Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Microstory 1877: Obeying Gravity

I don’t remember where I was when we first put a man on the moon. What I remember is that I made a point not to be near a television or radio. I was a dumb little rebel back then. If normal people were into something, then I had to not be into it. Funny enough, I stayed away from drugs and alcohol for this reason, which is probably the only good choice I made in my youth. Normal people cared about grades, and finding good jobs. It was a long phase, but I finally grew out of it. I still didn’t care about things like the moon landing, but I wish I hadn’t been so eager to avoid it. Of course, I would later be able to watch the footage—and more recently at my leisure—but it just isn’t the same as knowing that millions of others were watching the same thing. Then again, everything I did, including not watching the landing, has led me to this moment. Because of this thing my niece told me about called the Butterfly Effect, I may never have met my future wife, nor had the children that we had, and without them, I wouldn’t have met my first grandchild. She was born in the most unusual circumstances, but not by accident. You see, even before people went to the moon, humans have been trying to live up in outer space. At first just for a little bit, but further missions increased the duration. Part of this research was to study other things about low gravity, but a not insignificant amount of it was to test an organism’s ability to survive under such conditions. Obviously no creature evolved to live this way. We were all designed by nature to exist in this exact atmosphere, with this amount of surface gravity. Some are better in water, and some can even fly, but we’re all the same in this regard. If we want to visit other planets, and other star systems, however, we have to figure out how to adapt. We have to learn.

As of yet, scientists don’t really know what any of that looks like. They have some ideas, but these ideas have to be tested first. We can’t just fly up here, and hope it works out. Can it be done in the first place? What do we have to do to prepare ourselves? Should we create certain habitats, or is there a way to modify our bodies to cope with the atrophy, and other health problems that come with low gravity? All of these questions are being studied on a new mission that my family and I were selected for. Most astronauts have to go through a series of tests, and be in peak physical condition, in order to qualify for even the most modest of missions. Not us. The whole point is to understand how normal people handle low-g. We were each chosen for a number of reasons, but my daughter, her husband, and I are up here to test family dynamics, along with a few other things. For instance, it’s important that scientists know whether people can have children in space, and now we know they can, but what will her physiology be like? Will she be able to go back down to Earth after this mission is over? If so, will she have to acclimate in a certain way? This is a dangerous mission, but we all agreed to it, and I’m proud to be a part of something so vital to the future of our species. Not every person, and not every country, is on board with this, but my nation has a space program of their own, and they didn’t need anyone else’s permission. As morbid as it may sound—and as unethical as you may consider it—our team believes it’s important for us to get these answers under controlled experiments, rather than experience them as surprises. Until today, many have died in the attempt to travel to space, but I’m honored to be the first ever to pass on while already all the way up here. The last thing I see will be a great thing of beauty.

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