NASA ended the US’s interest in spaceplanes when it scrapped the shuttle fleet a decade ago.
But other space agencies and private companies in other countries are very much in the game. ESA, India, even the UK.
And, of course…
Whichever future the spaceplane does have, it will involve China. “We know very little about the launch [of China’s experimental spaceplane],” says Deville. “But it shows that China is serious about developing its spaceplane concepts.”
The author believes this shows that “nonpartisan” desire to journey to space and preserve human heritage.
Well, I do agree with the assessment that it’s only a matter of time before the Moon is occupied by multiple political entities (China, India, Russia, the US, ESA…) and probably even a few private enterprises as well. Will the private company-sponsored missions agree to abide by a US law?
(In Chapter 6, Brady Cooper wondered about his fellow crewmates’ spirituality. If only he knew...)
Mugen. Mutoto. Muryou. Mushi. Mushuu.
That which is without beginning and without end, without limit and without volume, that which cannot be seen, touched, heard, smelled, or tasted, but whose presence can be sensed and felt in every tree, every rock, every stream and every hill. Everyone and everything. Everywhere.
We are all part of it, as it is what gives us life. We are all connected, we are all aspects of the Hataraki of the universe, the universe aware of itself and yet unaware of itself.
Legs crossed, right foot resting gently upside on her left knee, Sanvi Janes clasped her hands in front of her tanden, just below her diaphragm, and let out a slow, deep breath. Counting ten seconds, she paused, waited three more seconds, then slowly, deeply, breathed in for seven seconds. Hold. Three seconds. Exhale. Pause. Inhale. Hold. Repeat without thinking. Empty the mind. Clear the machine.
Sanvi had been practicing mushin, mind no mind meditation, for most of her adult life. Her parents had initially disapproved. Her father, a devout Lutheran, claimed it was simply her rejection of religion. Her mother, nominally Hindu but essentially non-practicing, said it represented an ancient, foolish attempt to recreate superstitious rites of the best-forgotten past. The then-college student Sanvi had mocked them both as sticks in the mud. What did they know about the Path and the Way? What did they know about the true nature of things? After her younger brother Aaron had died — asphyxiation, of a faulty airsuit during the move to the Lunar Base — they had no right to force her to trust their archaic belief systems. Martial arts and meditation had given her something her parents never could: a centered self. She started training as a hobby, then for health, but eventually it became her life.
Inhale. Hold. Exhale. Pause. Repeat.
“What’s the point of meditation?” her father had asked, sarcastically. “Does God talk to you directly?”
“There is no God,” Sanvi insisted stubbornly. “There is no Heaven. No Hell. There just is.”
“You think you’re so much smarter now,” his response. “So much smarter than your poor old parents, clinging to their old-fashioned beliefs in something better than ourselves, something higher.”
No, it wasn’t like that. It was not a rejection of an ideal. It was a vision.
“I don’t understand,” her mother said, bemoaning her daughter’s martial arts practices. “You say you seek deeper understanding, yet this comes with all the kicking and punching and throwing of other people. You come home with ugly purple bruises all over. Is this Enlightenment?”
Sanvi shook her head, trying to clear the images, the words, the emotions. Peaceful mind, empty the thoughts, don’t even think of thinking.
Inhale. Hold. Exhale. Pause. Repeat.
Another image floated out from her memories. The first time she witnessed the paired forms practice, the first time she observed the group meditation at a college training hall.
She remembered how violent, how quick, yet how graceful and fluid the motions looked. The poise and mutual respect, the utter confidence the sparring partners showed. Tension as the two faced each other, the split second silence of staring, as if they could read each other’s souls. The shuffling of the cotton uniforms and bare-foot gliding steps. The snap of the leg, arm block and counter-move. The takedown throw and roll of the thrown, bouncing effortlessly back on their feet and facing off again.
She wanted that poise. Needed that grace.
“It’s not a block,” her shido-shi told her much later. “It is a reception. Receive the blow. Accept it. Use it. Transform it into a self-expression.”
After years of practice, first as a student, then even as a lower ranking teacher, she still didn’t fully understand. The forms, the breathing, the mind over substance, the teachings.
Complete understanding remained as elusive as ever, just beyond her grasp.
Silently, feeling her tanden expand and contract as she slipped further into no-mind, she heard the words:
Rightness of thought.
Rightness of speech.
Rightness of deed.
Rightness of mind.
Rightness of understanding…
Her face flushed, her body trembling with adrenaline, Sanvi stood in the middle of the concrete floor, facing off her opponent, a fellow kenshi from her biochemical engineering lab. Seconds into the session, Sanvi knew she could best the man. She was faster, her techniques were sharper.
A half-second pause, and the two moved. She saw the foot, then the hand, but she had underestimated the angle of the incoming fist. It glanced off her faceguard as she twisted her torso to avoid the blow. In fury at herself, she seized the leg and threw. Not waiting for him to regain his footing, she advanced, intending to pommel him from behind. He fell, rolled, crouched and instinctively raised a hand to ward off the next incoming blow. Sanvi came back to herself before she finished the strike and heard her voice.
“Sorry, sorry! Are you all right?”
No damage had been done. Lucky. Her face flushed again, with embarrassment. As the higher ranking spar partner, she should have been able to better control her anger.
Shido-shi chastised her.
“Heijo-shin, Sanvi. Control your thoughts. Calm your mind. Accept. Do not think of consequence.”
She struggled with the peaceful mind. A daily struggle. Especially on board the Artemis.
Her thoughts wandered to the cargo hold. Focused on the takedown, the confrontation with Gennaji.
She didn’t know how Riss would react. Only that she should protect her captain. Her friend.
There was no real need to slam the man down so hard. But she couldn’t help it. She had seen his contempt, his arrogance, his lack of respect for her captain. More than anything, she had wanted to show that she, herself, Sanvi, was a worthy opponent. Not someone to be ignored.
She almost lost control. Heijo-shin.
Clear the machine.
Breathe. Inhale. Hold.
She remembered the first time she met Riss. On Ceres, during her stint with the asteroid ore processing plant. The job was boring. Uneventful. Filled with safety checks, routine maintenance, shipping schedules and monthly quotas and computer log entries.
Nothing interesting for an ore transport flight deck trainee.
Asteroid hunting seemed exciting. Enticing. Much more challenging and eventful. And Riss was the first female captain that Sanvi had ever met. So sure of herself, cocky and independent. Even after she had learned about the accident with Lena, Sanvi knew that Riss was someone who could teach her how to become equally as independent and indomitable in spirit.
I fall down seven times, I get up eight.
But asteroid hunting turned out just as tedious. Flight paths and records. Restrictions on catches and retrievals. Standard pings and telemetry procedures. Seemingly endless stretches of empty space with nothing to do.
And hardly any space and time for practice. Unless the cargo hold was empty. Which it never was.
Practice. She had meant to go back to her computer programming lessons, the way she had Earthside. Before the move to Luna.
Sanvi opened her eyes. Her breath was in disarray, out of rhythm. She pounded the side of a fist against the wall, and heard a muffled complaint from the other side. Enoch.
Screw him, she thought.
Aaron. I still haven’t forgiven them. Or forgotten you.
The tears came again, as usual, unbidden and sudden.
She wiped them away with the heel of her hand and hit the wall again.
Heijo-shin. Why was this always so hard?
Next: Bringer of Light, Chapter 8: Enoch (Coming 12/12)
(In Chapter 5, we found out more about Riss. Now it’s the geist’s turn.)
Brady Cooper was typing.
It was more difficult than he thought it would be. One hand strapped into the pad case, the other single-finger typing on the pad surface, all the while trying not to float away from the bunk.
Floating made him queasy. He would never forget the embarrassment he felt just before his first launch. The “training” he received in the weightless chamber prior to joining the Lunar geological survey team simply didn’t prepare him for living on the Moon.
He lasted all of ten minutes before getting sick. All over himself, his teammates, the arrival seats in the spaceport lounge.
And it didn’t get any better from that point.
Somebody should have told me that terraforming didn’t change the gravity! he complained to his supervisor at the time. Didn’t Lunar Base have grav generators, anyway?
But that was just an excuse. Of course, he should have known. He’d forgotten. In his haste and anxiety to prove himself. The youngest geologist ever allowed to join an extra-Earth survey team, just recently out of grad school. And from Africa, no less!
No, not from Africa, he argued. American. I’m American. That was just my mother.
They always shrugged. You UA people all look alike, some told him.
Asians. He just didn’t understand them. But he knew Chinese scientists. Japanese. Indian. Malaysian. He needed to prove to them, prove that he was just as good as they were.
When the call came for a geist to join an asteroid hunting crew, he leapt at the chance. Without thinking, as usual. But he knew he could do it.
He hadn’t figured on the gravity being more or less the same. Or the equipment more complicated. Or the people more…complicated.
The recalcitrant pad was proving adept at avoiding his fingertips. Irritated, Cooper tried to sit upright. Instead, he managed to propel himself tumbling head over foot toward the closed entrance door.
Letting out a tiny yelp, he cradled the pad to his chest to protect it. His feet banged against the door, arresting his forward momentum and pushing him back towards the bunk. Calming himself down, Cooper reached down with his free hand and grabbed a boot. After a few awkward attempts, he managed to yank the boot on one-handed. The boot touched the floor, securing him in place.
He laughed. It must have looked ridiculous; anchored in place, waving his arms and left leg around like a sea anemone.
He took his hand out of the pad case and pulled the other boot on. Sitting down on the bunk, without doing a somersault this time, Cooper thought back to his near-fatal mistake. His first hunt.
What a scene he must have made, that time.
He’d been so anxious about actually stepping foot on an asteroid that he had forgotten to set his boots. One step on the asteroid was all it had taken to push him off of the surface and onto a slowly arching path out into space.
Fortunately Riss had seen him starting to float away and performed a daring rescue worthy of the popular NetStream vid “Real Space: Rock Hunters.” She turned off her own boots, grabbed the cable from the ship’s winch and launched herself as hard as she could at Cooper. A few bounding leaps onto the roof of the ship later, she crashed into him and wrapped the cable around his waist. He was only free floating for twenty seconds. But that was enough time for him to ponder having to make the choice: either slowly suffocate as his air ran out, or open his exosuit for a quick, frozen death.
Sitting on his bunk, magboots firmly attached, Cooper could now look back and wonder.
Why hadn’t he learned his lesson the first time?
He shook his head.
A better question was why he felt so drawn to seek an outer belt hunting expedition.
Chalk it up to the exuberance of youth, he heard a former teacher’s voice say.
He smirked at the memory. Mistakes, one after the other, in his doctoral studies at Boulder. Geochemistry had never been his strong point; somehow, he persevered. Even got three papers published before graduating. His professors’ lectures set his imagination on fire. To see asteroids and comets up close! To visit the Zedra fuel station on Triton and see the ice plumes of Europa!
Now, far from the colonized part of the solar system, hovering near the LaGrange points of Jupiter and Saturn, he was afraid.
All of the time.
Afraid. He had no idea the psychological rigors of deep space travel would affect him so intensely. The isolation. The emptiness. No up or down, left or right. No center.
None of his astrogeology studies had prepared him for this.
He held his head in his hands and stared at the floor.
Why had he and his mother left Tanzania?
As a high school student in Colorado, he had never fully understand the reason.
“It was time to leave Dar es Salaam behind,” she told him. “The republic is no more. The Commonwealth will not save us. Our future is with our brethren. In the UA.”
He originally thought they were searching for his father. British, he had been told. A white man from a distinguished background. Maybe even a politician. But they only stayed in Brighton for a few days. Then Chicago. Then Colorado.
His mother had never spoken of his father’s whereabouts, or why he had left. Cooper had no distinct memories of his father. Only that the man had not talked to him much, or even visited the house often.
In fact, the geologist realized he didn’t even know if his parents were married or not. He supposed now it didn’t matter. It was not something his mother wished to discuss.
“Study science,” she insisted, whenever he asked. “Listen to the rocks. Learn their story. Their past is your past.”
He did as she said. He studied. He got into his dream school. He learned. He struggled.
When he was chosen for the Mars terraforming project, his classmates told him how lucky he was. How jealous they were of his success.
But he hadn’t felt successful, somehow. Always needing to prove himself. Like he was being constantly tested, watched. Judged.
Mistakes. His work was nothing more than a giant bundle of mistakes.
Instinctively, he stood and clasped his hands. The short daily prayer, the prayer affirming the power of the divinity and its grace. In what direction Qiblih lay, he had little idea.
“…There is none other God but Thee, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.”
He sat down again. There was no way to wash his hands in space. Sponging just wasn’t the same. Directions were meaningless. He had even skipped the long prayers for days at a time. Saying the medium prayer three times a day had proven difficult. When was sunrise? Sunset? Where could he find enough space for supplication?
He was glad nobody had yet asked him to use a gun. Violence ought to be avoided; the teachings forbade the faithful from carrying weapons or even using coarse language to criticize another. He came close to doing so, in the cargo hold, when the white hunter captain insulted him. Almost lost his temper.
White. Was that because he was white? What about his own captain?
Cooper shook his head again and closed his eyes, praying silently for the strength to remain faithful. His mother had lapsed. She was now covenant-less. Would he join her?
Only his isolation prevented the Elders from knowing his crisis of faith. He dared not contact his family. Even speaking with the covenant-less was grounds for being ostracized likewise.
Yet the isolation that saved him also condemned him. Who could he talk to?
No, she was his captain. She had enough burdens to handle, let alone bear his. He was resolved to follow her command. She had more than earned it.
He hadn’t yet figured out the navigator. He didn’t seem Hawai’ian, although he claimed to be a descendant of ancient Pacific Island sailors. And his name, Enoch, was Biblical, yet the man had no interest or knowledge whatsoever of even his own faith. Cooper didn’t know what to make of him.
Hm. She bothered him. In many ways. But spiritually, perhaps.
No. Not yet. He was unsure of himself, of his devotion. His own strength. He needed to be sure they could rely on him, before he relied on them.
He hoped he’d done the right thing by adding the ice to their water supply.
The pad bumped him in the back.
He turned around and plucked it out of the air, where it had floated aimlessly during his self-recriminating daydream.
He sighed and swiped it on again. Maybe another vid binge would take his mind off things for a couple of hours. Good thing the Artemis library had several thousand hours’ worth of pirated Net Stream vids.
Next: Bringer of Light, Chapter 7: Sanvi (Coming 12/5)