Exploration and Love
Raymond Shih | Terri Kelleher
Funny. After stepping out for the first time in eighteen months, some physical sensation seems appropriate. However, I suppose being in a spacesuit means that I am not truly outside at all.
But that is not to say I feel nothing. To finally see Mars fills me with the warmth that my natural surroundings cannot. I grasp Feng’s hand. We planned our next move months ago so that we would create history together. His gentle voice fills my helmet.
“One… Two… Three… Jump.”
In only 0.38 G, our feet land without disturbing the red dirt.
This seemed impossible when we first launched. Not the meticulously planned mission itself to run experiments and recover a module deployed here years ago to create fuel for our return voyage. Rather, it is the intimacy of this moment that is remarkable. Feng and I trained together for two years before entering the capsule that would be home for the following three. But our journey did not begin in earnest until we embarked.
Initial excitement and rumbling engines gave way to a period of awkward politeness. Then came silence. That was difficult. Feng eventually made advances, which were unwanted at first. After all, we were so different, he the son of a Chinese general and I the daughter of a Nebraskan farmer. But charm, persistence, and mutual confinement eventually broke down these barriers. By the time we descended, our lives apart felt like childhood memories.
Like the first tetrapods that ventured from sea to land, we understand how it feels to have an entire planet for ourselves. I can’t wait to experience our return.