TheSpacePoet

United Kingdom

17
Keen violinist and singer
Hopeful cosmologist and planetary scientist
Writing has always been a part of me :)

Message to Readers

I have taken into account the feedback I have had so far and re-drafted my novel extract. I am so grateful for any more words of wisdom my fellow writers have, even though it is so late in the competition :)

It's Wonderful, Houston

November 16, 2020

30 years ago, Mary was terrified of space - the way the night sky went on and on, like God Himself had poured a pot of ink onto a blue canvas, made her heart race and her spine tingle. But isn’t it strange how a racing heart and a tingling spine can derive from both panic and prepossessing astonishment? Maybe, all along, Mary wasn’t terrified at all, but deeply flummoxed by space, like looking up into the great unknown somehow electrified her soul. Maybe it’s always been this way, because 30 years on, Cosmonaut Mary Chadwick found herself on the first space shuttle to Mars.
She breathed deeply and shakily as she gazed upon the Earth, carefully embroidered to perfection in a rich, velvet blanket of indigo. The blaring hum of the shuttle was muffled under her roaring stare. Look at her face, and you’d never see someone say so much, without opening their lips at all. It's as if her eyelids were prised open, and refused to shut.

Cosmonaut and Space Commander Tony Newton was substantially more experienced in space than Mary, despite being only a couple of years older than her. His contributions in the 2026 mission to the moon and his time on the International Space Station a few years after, totalled his time out of the Earth's atmosphere to over 42 weeks, compared to Mary’s zero. Newton had known Mary ever since her first arrival at the astronaut academy. After just a week of observing her process, he insisted that Mary should be selected to join him in his groundbreaking journey to Mars.
Her ceaseless curiosity. Her unbeatable spiritedness. There was a certain charm to her inquisitiveness, though he hated to admit it. On Earth, Tony had numerous immediate relatives, all of which missed him dearly on his voyages, but he never intended to be married. He knew of the dangers of his profession, and took it upon himself never to be wed, to save his partner and children from heartbreak if worst came to worst. Mary was different though, because she travelled with him. The universe had forced them together, like gravity, and almost everyday, for seven years, they trained together, and within those seven years, Newton failed to witnessed a day that she wasn’t sprightly and filled to the brim with conversation. Until now, that is.

“I’ve never known for you to say so little, Chadwick. I'm afraid you'll have to say something at some point, to assure me that you’re not stunned.” The humour in his voice was clear, despite being challenged by the boom of the exhaust. He felt a sudden urge to undo his seatbelt, and swim in the glorious chamber of anti-gravity, but remained professional and composed.
“I am stunned, but not by the G-force, or the engine clatter,” Mary lifted her left hand and, in that moment, felt wholly weightless, “we are making limits, limitless.” Her voice sounded like a warm buzz through the helmet microphone. "And to experience it with you makes me feel the most accomplished of all."
Newton smiled inwardly and reached out to a radio system before him, endeavouring to soothe its agitated crackle. The way the atmosphere tampered with his movement, made his arms look dainty; Mary decided that he moved rather like a ballerina. Elegant, cultivated and undoubtedly passionate about his craft.
“Houston, this is Space Commander Newton. Permission to release seat belts when we wish to.”
A dampened dispatch quickly responded, “This is Houston. Permission granted, sir. Now reaching 200,000 kilometres above earth level, sir. Lunar module has been released.”
Mary grinned wildly, launching her seatbelts over her shoulder, barely feeling the impact of the unclasping of the lunar module, “This is Co-Pilot Chadwick. It’s wonderful, Houston.”
There was a faint chuckle on the other end of the line as she floated up and up, almost touching the roof of the control chamber - this was cut short when Tony tugged her back into her chair and into reality. He gripped firmly to the arm-rest of his own seat to save himself from drifting off in a similar way, and spoke again, his words dripping in both levity and austerity, "Houston, this is Newton. I can assure you that Chadwick is eager to start her duties, which we have rehearsed in training, so the radio will be shut down to reduce interference and save power."
There was a response of "understood," closely followed by a short-lived beep and all was silent.
"Six and a half months, bud. Six and a half months on this space craft to reach the Red Planet. I will surely forget how to walk in normal atmosphere," Mary whispered, carrying out complex navigation procedures, as if they were effortless.
"This is the new normal. And what a heavenly normal it is." Newton returned, watching her carry out the tasks with diligent eyes.
In truth, Tony missed his family when he went away. His brother spent a lot of time looking after their parents in England, and his four sisters were based all around the world. Despite this vast separation, all siblings would never fail to visit their brother, and wish him luck on his missions.
Mary, on the other hand, was unattached due to her dedication to work. She was loyal to her friends at the space academy and, of course, Tony; she only ever gave time to said people. It was no surprise when her fellow academy-mates came to wish her well before her departure. Mary had no blood-family to miss on Earth. Her mother passed away over 10 years ago, but the young cosmonaut found comfort in believing that the further away from Earth she travelled, the closer she was to her mum's loving smile again.
Mary sighed at the thought, earning a fairly confused look from her co-pilot, "Is everything alright, virtuoso?"
Mary smiled generously - Tony always gave her light-hearted nicknames to cheer her up if ever he was concerned, "Everything is peachy, Newton."
Mary Chadwick, 35 years old, and Tony Newton, 37 years old, commence on a daring quest to become the first people on Mars. Mary seems somewhat childlike, yet her attributes have made her a fine cosmologist over the years. Tony, on the other hand, is a great deal more composed, and much more adept in zero gravity; he admires Mary for her enthusiasm and hand-picked her to join him on this mission.
I hope to continue this novel and develop Mary and Tony's relationship, as well as expand on the sub-storyline about Mary's mother.
I've always wanted to feel how an astronaut feels on their first trip to space. As advancements in space technology continue to develop, I see a new understanding of the world on the horizon. The life of a space explorer is never dull, and I wanted to investigate how it truly feels to be where only few have been before.

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