Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Thirty-Three
30th January 1976
“This is really quite extraordinary” Carl said as he flipped through the photographs that had been published by the European Space Agency the day before. They had known each other since Nixon had interceded on Carl’s behalf with Harvard University when they had tried to deny him tenure back in 1968. Because he had attended UC Berkley before becoming an Assistant Professor at Harvard, Nixon had been among the Harvard Alumnus who had rather forcefully disagreed with that decision. It seemed that Nixon, then the Governor of California was impossible to ignore, and at the same time he was not the most prominent of the Alumnus involved, just one of the most vocal. A few years later the Whitehouse had needed a Science Advisor and Nixon had remembered that same Astrophysicist with growing celebrity might owe him a favor.
“I would agree” Nixon replied.
The photographs were extraordinary. Planet Jupiter up close with the swirls and bands of bright red and amber colored clouds. The idea that he was looking at storms that were bigger than the planet Earth that might have raged for centuries was mind blowing. These were only 8 x 10 photographs, and they were awe inspiring. Nixon could only imagine what the poster sized prints the ESA said they had must be like. Nixon couldn’t remember where he had heard it, but many times Astronomy felt like art, then you remembered who the artist in question was, if that was what you believed, and much of what you were seeing was destruction on a scale that was difficult to comprehend. The hand of God indeed.
“There are a few outstanding issues” Carl said, “The League of Nations has established an Office of Outer Space Affairs which is supposed to mediate disputes like the ones that took place during the Moon Landings.”
That was something that the general public was unaware of, how when the ESA and NASA orbited the Moon they mapped the dark side for the first time. Of course, it was the nature of man to name things when given the chance. Different expeditions had placed different names on the same features and that had resulted in many shouting matches over the last decade. Nixon figured that the same thing must have happened during the first great era of exploration when it had been men on wooden ships crossing unmapped oceans.
“How is that working so far?” Nixon asked.
“LNOOSA has only approved one application so far” Carl replied, “The Director of the Argelander Observatory, Doctor von Hirsch asked to name a pair of mountains on IO after his children. The rest are pending.”
Nixon knew who Benjamin von Hirsch was, the CIA apparently had a file on him that ran for several thousand pages. Even if he wasn’t a rising force German Scientific community, he was the brother-in-law of the Kaiser, an advisor to the King of Bavaria, and in his capacity as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Luftwaffe he had killed an American pilot during the Patagonian War and shot the plane out from under another. While that would never be officially acknowledged, there were many in the US Navy who would love nothing better than to take the matter up with him in a back alley if they ever got the chance. Nixon had also seen the latest press release regarding those two children, one was still a baby while the other was nearly six. There had been a photograph of a cute little girl with brown hair and blue eyes. She’d had a toothy grin as she was holding a brown & black puppy that was all giant paws and big floppy ears.
“Thank you, Doctor Sagan” Nixon said, “I am giving a press conference about this and our response in the coming months.”
Carl nodded. He was not in the least bit camera shy, and he was a vocal advocate for robotic probes into the outer solar system. What NASA was gearing up for was a rare planetary alignment with the launch window coming in 1978 with the Voyager Program. Nixon had no doubt that their International rivals were getting ready for the same opportunity. With any luck this would maintain the public focus the way that the Moonshot had in the 60’s and everyone would reap the benefits.
Marie Alexandra was trudging from the Atwater Metro Station to her grandparents’ house near Westmount Park. The entire time she was wishing that her haversack was lighter as the weight cut into her shoulder. She also wished that it wasn’t so icy so she could ride her bicycle without the risk of breaking her neck. To her annoyance, Marie practically heard her mother’s voice saying that she wouldn’t need wishes if she were better at planning as the thought crossed her mind.
At last, she reached the side door of her grandparents’ house. Taking off her boots and coat in the mudroom, she headed for the kitchen in the hope of grabbing something to eat without getting noticed. Those hopes were dashed when her grandmother, who was holding court in the tearoom with a dozen of her friends spotted her.
“Marie, would you tell the ladies about the letter you received in the mail the other day” Margot said. She was a lot happier with Marie since she had discovered that Marie’s studies at McGill, personal connections and language abilities reflected well on her. Personally, Marie had liked it better when Margot was still pretending that she wasn’t there.
“I was offered a chance to study at Trinity College in Ireland after I graduate from McGill” Marie said, “That is if I choose to go into International Law.”
“Really?” The woman who Margot had been speaking to asked in a delighted tone and Marie had to do her best to hide her annoyance as she reluctantly took a seat at the table. She was certain that Jack Kennedy was behind that offer, even if that had not been mentioned in the letter. Marie wondered how her grandmother would react if she ever learned that little detail.