"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" - Chinese proverb Chapter 64 of the Tao Te Ching by the Chinese philosopher Laozi
Friday, September 1, 2152 Launch
It was a hot summer’s day in New York. Who am I trying to kid? It was what used to be considered a normal day before they domed The City. But under the Bucky dome the weather control had failed and it was rapidly approaching 40 degrees and a steam pipe had burst again, adding to the near supersaturated humidity. Strange that they are still in operation after almost 250 years. I guess it goes to show that even as NY changes some things are done just like they have always been.
But I digress, there I was walking down 44th from the Empire State Building towards the Hudson River Space Port. I always liked wandering in the public areas of the HRSP, looking at the various old style aviation. It kind of puts the world in order. Think about it, in one small area, you can see the Intrepid - an over 200 year old aircraft carrier, the Concord - one of the first commercial supersonic jets, the Space Shuttle Enterprise that inspired the classic 2d video show, the Virgin Galactic ship SS76 – the first suborbital shuttle, and the Serenity– the capsule that brought the first crew back from Mars.
Walking down towards the passenger entrance, I walk past the dock where the Titanic finally arrived 200 year after its fateful only voyage. The gang plank (or since this is a space ship is it called a gantry?) softly clangs as walk up it. At the top I see the Empire State building through the dome’s see through solar panels. From this angle it is easy to see how it is holding up the center of the dome. For the first time it is clear to me why they moved it 10 blocks to the bottom of Time Square. It is hard to make out where they have replaced the old radio antenna with the safety access connected to the underside of the dome.
Turning back to the ship, a loading crane is bringing up a load of supplies, probably for one of the colonies. Entering the automated turnstile, my wrist pad is scanned authenticating my ticket and identity. The doors to the elevator opened for the ride up to the ship’s port.
At the top of the gantry (definitely a gantry), I am greeted by the Captain.
“Welcome aboard the LSS Venture,” reaching to shake my hand. But as he is reaching out his hand, the strap on my wrist pad comes loose. As it falls to the platform, we both bend to reach for it, almost bumping heads. Picking up we hear a scream from below followed by a dull bang. As we rise, we see one of the cables from the loading crane had come loose, and the heavy steel buckle hit the side of the ship. The Captain turns to call out for someone to come and check that there is no damage to the ship. He looks up to the person running the crane, and he goes off to deliver what looks likely to be a serious scolding. I am looking at the clamp, and then up to the load being lifted. I realize I am shaking as I trace along the line that it must have taken. It is swinging right next to my ear. Turning I enter, trying to convince myself that it would have missed the Captain’s and my heads. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that I am only kidding myself and we almost were hit in the head by a fast moving 10 kilo metal buckle.
Walking in past the airlock it feels more like a luxury hotel than any aircraft on which I have traveled. I’m not sure why this surprises me. It is not like anyone would think that an interplanetary ship, designed to hold and entertain passengers for a month would look or feel like the hypersonic jet I rode last month from New York to London in 11 minutes, or the semi-ballistic flights to Sydney in an hour. Here was the fine carpet, recessed indirect lighting, even a grand grey marble staircase opening into the lobby and into the ballroom. In school they taught us that for every gram of mass you needed thousands of kilograms of reaction mass or fuel to get up from the surface into Earth orbit, so this looks like quite a waste of mass just for aesthetic value.