted to go out with a bang.” she answered patting his shoulder and walking away.
© Alexis Leno 2004