Thursday, February 24, 2022

Microstory 1829: First, Youngest, Alone, and Female

Until recently, I was the youngest person to have gone to space. I’m still the youngest to have landed on the moon. In 1966, I was working as a test pilot for the Canadian Air Force, having racked up thousands of hours of flight time, and apparently impressing the Usonian government with my skills. At the time, only three nations were engaged in space flight, and Canada was not one of them, but the Usonian Space Department was looking to show the world that they were inclusive. They reached out to us to help realize humanity’s dream of reaching the moon within a year. By then, the primary crew of astronauts were already picked, and all of them Usonian. I was part of the B-team, so I would only be called up if something went wrong. Something did go wrong, and they needed me to pilot the craft. No one ever thought that I would go on the mission, so I didn’t receive quite as much training as I probably should have, but I was confident in my competence, and ready to do my country proud. I still wasn’t meant to set foot on the moon. Three people made the trip to lunar orbit in 1967, but only two were intended to go down. Someone had to stay up and keep the module running while the landing party did their thing. Unfortunately, something else went wrong. The USD wanted the crew to be inexperienced in space. A few people had already been to Earthan orbit a few times, but they wanted this new mission to start with fresh faces. No one had really done any studies until then regarding the psychological effects of being in outer space for long periods of time, trapped in a tin can, with so little stimulation. This was the longest mission yet, and the most difficult. Our commander couldn’t handle the pressure. He had a breakdown which threatened the safety and continuation of the mission.

The lander pilot wanted to go down on his own. There was a contingency for this, and the USD was prepared to agree to this decision. The problem was that our commander was exhibiting erratic behavior, and I was not qualified to help him through it. The two of them knew each other. They understood each other. And the lander pilot was the only one who could make sure the commander didn’t jeopardize the lives of all three of us without realizing what he was doing. If he landed, and the commander did something to sabotage the module while he was gone, all three of us would die. Because of all of this, the USD decided to abort, and bring everyone back home, but the other pilot wasn’t happy with this decision. We went all the way out there, spent millions of dollars, and inspired millions of people to reach for greatness. Someone had to be the first to land on the surface of the moon, goddammit, and if it couldn’t be him, there was only one option left. Me. The USD wouldn’t hear of it. Back then, it wasn’t illegal to be a woman, or anything, but many people who were huddled around their TVs and radios—and some in the control room—didn’t want the history books to record that a female Canadian achieved this milestone, especially not alone. He didn’t listen. While he protected the commander from himself, I climbed into the lander by myself, detached from the module, and flew down to my destiny. I planted both feet on that gray regolith at the same time, and spoke some of the most famous words in history, “I stand here, lighter than ever, smiling at the Earth in the distance, not as a Canadian...not as a woman...not as a pilot. Today I represent the world, and the spirit of humankind. I am not the first explorer, and I cannot wait to watch the next ones lead us further into the future.”

No comments :

Post a Comment