Ocean of Storms: A Timeline of A Scientific America


the butterfly effect had no effect on Adventure’s upper stage.

Imma go ahead and assume that the TFNG were recruited around ‘75. No way they’re flying missions as advanced as this just a year after their selection.
Nice update, "You're kidding me we LOST a space station?" That has SO got to make it into a movie :)

Couple of things:
To ensure that NASA was not tempted to consider the possibility, Congress had enshrined into federal law that no nuclear engine could be activated by a United States vessel unless the vehicle was more than one-hundred miles from the surface of the Earth.
We all fully understand what this means and I for one have NO doubt that Congress would propose and then pass this before someone could point out how difficult that would be in getting submarines and aircraft carriers into orbit and beyond, but really folks that's NOT what you wrote :) (And note that even 'spacecraft' or 'space vehicle' is going to be problematical though more grammatically and legally correct :) )

This may be me but:
Linking a Zeus nuclear rocket motor to its associated fuel tank required thirty-seven connections. Four were for fuel and coolant lines. Thirteen connected various sensors and controllers which fed data to the main computers and the ground. There were twelve connections that linked the fuel tank radiators to those from the motor to provide a continuous heat sink. Then there were eight connections that controlled power and four that handled emergency systems that would “safe” the entire assembly in the event of a critical failure. For the past year, Dale and Jim had practiced making those connections in a variety of stressful environments.
That comes to 41 not 37 and none of those are actual physical, structural connections. I think that was supposed to be "eight connections that controlled the power, four of which handled emergency systems" or something like that? And by physical I mean they'd need to actually bolt it to a thrust structure on the tank. Still a VERY good description and point on how tough EVA is and would be though I for one am miffed NASA went with a hard-suit.

Though more importantly I'd have thought by this point there would be an obvious realization they needed something to augment humans in any on-orbit assembly. OTL that was on the agenda in the late 50s with the discussions on EOR work. Gemini IX was bad but they'd realized that it was going to be an issue from Gemini IV as White had issues maneuvering too. (NASA was going with a low carbolic intake by White and since the crew didn't take full measure of the food they did eat and complained out the schedule cutting into meal time anyway that was blamed) It was clear that the full pressure suits were going to be awkward to perform any kind of extensive work in, which is why the hard suits were studied, but I still think they missed an opportunity with not working more with the Space Activity Suit.

Manipulator arms and assists were also being looked at along with work platforms and pods but were all put on the back burner once it was clear EOR was out of the picture.

Another nit-pick but they didn't have to pre-breath I don't think for Skylab as it was a very low pressure mix of O2/nitrogen and the suits just used pure O2. They bled the nitrogen very quickly once in the suit.

That comes to 41 not 37
Never edit after 9pm. Thanks for that catch. I fixed it.

I'll be honest, this was not the easiest chapter for me. My knowledge of spacewalking operations isn't as well-versed as I'd like it to be. What I wanted to do in this chapter was establish the idea that Apollo was going to be easier than what comes next (and Apollo was really hard).

To update Washington's lesson to Hamilton: "Flying to the Moon is easy, young man. Living there is harder."

(For the record, I reserve the right to recycle that line into an upcoming chapter.)

This one was a bit of a trial for me. It's a bit of a challenge to write about a frustrating experience without the experience of writing to become frustrating itself. Still, I'm glad this one is out there and I'm looking forward to the next chapter: Moonraker.
Never edit after 9pm. Thanks for that catch. I fixed it.

I'll be honest, this was not the easiest chapter for me. My knowledge of spacewalking operations isn't as well-versed as I'd like it to be. What I wanted to do in this chapter was establish the idea that Apollo was going to be easier than what comes next (and Apollo was really hard).

To update Washington's lesson to Hamilton: "Flying to the Moon is easy, young man. Living there is harder."

(For the record, I reserve the right to recycle that line into an upcoming chapter.)

This one was a bit of a trial for me. It's a bit of a challenge to write about a frustrating experience without the experience of writing to become frustrating itself. Still, I'm glad this one is out there and I'm looking forward to the next chapter: Moonraker.
As a once commented eloquently to a well-known author at a book signing: You write good, do more...
(Yep a banner day for speachifying and making impressions :) )

More good stuff! :) I have a feeling that the nuclear rocket may be bound for the missing space station.

Also, did the remnants of the Soviet Venus mission ever come back?
XXXI: The Labours Men Go Forth To
The Labours Men Go Forth To

2 August 1979

Johnson Space Center

Houston, TX

29° 33’ 47” N 95° 05’ 28” W

“It might have not been such a bad idea to let the damn thing crash,” Kraft said.

“As what? A science experiment?” said Glynn Lunney.

Kraft put down his glass and nodded, “Let the white coats study the hole when she comes down.”

“They had their fun with the LEM ascents. It’s better this way,” Lunney said.

“We could just push the thing back to LEO and put the arms on it,” Kraft said.

“We looked into that. The guys from Canada weren’t wild about the structural loads,” Lunney said.

“It just feels like we’re tossing good money after bad,” Kraft said, dismissively.

“Turning bad money into good,” Lunney said, fighting through Kraft’s handwaving. “With this one Hail Mary pass, we get an observation platform, a teleoperation station and an emergency shelter, all for the cost of a Clipper launch and some fuel for Zeus II.”

“It’s too ambitious. This isn’t ’68. We’ve got no deadline. Why not give the contractors a couple of years to come up with something new? A station built in '84 is likely to be a hell of a lot better than one built in the 70’s, no matter what you put in the equipment racks,” Kraft said.

Lunney shifted in his chair. The red leather seat was a bit much for this office. Kraft was nothing if not practical. Then again, when one runs the most important center at NASA, the office has to match the role.

“But it’s there already. If we’d let the thing crater in, we’d look like idiots,” Lunney said.

“But not hoarders,” Kraft said. “Two space stations is a bit much. And now we’re already talking about a third.”

Lunney nodded, “Jamestown, Roanoke, Plymouth Rock, St. Augustine… it takes a lot of infrastructure to colonize a new continent.” Lunney rose slowly and walked to the window.

Kraft raised an eyebrow, “Is that what you think we’re doing?”

Lunney jutted his chin out the window at the rising moon, “Look at it. It’s the eighth continent. The sheer amount of real estate…”

“Less than Asia, more than Africa,” Kraft said.

“Exactly. The last time the human race attempted something on this scale, we were crossing the Bering Land Bridge.”

“Well, you came here looking for my support. You’ve got it,” Kraft said. “Don’t get me wrong, I still think there’s better options, but we’ve got this card now, might as well play it. Walk me through it.”

“Armstrong is taking three rookies to Skylab for two months in September. They’ll land Constellation at KSC the week before Thanksgiving. Intrepid is turnaround right now. The Air Force has asked us to keep her on standby in case they have problems with deployment of Liberty’s payload in November.”

“So we’ll hope that Liberty doesn’t foul anything up and start prepping Intrepid,” Kraft said.

“The new gear for Olympus is set to be delivered in October.”

“You don’t think that’s pushing it?” Kraft said.

“Proposing a mission to the Moon in August and launching in December… gosh. You’re right. We could never do anything like that,” Lunney said.

That got Chris Kraft to laugh, which anyone in Houston would tell you isn’t easy.

The phone rang, Kraft leaned over and picked it up.

“Hello? Yes. I’m sorry, I got held up. I’m leaving now. Love you too,” Kraft said, then hung up the phone.

Lunney took his coat off the back of the chair. Kraft rose and followed suit.

“Betty Anne is wondering why I’m not home for dinner. You’d really think she’d be used to it by now,” Kraft said.

“Tell her I said hello,” Lunney said.

They stepped through the door, making their way downstairs, “Who does Deke want in the left-hand seat for this?” Kraft asked.

“Himself,” Lunney said.

“Ha! What’s plan B?” Kraft said.

“He’s thinking Lind and Truly,” Lunney said.

“Did George Abbey die and no one told me?”

“George made his peace with Don. They buried the hatchet,” Lunney said.

“Still, an old CMP and an X-20 pilot. Deke’s not exactly ready for the ‘80’s, is he?” Kraft said.

“He’s still head of the office,” Lunney said.

“It’s fine. He’ll get used to the FNG’s eventually.”

“He’s coming around. Lord knows he’s had enough time,” Lunney said.

“Don’t make an issue of it,” Kraft said.

“Not my place,” Lunney agreed.

“I worry about the next guy in my chair. He’ll have to deal with some folks who are reluctant to change,” Kraft mused as they entered the parking lot.

“Chris, if this is mentoring, you don’t have to be subtle,” Lunney said.

“You’re still farsighted, which is what we need, but be gentle with the old guard, myself included. People who don’t see eye to eye, tend to end up going toe-to-toe,” Kraft said. “Manage the conflicts. Prevent them where you can.”

“Have a good night, Chris. My best to Betty Anne,” Glynn said.

Kraft popped open the car door and sat down. Lunney waved him goodbye. Kraft’s night was done, but Lunney had more to do. He headed back inside to talk to some of the people from Navigation. Tomorrow morning, they’d talk about consumables and procedures. He hadn’t felt this excited since Constellation One. They were going back to the Moon.

16 October 1979


Orbital Inclination: 50°

Altitude: 270 mi

“I should have held out for the fish flight,” Neil Armstrong said, putting another soil sample under the microscope. It was the tenth one in a row.

“What was that, Neil?” replied Jerry Swinson on CAPCOM in Houston.

“Disregard, Houston. Just about to check a soil sample from rack twelve,” Armstrong said.

“Copy that, Neil,” came the reply.

Norm Thagard pushed off a wall and floated down towards Armstrong at the instrument bench. “Oh, come on, Neil. Space gardening, it’s not so bad.”

“I’ve walked on the Moon, Norm,” Armstrong said.

“Hey, if we get this right, maybe they’ll let you go again,” Thagard said, waving to the grow racks that surrounded them.

Armstrong waved a hand dismissively, “Doubtful. I think they’re gonna give those spots to you guys. Probably have me talking to you on the radio the whole time.”

“Well, at any rate, sure does make this place look nice,” Thagard said, rotating slowly to take in the view.

Neil joined him, “That it does.”

For the Apollo-Skylab flights, the astronauts on board had complained of stale air and the odors that accompanied men in a confined space. With the grow racks that surrounded them, the air on board was much more fresh. When he closed his eyes, Neil could almost imagine that he was back on the ground, walking through Jenny’s garden in the backyard.

Two months was enough time for their crop of tomatoes to come to harvest. While they waited, the rookies were engaged in testing the effect of the plants on the life support system and intensive studies of which plants were best thriving within the confines of the spacecraft.

The effects of zero gravity on plant growth had been explored a bit, but this was the most intensive study to date. Over fifty plant species were represented and most of the species had the ability to produce food. The plan was to tend the garden for forty to fifty days, enough time to harvest the first supply of tomatoes and some of the other sprouts. From there, Skylab would carry the garden racks alone, with monitoring from the ground. Constellation would return after the new year to record the results. Assuming all went well, the next crew would be the first to actually eat crops that had been grown in outer space.

Calories were as much a requirement of a life support system as oxygen and water. From the first Mercury flights, NASA had always treated consumables as a single-feed system. All supplies that were needed for a spaceflight were launched, ready to consume, with no thought to recovery or reuse. For short-term flights to the Moon, or long-term flights in Earth orbit, this was acceptable. Spacecraft could be supplied or resupplied as needed. It wasn’t ideal, but it was workable.

For a permanent, static base on the lunar surface, it would be worthwhile to try to utilize local gravity, a stable orientation and a steady source of carbon dioxide. Life support systems supplemented by plants could assist with a lot of problems and provide a source of comfort to astronauts living on a cold gray world under a deep black sky.

A little green was good for anyone.

Armstrong turned back to the work bench. He secured his foot into a loop of wire that he had taped down a few weeks ago. It was the only way he could hold himself steady long enough to look through the scope.

“Houston, the soil samples from rack twelve, section three continue to show the dead cells that we were told to expect. At two hundred mag I can still see signs of movement. I’m recording the images on to film roll 24A9. Please confirm that copy, over.”

“24A9 from rack twelve, section three, day thirty-five. We have solid copy on that, Neil. Biosciences thanks you for the hard work today.”

“Roger that, Houston. Is it possible for me to get some of the engineers in a separate loop tomorrow to help me go through the cooling system overhaul? It’ll be helpful to have a channel that won’t be interrupted with descriptions of tomatoes every five minutes.”

“Copy that, Neil. We’ll see if we can get that set up for you,” Jerry Swinson said over the radio.

“Thank you, Houston. We’re gonna get squared away for dinner time. Would you mind giving us the news while we get the microwave going?”

“Sure fellas, let me grab the paper here,” Swinson said. There was a pause long enough for the four crewmen to merge in Skylab’s galley, such as it was. They silently went about obtaining their meal trays. In the first week, it had been a study in chaos to watch three rookie astronauts and their commander try to coordinate movement between a storage container, a microwave, a water dispenser and a table. After a month, they had it down to a fine science. After a week in weightlessness, a rookie was more or less a veteran astronaut.

“Okay, let’s start with sports. I grabbed sports first. World Series game five last night, the Marlins defeated the Yankees 5-3.”

McBride said, “That team is such a phenom. What was it? Four years they’ve been in the league?”

“Yeah, it’s crazy. Meanwhile, my Cubs are going on seventy-one years without a title,” Swinson said over the radio.

“One day, Jerry. One day,” Armstrong said.

“Anyways. The NBA season opened over the weekend. The Celtics were in town to play the Rockets and their rookie, Larry Bird, scored the first three-pointer,” Swinson said.

“Yeah, I saw him when he was at Indiana State. That guy can hit it from anywhere,” said McBride.

“Aaand let’s see, the Oilers beat the Colts up in Baltimore on Sunday. 28 to 16 was the final. They’re 5 and 2 on the year.”

“Good for Houston. You got a score for Cleveland in there?” Armstrong asked.

“Lost to Washington, 13 to 9. They’re 4 and 3 on the year,” Swinson said.

“Moving on,” said Armstrong.

“Former governor Spiro Agnew was released from prison after a three-year sentence for tax evasion and corruption,” Swinson said, moving on to national news.

“Never run for President against a Kennedy,” George Nelson said, pulling a tray from the microwave.

“Nixon and Agnew, both, what were the odds?” McBride said.

“Yeah, what was it? They got Nixon on conspiracy charges, to blow up the peace talks in ’68,” Thagard said.

Swinson answered from the ground, “Yeah, he got sentenced to ten years, Bobby Kennedy pardoned him after his first day in jail.”

“Bet Agnew wishes he could have gotten the same deal,” Thagard said.

“No such luck. Then again, all the kickbacks and bribe money. He sure wasn’t lacking for cash for a good lawyer,” Swinson said.

“Speaking of Presidents…” Armstrong said.

“There’s an article that’s guessing Reagan will announce next month. Reagan, Connelly and some guy named Ford are all looking like contenders,” Swinson said.

“He’s gonna announce with a year until the election?” McBride said.

“Seems like it gets earlier every time, doesn’t it?” Swinson replied.

“Anyways, we can get ahead of schedule a bit. Talk to us about tomorrow morning’s activities, Jerry,” Armstrong said.

Each of the four attached their trays to the Velcro on the table and listened to the schedule for the morning.

15 November 1979

UBS Studios

The Star Report

“So, have you decided who’s James Bond and who’s Victor Drax?” said Seaborne, with a laugh and a wink.

Richard Truly raised his hand, “Oh, I’m definitely James Bond here. I used to have the big secret spyplane,” he said.

From the other side of the couch Don Lind shrugged and nodded, “I’ll cop to that. I’m the one with the space station.”

“Pretty close,” Seaborne agreed. “Commander Lind, you spent two weeks aboard Olympus back in 1974 during the flight of Apollo 23.”

“That’s right. I was the last man on Olympus. I’m looking forward to returning and getting her reconfigured for new missions.”

“Tell us a bit more about that,” said Seaborne, “What was life like on the Olympus?”

“Well, it’s roomier than an Apollo CSM. The interior has portholes that give amazing views of the lunar surface. There are also small telescopes that allow for observations of features on the surface and give some lovely views of the Earth as well. The walls are lined with equipment racks with experiments. At least, that’s what was there. We knew that Apollo 23 would be the last one to fly to the Moon for a while, so we brought back the experiments in our command module. When Richard and I get out there, we’ll be installing new equipment in the empty racks.”

“Yes, we’ll be installing a new navigation computer and radio equipment…” Truly said.

“This is for the robot probes that are planned in the near future?”

“That’ll be part of it, but we’ll also be setting up new connections with the Galileo Observatory on the farside. With the new equipment, we’ll be able to get data to and from the telescopes on the surface much faster. In the future, we’ll be sending more rovers and probes to surface. If we want to explore the farside, it’s much easier to run those missions from a place like Olympus rather than relaying a signal all the way back to Earth. With Olympus as an eye in the sky, as it were, it’ll be able to provide navigation data, to see areas of interest that we want to go study. The idea is, just like life on Earth is improved by Skylab, we’ll make life easier on the Moon with Olympus.”

Lind came back into the conversation, “We’re also going to be sending up some gear that will improve life on the station itself. Lights that are more energy efficient. New temperature controllers. Olympus will have a proper kitchen space and we’ll refill the water and air tanks.”

“A lovely little home away from home around the Moon,” Seaborne remarked.

“Basically,” Lind said.

“So, how long will you be staying?” asked Emmett.

“The plan is to spend about a week. That will give us enough time to set things up and resupply the station.”

“We certainly hope you’ll come back and tell us all about it after you land,” Seaborn said.

“Absolutely. It’s always a pleasure,” said Truly.

Emmett turned to the camera. He picked up a small model of the Voyager-heavy probe. “Stay with us through these messages. When we come back we’ll be talking to some of the Voyager team from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. They’ll be showing us some of the latest images that Voyager 3 has sent back from the Jupiter system. You’ll want to stick around for that.”

6 December 1979

CF-202 Intrepid

Altitude: 220 nmi

MET: 22:18:31

“Okay, Houston, the camera just isn’t giving us as clear an image as I was hoping. Would you mind calling the ball for us?” said Lind.

“Yeah, we can do that for you Don, just give us a moment to get you the best input. Stand by,” said Judy Resnik, working the CAPCOM station in Houston.

Dick Truly flipped a switch to take them off VOX. “Sure, we’ll just wait with a big-ass nuke sitting 30 yards behind us.”

Don Lind in the left hand seat shrugged his shoulders, “It’s fine. This thing isn’t as clear as it was in the sims. We could do it, but I’d rather not play around with this sucker.”

“Agreed,” Truly said.

They stared at a grainy image transmitted by wire from a rear-facing camera on Intrepid’s aft section. On a small monitor which sat between them, an image showed the docking target on top of Zeus II. The problem was that the image competed with static and, three times now had cut out entirely. With full knowledge that they were trying to back into a nuclear rocket engine, Don Lind wanted all the help he could get with this first critical phase of the flight.

“Okay, Intrepid. We’ve got a clear image down here. Getting a good feed from Zeus’s forward cameras. We should be able to walk you through this. We’re gonna feed you a program for the thruster firings. Let us know when you’re ready to take this down.”

From a pocket on the side of his chair, Truly pulled out a legal pad and pen. Commander Lind did likewise.

“Go ahead, Houston.”

Over the next few minutes they copied and then confirmed the sequence. It was a series of paired thrusts, four sets of two, with a final push that should, if the calculations were correct, attach the rear of Intrepid to the front of Zeus.

Don called out the data to Dick, who entered it into the computer via the keypad to the left of his control yoke. The input sequence took the better part of five minutes, but that was primarily due to the patience and precision that both men demonstrated in the task.

“Final input is entered. Intrepid to accept? Right, Houston?” Truly asked.

“You’re go, Dick. We’re ready to proceed here,” Resnick said.

“Roger that,” Truly said, pushing the grey EXECUTE button on the bottom right of the keypad.

A thirty-second countdown clock displayed in green on the center CRT. It methodically began the half-minute count, with the computer using this time to allow either man to abort the program if they wanted to reconsider.

With the patience of a doting parent, both men waited for the computer to start the sequence. At the first impulse, they felt the vibrations through their flight suits.

“Hey, there we go,” Truly said.

“Houston, program is proceeding. Are you getting a good read on our telemetry?” Lind asked.

“Roger that, Don. You’re right on the money.”

“Parallel parking on autopilot. What will they think up next,” Don replied.

Two minutes later, Intrepid’s rear docking port was directly in line with Zeus’s. The computer fired the nose thrusters one final time to close the distance at the rate of a few inches per second. The gentle kiss that Don and Dick felt a beat later was their primary confirmation that docking had been achieved.

“Houston, this is the Intrepid. We’re hitched up to the locomotive and we’re ready to leave the station. Our compliments to GUIDO and all the backroom folks. Thanks for the help. Beats the heck out of flying a CSM.”

6 December 1979

CF-202 Intrepid

Altitude: 220 nmi

MET: 27:18:31

“It’s gonna be fine. It’s gonna be fine,” Truly said, more to himself than anything else.

“You gotta relax,” said Lind, “I mean, it’s not like you didn’t know this was coming.”

“Yeah, I’m just trying not to think about Venus or Russia or anything,” Dick said.

“It’s gonna be fine.” Don mimicked, switching his radio on, “Houston, Intrepid is at ready-one. Requesting your go for TLI, over.”

“Roger that, Intrepid. Zeus’s prep is complete. We are transmitting TLI Go-codes to Zeus in 15 seconds. Good luck fellas.”

Lind checked the flight deck for the fifth time. Thrusters to attitude-hold. Radiator doors closed. Aft docking clamps secured.

There was no sound to speak of. Even with the rumble of the engine transmitting through the combined fuselages of Zeus and Intrepid, the dull roar of the NERVA wasn’t enough to be audible on the flight deck. The only physical confirmation the astronauts had was the press against the back of their seats. The TLI burn progressed in the first five seconds to 0.7g. As the clock ticked up, the accelerometer confirmed the motion and Lind made the first call down to Houston.

“Mark TLI plus five seconds, Houston. Timestamp two. All readings nominal.”

“Copy, Intrepid. Confirm timestamp two. Predict five minutes remaining. Getting good telemetry from Zeus. Can you confirm there has been no autofire on your RCS?”

Don looked over to Richard who gave him a thumbs-up with his left hand. His right was never more than an inch away from the keypad that could shut down the burn.

“Roger that, Houston. We’re smooth through two. No RCS pulses. Zeus is giving us a smooth ride up here.”

“Coming through 1.2 gee,” Richard Truly said from the right-hand seat.

A month ago, at a barbecue, Don Lind had been talking with his neighbor, Jim McGee who sold insurance. Inevitably, the subject of the nuclear rocket came up.

“Are you nervous about it?” Jim had asked.

“We’re not riding a Russian rocket,” Don replied.

“But the basic principles are similar, right?”

“You think the second guy to use a hammer didn’t hit his finger?”

“So you’re saying it’s just a tool?”

“If you had a Mustang in your garage, would you be afraid to drive it because your neighbor crashed his?”

“Fair enough,” Jim said.

“Besides, American engineering,” Don said.

“So, you think it’s capitalism vs. communism?” Jim asked.

“Not really. It’s more that, ‘we’re not going as far, or putting the engine through as much strain. We’re not orbiting a planet that’s a corrosive oven that’s thirty million miles closer to the Sun. And we’ve done this before.’ The first Zeus had more than twenty engine firings over a five-year worklife. This one is brand-spanking-new. I’m already trusting about a thousand engineers just to get up to the thing. And I want to go back to the Moon.”

“You think they’ll let you land next time?”

“We’re gonna start building a base eventually. I dunno. Fifty-fifty, but my fingers are crossed,” Lind said.

A rumble brought him back from the memory.

“Are we good?” Truly asked.

“A little precession,” Lind said, pointing to the gimbal reading on the instrument panel. The 8-ball wobbled slightly.

“Houston, Intrepid. We’re getting a bit of precession at TLI plus four twenty-six. Looks like it’s within the two-degree margin. Do you want us to correct manually? Please advise.” Lind relayed to the ground.

He switched off of VOX, “Dick, what are you seeing on the strain gauges?”

“Still green. Number 7 seems to be torqueing a bit,” Truly said, checking the numbers for the docking clamps on Intrepid’s rear port.

A heart stopping eight seconds went by before the call came back, “Intrepid, Houston. We do not advise for manual correction. Zeus software is accounting for the procession. The engine is gimballing. We are still within the margin, over.”

Before the transmission had completed, he felt another tremor and saw the 8-ball settle back at the original orientation. Zeus had self-corrected. A moment later, Truly and Lind felt the release of 1.2g and the return of weightlessness. The burn had concluded.

Both men let out a deep breath. It had been the longest five and a half minutes of their lives.

“American engineering,” Don Lind said.

“Houston, this is Intrepid. Burn complete. We’re going to the Moon.”

8 December 1979

CF-202 Intrepid

Lunar Transit Trajectory

MET: 75:32:21

“So you missed it this summer?”

“Yeah. Kathy and I were gonna go one night, but it rained and we wound up not going. Was it good?”

“Eh… not great. You know how it is. Ever since Connery left, those movies just haven’t been the same.”

“Yeah, but still. What happened?”

“So, it starts out with the British flying a Clipper back to the UK for some reason,” Truly said.

“Were they gonna launch it?”

“They never really explained that. Anyways, they’ve got it on the back of a 747 and it turns out there are two guys hiding inside,” Truly said.

“Who somehow weren’t noticed by the hundreds of people who tend to these things…”

“Tell me about it. Anyway, the two sneaky guys detach the Clipper and fire the engines so it crashes the carrier plane.”

“So realistic,” Lind said, biting into an apple.

“I know. I know. Anyway, they send in Roger Moore to investigate and it’s pretty obvious it’s this guy Drax, because his company built the Clippers. Anyway. For some reason, Bond has to go to Venice and finds there’s something going on with some chemical. And that leads him to Rio because there’s this flower that they turn into poison or something. It’s a little convoluted. There’s a thing with a cable car and a thing with a speedboat and waterfalls. Typical James Bond stuff.”

“Sure, sure,” Lind said.

“One thing leads to another and Drax is holed up in some ancient Mayan temple or something,”

“Were the Mayans in Brazil?” Lind asked.

“How should I know?” Truly said. “Anyways, he puts Bond underneath a Clipper launch pad.”

“But he doesn’t stay to make sure he really dies, right?”

“So you have seen some of these before,” Truly said. “So, of course Bond gets out of it and then steals one of the Clippers. Cause this guy is launching like ten of them.”

“Why so many?”

“He’s stocking up colonists for his moon base. He’s got a plan to have a whole lot of blonde girls take up with a bunch of burly guys to create some sort of master race or something. It’s a little creepy, honestly.”

“Okay, so Bond flies a Clipper up into orbit…” Lind prompted.

“And all the way to the Moon, which, in the movie, only takes a few minutes,”

“Just knocking me out with the realism here,” Lind said.

“Ohh yeah. Anyways. They land the Clippers on the Moon. Just land them, like on a runway. Again, not exactly going for Best Picture here. Bond sneaks into the base with the girl. There’s always a girl. And from there he foils Drax’s plan to launch all these poison satellites at the Earth. Drax gets mad, which is understandable under the circumstances, and breaks out this big laser that’s supposed to destroy London or something.”

“Bad guy with a big laser aimed at an innocent planet. Man, they are really ripping off Star Wars, aren’t they?”

“So bad.”

“So, of course, Bond manages to mess up the laser’s capacitor or something and it blows up and Drax blows up and the Moon base blows up and Bond spends the whole return trip banging the hot scientist girl that he’s been going around with since Rio.”

“Well, it sounds better than The Man With the Golden Gun,” Lind said.

“I kinda liked that one,” Truly said.

“All right. Lights out,” Lind keyed his radio, “Houston, Intrepid. We’re done with dinner. Gonna wrap up for the day. We’ll talk to you in the morning. Have a good night.”

11 December 1979

CF-202 Intrepid

Olympus Space Station

MET: 153:20:14

“Oh this is creepy. Anyone see that movie, Alien?” Lind asked.

Olympus was cold and dark. When Lind had departed for the last time during the flight of Apollo 23, he’d followed the same shutdown procedures as the other CSM pilots. The station had sat in low-power mode for the last half-decade. Now Don Lind set about to get her back up and running.

He checked the pressure gauge and saw that it was in the green. He threw a few switches to start the power-up procedures and then activated the heater.

“Okay, Houston. Power-up has begun. We’re got good atmo here. I’m gonna get out of this suit. There’s no need anymore.”

He waited for their confirmation and swung his visor up. His breath puffed in a cloud in front of him. It was well below freezing. He shut his eyes and took a deep breath. No trouble.

“Okay, it’s cold, but it’s fine. Dick, you can start transferring the gear,” Lind said.

After any long car trip comes the unpacking. They’d gotten a good little assembly line going through Intrepid’s nose hatch. Truly grabbed containers and shoved them through the round docking hatch into the waiting arms of Don Lind, who grabbed them inside of Olympus and started finding places to put things. It was always mesmerizing to toss a crate or a box and watch it continue along its original path, with no downward arc whatsoever. With the last of the boxes transferred, Truly made his way into the space station and took a look around.

“Is it about how you left it?” Truly asked.

Lind nodded, “Nothing out of place. I don’t think anyone’s been messing around up here since I left.”

“That’s a relief,” Truly said.

Truly pushed off and headed to the rear, giving the station a quick survey.

“Brrr, how long did it take the heaters last time?” Dick asked.

“Couple of hours,” Lind said.

“Should’ve packed a sweater,” Truly said.

“Sorry, I should have mentioned it,” Lind replied.

“So, we’re squared away?” Truly said.

Don turned and pointed at the crates in turn, “New equipment, consumables, spare parts.”

There was a lot to do over the next six days. Now that they were sure Olympus wasn’t a hazard, they had seven days to get her ready for the next seven years.

16 December 1979

CF-202 Intrepid

Olympus-Intrepid Rendezvous

MET: 283:20:14

Olympus was not outfitted with an airlock. For its initial missions, it was only to have one astronaut occupant. Any situation that required a spacewalk would, by its nature, require a mission abort. Mission rules had been relaxed somewhat over the course of the Apollo program, but they would never be loosened to the point where an astronaut could go outside without another astronaut around who was ready for a rescue and recovery.

Now, with Olympus retasked for a mission and a timeline well past its expected operating points, mission planners had to get a little creative.

“Houston, this is the Intrepid, we’re ready to undock now,” Don Lind said, from the flight deck of his Clipper.

A few minutes later, Intrepid, with Zeus II on her tail, slowly backed away from Olympus.

“How you doing down there, Dick?” Lind said, keying his mic.

“I’m all set. Hopefully this won’t take too long,” Truly said.

With gentle pulses of the RCS, Lind swung the awkward combination of Intrepid and Zeus around between Olympus and the Moon. The engineers had advised him to conserve RCS in case an issue developed with the OMS later in the flight. Orbital mechanics allowed for the maneuver to be completed with two large pulses and two smaller ones. With Zeus totally shut down, Intrepid was slinging a lot of mass with her as she moved to the back of the space station.

It took Intrepid the better part of an hour to swing around, which was more than enough time for Dick Truly to check the tools and equipment he’d be working with.

“We’re in position now. Ready to open the hatch,” Lind said.

Truly emerged alone from the forward docking bay. Lind could see the tether and umbilical lines corkscrewing out from his ship as his pilot approached the back side of Olympus.

“Okay, Houston. I’ve got a good grip here. I’m gonna pop this panel open.”

From the flight deck, Don could see Dick open panel 6A that allowed him access to Olympus’s electrical systems. The plan for the day was to swap out Batteries 1 and 3 and then rewire the panel and replace the fuses. The slow motion dance of equipment and astronaut would extend the life expectancy of the station for the foreseeable future.

“Woo boy. You know, I replaced a light switch in my kitchen a couple months ago. It was way simpler than this.”

“Yeah, the astronaut corps sometimes asks you to do really difficult jobs,” Lind said.

“Well, at least the view is nice,” Truly said.

“Beats drywall in a Texas summer,” Lind said.

“Agreed. Okay, Houston, I’m taking out Battery 3 now.”

18 December 1979

CF-202 Intrepid

Olympus Space Station

MET: 310:54:30

From the rear bulkhead, Dick Truly took it all in, “Well, it’s small.”

Don nodded. He was at the new control panel. They were already getting fresh data in from Galileo Observatory down at Tsiolkovsky. The feed was slow, but they’d had solid contact with the surface since the new antennae had been configured. “She’s no Skylab, but you know real estate. It’s all about the location.”

Truly settled himself over the porthole. Less than a hundred miles away, he saw a grand patchwork of craters slipping by underneath him.

“You think it’ll be big enough for decent operations?” Truly said, not looking up from the window.

“They’ll add some cans, most likely. Probably a hab module with solar wings. Or maybe just push the thing up to L2 and use it as the chassis for something more elaborate,” said Don Lind.

“That’d be a good spot for keeping an eye on the farside,” Truly said.

“We gotta put something at L2 sooner or later. And the poles and the far side. We’ll start with habitats and workshops. After a while, it’ll be condominiums and golf courses. Eventually, we’ll get it all. We’re here to stay.”
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Great updates! I think I see why you wanted to put them all together into a single mega-update. Thanks.
A little green was good for anyone.
I recall really missing the color green while on some long USN deployments.
That and girls. Just to be able to see if they still existed was impossible.
This is one of my favorite chapters so far thank you for writing this story. it truly incredible I hope this win a award some day it deserve it.
Also how much you want to bet Reagan start putting up military bases on the moon and military space stations to secure “USA space presence”
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This is one of my favorite chapters so far thank you for writing this story. it truly incredible I hope this win a award some day it deserve it.
Also how much you want to bet Reagan start putting up military bases on the moon and military space stations to secure “USA space presence”
Assuming Reagan is even elected or nominated. This US isn’t like OTL 1979’s conditions that allowed Reagan to ride a populism wave into power.
XXXII: The Fourth
The Fourth

11 March 1982

Launch Pad 39B

Kennedy Space Center

28° 36’ 30” N 80° 36’ 15” W

Space travel was a religious experience. It began with years of study. Learning how to move through the heavens. Then there was a pilgrimage to a far-flung place of isolation and silence. This was followed by a moment of meditation and reverence. And then the epic journey to leave the world in a column of fire.

From her seat in the third row, she couldn’t see the countdown clock. She was hearing the transmissions back and forth between the ship and the LCC, but the last couple of minutes had really flown by.

She had expected to be tense and fearful, but it wasn’t really like that. The butterflies that had accompanied her on the first ride in the Vomit Comet were long gone. She knew what to expect and she knew what was about to happen here. And yet, she was amazed. In the classic sense of the word. The rumble of the Pegasus motors far below pushed on her back. There was a rush, a surge. Somewhere primal. A combination of fear and anticipation. Her veins flooded with adrenaline. Her heart raced into high gear.

The snap of acceleration crashed over her like a wave as she fell into the back of her seat. Intrepid had her in its grip and all of Earth’s gravity could not hold her back now.

Judith Resnick was ascending to the heavens on a pillar of flame.

Three and a half gees kept her firmly rooted to the contoured chair underneath her. The only way to overcome the gravity well was with overwhelming force.

“Bat outta hell,” Hank said, from the seat in front of her.

“LVLH,” she said, reminding him to flip the switch by his knee.

“Copy that,” Hank said. Judy could see him move the toggle and saw a flicker on the display.

“Houston, we’re climbing the hill. Green across the board.”

“Roger, Intrepid. You’re looking good at two minutes. Stand by for pod sep,” said the voice over the radio.

She looked to her right and saw Mike. He groaned.

Judy smiled. She looked back at the flight deck. This wasn’t the time, but she’d give Mullane a good ribbing for that later, after OMS 1.

“Hang on, everybody,” Hank said from the commander’s seat.

In an instant, the acceleration she’d been feeling stopped. The elephant was off her chest and she gasped a deep breath. Sunlight filled the cockpit and she could hear a mechanical clank reverberate through Intrepid’s hull.

She hadn’t the time to acknowledge the moment verbally before the elephant returned and acceleration forced her back into the seat. Now it was her turn to groan.

“Houston, confirm pod sep and Centaur activation. Farewell, Pegasus, and we thank you,” Hank said, calm as a Galapagos turtle, despite the acceleration.

Pegasus, Centaur, Titan, Atlas. Judy thought, a rocket requires a name that evokes something beyond human endeavour. Then again, it could just be boys with toys.

With her hands at her sides, she did the best she could to unclench and relax a bit, trying to take some solace in the fact that there was practically nothing she could do from here. Hank had already gone up once before and with this being the twentieth Clipper flight, procedures were becoming reliable, if not routine.

The sky dimmed as the second stage exhausted its fuel. From a crisp, bright Florida morning sky, it had only taken eight minutes to fall to the cold black of night.

“Houston, Intrepid, we have cut-off. As always, thanks to the Centaur team and all the good folks downstairs,” Hank said.

Mission rules dictated that the five crewmembers stay seated and harnessed until the conclusion of the OMS firings. A couple of hours ago, the ground crew had strapped her tight into the seat. She knew that she was weightless now, but it was hard to get a sense of it. Luckily, Judy had planned ahead.

With a glance up at the flight deck, she could see that Hank and Jon were occupied. She took a chance, figuring that Hank wouldn’t mind either way.

Reaching into a velcroed pocket on her flight suit, she fished out a small, blue, rubber ball. She brought the orb up a few inches in front of her faceplate and released it.

It didn’t move.

She grinned and watched it slowly rotate above her hand. Nothing she had experienced before quite measured up. Even in the Comet, such a thing would end in less than a minute. The mesmerizing effect of the floating ball lasted much longer. She pushed it back and forth gently, watching the non-arcing flight with each tap of her fingers.

“Psst. Judy,” Mike called from the seat on her right. He could see her enjoying the moment. She stifled a giggle and gave the ball a push towards her fellow mission specialist. After a moment of childlike joy, he pushed the sphere back to her. She stowed it in her pocket again.

“Houston, while we’ve got a couple of minutes here, what’s the latest on the Independence? Over,” Jon said.

“Still secure at Skydock. Your toys are waiting for you. All systems nominal,” came the answer.

“Roger that.”

Hank and Jon took Intrepid through two firings of the engine pods. When Houston told them OMS 2 would need no residuals, the five Intrepid voyagers unbuckled their harnesses and experienced the purest form of human flight.

As Intrepid flew into the night, they stowed launch gear and the bulky suits that they’d worn since they’d left the OCB this morning. Judy claimed a spot on the ceiling and velcroed her sleeping bag to it. Hank shrugged and grinned, giving a wry remark about rookies always wanting to do weird stuff on the first day. With this being only his second flight, Judy knew he was only teasing.

She had moved to the aft container array and was checking on a pack of spare parts when Jon floated over to her and gave her a tap on the shoulder.

“Judy, take a look,” he said, pointing a long finger past her and towards the flight deck.

She turned to glance out of the cockpit windows and saw the sunrise coming over the horizon. A flickering sun cleared the atmosphere and she was bathed in the soft orange light of dawn. It was a flood of beauty and tranquility and the infinite. In a lifetime, even a well-traveled person rarely experiences a moment of awe. For Judith Resnick, this was one of those moments; her first sunrise off the surface of the Earth.

Without averting her eyes, she repeated the words from so long ago, “And God called the expanse Heaven, and it was evening, and it was morning, a second day.

13 March 1982

CF-208 Intrepid

Orbital Inclination: 29°

Altitude: 214 mi

More and more she was glad Sally had gone earlier. She had read stories about the old guard Mercury guys and how they’d fought tooth and nail for flight assignments in the early days. All the boys wanted to go first. It seemed silly, 20 years later. After all, the later flights were longer and more interesting. Why spend 15 minutes up here when you could spend a day? It had never been logical. Test pilot egos rarely were.

Sally had gone up on Constellation last year. She spent 3 months at Skylab and did great work on some astrophysics experiments and X-ray observations. The press had eaten it all up. Mustang Sally was at the top of the charts again and the whole country had rallied around the latest champion for equality. It was wonderful, but it wasn’t quite what Judy wanted for her first trip.

This was better.

A brand new space station. Not as big as Skylab, but modern and functional. This was no big tank for orbital science, Skydock was humanity’s first orbital platform for construction and engineering.

Last spring, the workshop module had launched on Independence. It was basically just a big can with a couple of attachment points at either end. In the summer, Liberty had ferried up a docking module with a pair of contracted trusses on either side. Pete Conrad and a trio of engineers had brought Constellation up a week later and extended the trusses and checked the hull integrity. It had been good work, but the place still wasn’t much of a space station yet.

Then came the trouble with the newest Cargo Clipper.

The third off the assembly line, Patriot, had been something of a problem child ever since it had been flown down to Kennedy.

Patriot had entered the processing facility for its first inspection with a lot of potential. This was the contractor’s third production model and they had gotten her ready to go faster than the other two. The shiny yellow-white racing stripe down her flank gave her the feeling of an Italian sports car, ready to jump off the line at a Grand Prix.

She caught fire on the third day of inspection.

A technician was testing a few circuits in the port side OMS pod at the rear of the ship. There was a dispute between the contractor and NASA over whether the test had been improperly conducted, but the end result was the same. A small electrical fire broke out in the pod. A quick thinking supervisor had managed to put it out before it spread, but for 8 weeks, NASA’s newest silver spacecraft had to be stripped bare and every bit of wiring checked and rechecked. No more incidents had resulted, but the whole fiasco had been a terrifying reminder of what a fire could do to a spacecraft and to the agency responsible for her.

Patriot had left the CPF and her first assignment was to deliver the back half of Skydock. The new Cargo Clipper would haul her load to the space station, dock with the forward module, then wait for a human crew to handle the connections. Instead, Patriot had developed a problem with, you guessed it, her port side OMS pod and was barely able to achieve orbit with the heavy habitat module in her cargo bay. Instead of a delivery to stable orbital platform, she abandoned her cargo, like Han Solo ditching the Imperials, making a fast getaway to the Clipper Landing Facility, where the engineers had begun an angry postmortem.

With two halves of a space station floating separately at different altitudes, some maneuvering had to be done. Both on paper and on orbit. Intrepid had been sent up to finish the job. This flight would be the latest advertisement for human presence in outer space.

Hank and Jon had tracked down the errant module, and it was now attached squarely to Intrepid’s nose, which effectively blinded the crew from any decent views of Earth. Now, balancing her prize like a seal with a ball, it was time for the Clipper’s next trick.

“Okay, Houston, we’re solid on the docking ring. RCS is primed and OMS pods are reading all clear. Requesting your approval for transfer in three minutes, on my mark. Mark.”

Hank’s voice was soothing to anyone who heard it. Not for the first time, Judy was glad to have him in the left-hand seat.

Intrepid, Houston. You’re go for the orbital transfer.”

Patriot, despite her inept performance, had at least had the decency to put the habitat module in the right orbital inclination. Therefore, when Intrepid made the rendezvous, the hab module had been a crisp, clean target in open space and docking with her was easier than it had ever been in the sims back on the ground. Now a pair of pulses from the OMS would bring the can and the Clipper to a rendezvous with the front half of Skydock in a few hours. Intrepid would then get the station operational and, hopefully, the cargo would start to flow shortly thereafter.

Judy looked over at Mike and she tightened her harness. There would not be a great deal of thrust this time, just a fraction of what they’d felt at launch, but she was a by-the-book astronaut and that meant seat belts.

The clock on the console ticked through 00:00:10. The green digits counting down to the start of the maneuver. The computers had been programmed and would open the fuel valves automatically. She heard a whirr behind her head and felt the seat press into her back. It only took a few seconds to end. Once you were out of the gravity well, it was much easier to get around.

Hank and Jon secured the cockpit and unbuckled, which was the signal to the mission specialists that they could do the same. Mike went aft to check on a couple of the flight experiments.

“What have you got, Judy? Grace us with something,” Hank asked. Judith’s recitation from the Torah yesterday had inadvertently made her into the ship’s Greek chorus.

She floated out of her chair and craned her neck, trying to see through the cockpit windows to spy a slice of Earth from around the corner of the hab module.

She caught a brilliant vista of the Pacific two hundred miles below and caught her inspiration.

"Joyfully to the breeze royal Odysseus spread his sail, and with his rudder skillfully he steered," she said.

“Nice. We should have every flight come up with a poet,” Hank said.

“Saves some weight if she’s also an electrical engineer,” Mike chimed in.

13 March 1982

CF-208 Intrepid

Orbital Inclination: 29°

Altitude: 250 mi

From the outside, it looked like a random collection of space junk had clumped together due to mutual gravitational attraction and non-elastic collisions.

Skydock’s workshop module was a simple cylinder with a bump on top that had a cupola of windows. The workshop module’s rear end was a tight little docking node that could accommodate an incoming Clipper, but her front end was where the real action happened. The trusses that stretched out to her sides for more than 50 feet gave her the look of a flying crane. The latticework was more than a simple beam though. Embedded in the metalwork were a series of cables and connection points that would provide power and control signals to the robotic arms that would handle the heavy lifting. Between the trusses, the grey beauty of Independence sat with her nose docked to the workshop module. In her titanium-covered womb sat the two robotic arms that would be the workhorses of the Skydock Station.

Had everything gone according to plan, Intrepid could have pulled in to dock with the hab module and completed its connections to the workshop. Instead, the Clipper was pushing the hab module and would have to do some fancy flying to get the station properly situated. Fortunately, Skydock was designed to facilitate creative solutions in orbit.

“Houston, we’ve completed the swing around. Rear cameras show us properly aligned at a range of 127 feet. Requesting permission to dock, over,” Hank calmly called the approach down to Houston.

“Houston, Intrepid. Go for docking.”

“Here we go,” Hank said, nodding to Jon, who pressed a button that fired the RCS.

Judy was pulled out of her seat by a couple of inches before the straps grabbed her firm. The pulse was just enough to push the Clipper and hab module backwards, towards the Skydock.

“Hold tight everyone. We’ll be there in a few minutes,” Hank said.

Judy craned her neck to see the monitor on the flight deck. It was a poor-quality black and white image, but it showed the circular port of the workshop module perfectly in-line with the crosshairs of Intrepid’s rear docking camera. The image was steadily growing on the screen.

With no facility to see the other side of the hab module that was stuck on the front of the ship, Intrepid was forced to back into the workshop module, using her rear cameras and docking port. In a few minutes, the Clipper would be sandwiched between two perfectly good space station modules, both of which were essentially useless without the other.

Judy looked over at Mike who was cradling a small cage in his lap, “How’s Claribel doing?” she asked.

Mike frowned and held up the experiment container, “She’s still mad at me for the launch, I think. Canaries apparently don’t pull 3 G’s all that often.”

There was a slight bump and Judy looked up. A moment later, she heard a mechanical clicking and Hank keyed his radio, “Houston, Intrepid. We have hard dock.”

The little bird fluttered her wings and kept a tight grip on the small bar that ran the width of her container.

“She’s going to have her fun in a little bit.”

“Assuming all goes well,” Mike replied.

Judy nodded a silent agreement.

The workshop module had not been designed to house astronauts independently. There was an emergency reserve of air on board, but all atmospheric and temperature controllers were in the habitat module, which Intrepid was delivering.

The safety systems should have maintained a stable pressure and temperature for the workshop, but with the amount of equipment already on board, there was a chance that something would go wrong with the composition of the workshop’s air. Therefore, Claribel would serve the same purpose in orbit that so many of her species had done for coal miners.

After they’d secured from the maneuvers and had triple checked all the seals, Mike donned an oxygen mask and slid into the rear airlock with Claribel. He swung open the hatch and was the first man to enter Skydock in orbit.

Judy stood ready at the hatch in case of an emergency, but wasn’t expecting much action. Claribel tumbled as she left her cage, but quickly adapted to a universe without gravity. She flew into the workshop in a dazzling burst of yellow.

Mike followed behind, looking around cautiously, as though he expected something to jump out at him.

“So far, so good,” he called back.

Claribel whistled a confirmation.

This was good news. If the workshop’s internal air was okay, that meant they could allow Intrepid’s systems to regulate both spaces until the final link up could be managed. This also meant Judy could work in her shirtsleeves, rather than a spacesuit for tomorrow’s big movements.

14 March 1982

Skydock Space Station

Orbital Inclination: 29°

Altitude: 250 mi

Slowly, Mike Mullane and Jon McBride, emerged from the cargo bay of the Independence. Sporting the AMU thruster packages, they each had a tight grip on opposite ends of some precious cargo.

The big white arm, with an astronaut at each end, slowly floated into Judy’s eye line. She was ensconced in the workshop cupola, monitoring the installation. The cold, black sky beyond gave a perfect view of the white suits and white arm, with only the little red bits of the Canadian flag on the side for a spot of color.

“Looking good, guys. We still want to go right side first, right?”

“Your right, or our right, Judy?” Jon replied.

“My right. Always, my right,” Judy answered.

“Okay, smart-aleck. Moving to the connector,” Jon said. She watched as each man pulsed his thrusters. She stayed quiet to allow them the radio channel to coordinate their movements.

“Okay Judy, we’re almost set here. Tell us when you’re seeing the power spike,” Mike said. She had lost sight of him around the curve of the module, but she could visualize his position.

“Good, Mike. Tell me if you need me to talk you through the connections again,” she said.

“I’m all set. The Canadians made this one pretty easy,” he said.

She looked down at the amperage gauge on the controls station. At the moment, it read flat zero. The gauge was waiting for the electrical connection from the arm to be hooked up.

The arms functioned much like those of a human being. There was an elbow, a wrist and several fingers, though each joint could bend and rotate far beyond the capability of its mammalian counterpart. Unlike a human arm, the Canadarms had a wrist and fingers at both ends. All the better for maneuvering to different points along the trusses of the space station.

Along the hull of the workshop were a dozen connection ports. Small apertures where the arms could connect to power and control wiring from the workshop itself. On each wrist of the arm, was an assembly that could be inserted into a connection port. The arms could then inchworm themselves along the station’s exterior, moving from port to port if there was a need to grab something that was in an inconvenient location.

Like a habitat module, for instance.

Judy saw the gauge flicker and then jump to a stable reading. She gave the EVA team the good news.

“There it is. We’ve got power on righty,” she said.

Mike sighed in his spacesuit. “Now, the best part of having a pair of arms. Let’s go back and do this all over again on the other side.”

“Hey, day’s half over and it’s not even noon, yet,” she said, trying to lift their spirits.

“Says the girl not wearing a spacesuit. How’s my bird?” Mike asked.

“Claribel is enjoying some seeds and getting some much needed rest after her morning soarings,” Hank said, monitoring the whole operation from back on Intrepid.

Judy could see Mike and Jon crawling over Independence’s top side to get back to the cargo bay. She started to make some preliminary tests of the right-side arm. Rotating the joints and then giving some translational motion to the fingers.

As the boys worked on the latches to unlock the second arm, she relayed the good news to Earth.

“Houston, Skydock. First tests are going smoothly with the right-arm. Compliments to our Canadian cousins.”

Jon’s voice came over the EVA channel, “Okay, let’s start round two.”

15 March 1982

Skydock Space Station

Orbital Inclination: 29°

Altitude: 250 mi

She figured it would be a little unnerving, watching her ticket back to Earth separate from the space station she was already in.

Intrepid was only about 60 feet away, but it wasn’t pleasant seeing her drift away with the hab module. Worst case, she and Mike could clamber into Independence and ride down in the nose, but she had no desire to reenact Jonah, swallowed by a big, grey space whale and riding down to Earth in a ship with no windows.

As Intrepid’s nose swung around, bringing the hab module with it, she was able to focus on the task at hand.

Deftly, she brought the left hand arm around and reached out for one of the handholds on the hab module’s exterior. Hank was doing an exceptional job of keeping the thing steady and it only took her two tries to get the grip.

“Okay, I think I’ve got it now. Looks like a good grab. Gonna do the same with righty. Give me a minute to bring it around,” Judy said.

With the skill of an engineer who had monitored every part of the design and development of these systems, Judy Resnik maneuvered the right hand arm of Skyport around and grabbed another handhold on the hab module. She could sense the power of the workshop radiating through her control station. She could almost feel the hab module’s cold exterior in her hands. This had been quite a test for her favorite piece of engineering, and the arms had passed with flying colors.

“Great job, Judy. We read solid connections on both grips. Intrepid, you’re free to disengage at your convenience,” came the call from downstairs.

“Roger that,” said Hank. A few minutes later, she watched Intrepid undock with the back of the hab module and pulse her RCS. She drifted out to a respectable distance, all the better to allow Judy to pull the hab module in for the initial connection.

It took a bit of doing. One arm had to be unlocked and the other actively engaged each time she wanted to make a change in direction, but after a couple of hours of tension-filled control inputs, Judy Resnik had brought the habitat module together with the workshop module, completing the construction of a spacecraft designed to construct other spacecraft.

Below, Mike confirmed the link between the docking rings and she finally relaxed and wiped the sweat from her brow. Mullane could handle the seals that would connect the modules. Indeed, that was his duty assignment now.

Tomorrow there would be one final EVA to complete the logistical connections that would let the habitat module support and sustain the needs of the workshop module. The crew would have another three days in orbit to check out each of Skydock’s new systems and then, assuming all went well, they’d be back home in time for her 33rd birthday.

For now, her only task was to relax. She would leave it to the boys to handle all the low-level tasks that would be done over the next couple of hours. She planned to take a page from Claribel’s book and drift aimlessly around the habitat module until Intrepid docked with the station again.

19 March 1982

CF-208 Intrepid

Orbital Inclination: 29°

Altitude: 250 mi

Intrepid flew in formation with the space station her crew had completed. The skycrane and the Clipper made quite a pair of heavenly travelers and Jon had gotten some very good photos from the flight deck before they would fire the OMS engines to break away and break orbit.

With the semi-exhaustion of any laborer at the end of a long project, Judy watched her pet space station recede into infinite night. Off to her right, Claribel tweeted a farewell to the big tanks that had allowed for such wondrous flight as no bird before her had ever known.

Hank gave a beat of applause after the OMS pods had been secured. Tomorrow morning, the pods would be fired one more time and tomorrow night, Intrepid and her crew would be back in Florida, eating a hot meal prepared by a professional. The crew, that is, not the vessel.

She floated up between Jon and Hank and took one last look at her station. No matter what, it felt very much her station.

“What do you say, Judy? Any other pearls of wisdom still in your tank?” Hank asked.

She bit her lip and pondered. Intrepid traveled about a hundred miles before she replied.

"Mechanical science is the noblest and, above all others, the most useful.”

“Henry Ford?”

She shook her head, “da Vinci.”
I have not yet made any art for this chapter. I may try to make a patch for CF-208. If anyone wants to take a crack at it though, please get in touch with me and I'll supply any details you might need.

Your work will be displayed with full accreditation in whatever way you prefer.
WOW! This just feels real.
I'm glad to see that Star Wars is alive and well, though perhaps a bit different :)
I see that Moonraker was as bad as it was the first time 'round.