Chapter One Thousand Seven Hundred Eighty-Two
30th January 1967
The Taxidiotis Program had started in early 1957, so a decade, millions of manhours and billions of Marks had gone into all of this. That was why everything needed to be perfect. However, as Sigi had known her entire life, nothing was ever perfect. Waiting was growing aggravating, because Sigi was in her suit, her nose was itching and there was nothing that could be done about that.
They had depressurized the Landing Module and were waiting for Mission Control to clear them to open the hatch. Sigi understood the reason why, at six o’clock in the evening back home a special was being aired in an International television broadcast that would culminate with the opening of the hatch and Sigi climbing down the ladder at a quarter of seven. This would be in front of one of the LM’s external cameras that had been turned towards the hatch and ladder so everyone would get a good view. She would then make the statement that she had memorized, and Sigi had been informed that riffing on it would not be appreciated. Then the others would follow her out of that Lander, there would a brief ceremony and then they could finally get to work. The need for everything to be carefully staged was a bit irksome.
As they had waited, Pierre and Leonov were fiddling with the array of solar panels to get the optimum amount power for the Lander’s instruments. Pierre was looking at the ohm meter while Leonov turned the crank while using hand gestures to avoid cluttering the radio frequency that the crew was using. Sigi saw it coming well before it happened, but among the crew so things it seemed were inevitable. Leonov turned the crank too far and the power the panels drew suddenly dropped off, Pierre started cursing at him in French. Everyone, including Mission Control could hear that and Sigi knew that careful transcripts were being kept. Who knew what future historians would make of that? What Sigi didn’t know was that Leonov had accidentally turned the panels at an angle to reflect the sunlight back towards Earth. As Leonov turned the crank the other way, fixing the error, millions who were looking at the moon saw the flash of light making the LM Baltic the most seen artifact in human history.
“It’s time, Oberstlieutenant” Sigi heard a voice say in her ear that she knew was from Mission Control.
With that, Sigi got up from her seat and gingerly walked towards the hatch. The gravity was much lower than on Earth and moving in it would take practice. Pierre was right behind her as she opened the hatch, there was a wisp of vapor as the last of the atmosphere left the cabin. The stark landscape of grey rock under a black sky greeted her. Turning around, she started climbing down the ladder, Pierre was photographing every move as he had been instructed. As her instructions, Sigi was giving point by point narration. She felt a bit silly doing it.
Then as her feet touched the ground, Sigi took a breath and recited the line that she had memorized.
“This is but the first step of mankind leaving the cradle to a wider universe…” Sigi recited.
New York City, New York
Parker had his own reasons for coming into the city today. Mostly because he had wanted to watch the Lunar landing without the running commentary that he could expect if he had watched it on any of the televisions on base at Fort Drum. No one there knew about his connection to these events and he would prefer to keep it that way. He had expected his parent’s Manhattan to be empty on Monday afternoon knowing that his father was out of town on business and his mother normally had her weekly bridge game with her circle of friends. It seemed that card game had been called off this week and Parker was sitting on the couch watching television with his mother.
For the last forty-five minutes a documentary had aired about the leadup to Taxidiotis IV and the people involved. Parker recognized that it was slickly produced propaganda. Engineers and technicians were seen assembling the rockets, presumably in Vietnam. It was mentioned that parts for the rockets came from several countries. Then there were short bios of the Astronauts themselves. For Sigi it only mentioned that she had grown up in Potsdam before focusing on her career as a pilot in the German Army. The others were certainly an interesting bunch. The Russian Co-Pilot and Systems Officer were both veterans of the Russian Space Program. It was mentioned that Yuri Gagarin was the survivor of the horrific Vostok 5 incident, the event that had prompted Russia to join the ESA so that greater resources could be brought to the threadbare program. Mission Specialist Hartmann was a test pilot for Junkers Aviation and had returned to flight status after being severely injured in a plane crash. The Science Officer, Pierre-Gilles de Gennes was a genius of some sort, he seemed like a bit of an odd duck to Parker.
“Exactly what is that girl saying?” Parker’s Mother asked.
“She is describing climbing down the ladder” Parker replied.
“That seems a bit silly”
Then Parker saw Sigi step away from the ladder, the image was in grainy color. The only thing that was vivid was the gold of the suit’s visor and the red on the flag patch on the shoulder. The rest might as well have been in monochrome.
Then he heard the statement made by Sigi. It was followed by an open invitation to explore in peace and cooperation.
“That was a wonderful thing she said” Parker’s Mother said as they watched as the Astronauts planted the blue and gold flag of the ESA and then pulled out the bunting, a long streamer containing the flags of all the nations involved with the Taxidiotis Program. There were dozens of them.
“Sigi is glorious” Parker said, “I met her in Germany, she is a relative of the Liaison Officer in Laupheim, so she came around for a few days.”
“So, that’s what has been going on” Parker’s Mother said.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Parker asked his Mother who just smirked as she watched the television.