Author Topic: The Voyagers  (Read 133 times)

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Offline Daitō

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The Voyagers
« on: November 29, 2021, 01:49:58 AM »
Part One — Moonshot
Artsiv Cosmodrome
UTC 1315
Flight Day 1


It had been an eventful day, the first in a voyage that would take Daitō to the moon. Sitting in their Ryū capsule atop one of the most powerful rockets the Empire had ever produced, Uchūnauts Eijiro Ebashi, Hiroki Inagaki, Isao Kitamori, and Taeko Akiyama waited for the final countdown and liftoff of the spacecraft. Only seven hours earlier, the lander had been launched, with it already being on its way to lunar orbit as they waited. It was far from quiet, with radio chatter back and forth from launch control, mission control over on the mainland, and the capsule being ever-present in their ears.
   "Hinode, this is Shinkyō, we are go for launch." CAPCOM said over comms. Hinode, the name of the capsule as selected by the crew, translated roughly as Sunrise, with this being effectively the dawn of the Daitōjin lunar exploration program as a whole. "T- 60 seconds and counting."
   "Roger, go for launch." Eijiro responded before turning his head over to his crew as the fuel pumps activated. Due to the nature of the suits they wore, they weren't able to turn the helmets with them. "Well, this is it. Lets do our best." He said with a smile before returning his focus to the launch at hand.

A few seconds would pass liftoff drew closer, although for the crew of Ryū M-3, it felt like several minutes. Perhaps they thought about the days to come, of the destination, or maybe just getting back home safe and sound. One may have glanced at the empty spot in the vehicle, a result of it being decided that, for the first landing, only four crewmembers would fly instead of the standard five. Regardless of these thoughts, there was no turning back now. Either they were going to make it, they were going to die, or they were going to abort. No other ways out. Then, over the loop, the final countdown began.
15
14
13
12
11
10
9
Ignition sequence has started
5
4
3
2
1
Liftoff!


Almost immediately, the capsule began to shake, almost as if the crew were trapped in a single-room building during an earthquake. The clock had begun running, and not long after, they would be clear of the tower. The rest of the launch would largely be uneventful, with the core stage first jettisoning its "skirt"—a recoverable ring carrying the four outboard main engines— before carrying on until it too was jettisoned. Once in orbit and before TLI (trans-lunar injection), the crew would perform checks on the spacecraft and their own health. This would be the final stop where they could realistically abort and be home in a few hours. Any further along and it'd be at least a week before they would be home. Once TLI was complete, they would jettison from the upper stage before transpositioning and docking to the mission module then proceeding to extract it from its adapter.

The voyage had begun.

Offline Daitō

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Re: The Voyagers
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2021, 01:39:06 AM »
Part Two — Between Worlds
Hinode, Cislunar Space
UTC 0400
Flight Day 2


Morning came early for Commander Ebashi, who awoke from his rest period in the spacecraft's mission module to the sound of the patriotic song Roei no Uta, a nod to his previous military service. If he were to guess, the next wake-up call would feature music selected by Hiroki's family, though he wasn't particularly certain what it was. Regardless, today was going to be a busy day, as yesterday had been and the next week and a half would too. The first few hours would be spent readying himself for the day and eating his breakfast—Some rice and umeboshi, specially made by Ajinomoto— before getting to work on some experiments. Eventually, he would, however, get some time off following his lunch.
UTC 1300

Upon floating into Hinode's mission module, Eijiro would grab a handrail and decide to take a peek through one of the windows. The module had three of them, one in the aft for observing the spacecraft, one on the side— If one were standing parallel to the seating in the Command Module, it would be directly above— and one in the front to assist in docking. It would be upon doing such that he would see a most wonderous sight as Mundus receded behind them.
   "Look at that..." He murmured to himself as he gazed upon home, effectively entranced by its beauty. "Hey, Hiroki!" He said, raising his voice so he could be heard in the CM. "You gotta see this!"
   "What?" Hiroki, the mission's Command Module Pilot, responded as he entered the module before also floating up to the window. "I see..." He was never one for such outbursts, but it was clear he too was amazed by it just based on the look on his face. "I'll... Uhh, I'll be right back." He said before floating off to find a camera.
   "You think Itsumi-san and the others were so... obsessed with this view on their mission?"
   "Sure." Said Taeko Akiyama, who had been in the module for a while. "I suspect they wish they thought to take a photo with something better than a phone though." She observed with a slight chuckle. A few boxes would fly past the two of them as they spoke, undoubtedly from Hiroki's search for a camera.
   "Ah, I take it you already saw?" Eijiro asked Taeko, a puzzled look on his face given her subdued reaction. Haruki, he expected, but her? No. Their time spent training together told him there was something on her mind if she was acting so disinterested. "Something wrong?" He asked.
   "No? Not really? Just having to ready myself for the descent into the crater."
   "What? You've flown around the world a thousand times and done multiple EVA's during your career. I don't see how a bit of rock climbing should bother you."
   "Descent into a three-kilometer deep crater whose base is permanently dark and contains who knows how much ice throughout it."
   "Just pulling your leg, that's all."
   "Yeah, I know... I'm Just going over every possible scenario that I can think.
   "Alright, I got it." Hiroki said, returning with a camera. "Just one second..." He told the two of them before snapping the photo.
UTC 2200

As Eijiro looked at the camera, he couldn't help but feel annoyed by how the media was making such a show out of the voyage. First a guided tour of the spacecraft yesterday— something which had already been done on M-1 and 2 as well as who knows how many tours aboard Kyuden IV— and now an interview with Akifumi Samejima on DNN. Tomorrow would have two interviews, one in orbit after docking and another on the surface, plus a livestream of their operations on the surface... All he wanted was to be able to do his job without fanfare, even if he knew that was impossible as he was to be the first Daitojin Uchunaut to walk on the lunar surface. Frankly, it was exhausting, but he had to put a good show on for the cameras. But when this interview finally came to a close, he could breathe a sigh of relief, but even so, he had to think of what he would say for the cameras when he took that step. Something solemn, perhaps? Or maybe he could crack a joke... No, that wouldn't go well for such an occasion. He was sure some would want some kind of patriotic statement, and he wouldn't deny it was appealing to him too. Perhaps... Perhaps, as he began to drift to sleep, he would just wing it.

Offline Daitō

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Re: The Voyagers
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2021, 08:32:22 PM »
Part Three — Go for Undocking
Hinode, Lunar Orbit
UTC 1130
Flight Day 3


It had been a few hours since the crew of Hinode had docked the spacecraft with their lander, designated "Tengu" by the landing party. Now, they had to prepare for the final leg of their voyage, at least in regards to the actual voyage to the moon. Three of the crew— Eijiro Ebashi, Isao Kitamori, and Taeko Akiyama— had boarded the lander, and they were preparing to close the hatch at this point. But before they did, Hiroki Inagaki, the command module pilot, had a few words to say.
   "Well, this is it. Just an hour or so and the three of you will be on the moon." He said, looking into the Lunar Surface Access Module (LSAM, for short). "I'd like to wish the three of you the best of luck on your trip, and... I suppose I'll just have to keep the spacecraft warm for you." He said, reaching to shake the commander's hand before returning to the mission module in order to close the hatch. "Kami know I wish I could be there with you." He said as the two closed their respective hatches.

A few minutes passed as the crew aboard the lander readied themselves for their descent. It felt like hours, of course, but when one was about to make history for their nation, it wasn't particularly surprising. In spite of this, however, it would only be about eight minutes before they had readied themselves the best they could when a transmission was received over the loop.
   "Tengu, Shinkyō. You are go for undocking." CAPCOM reported, undoubtedly relaying it from the flight director.
   "Roger, go for undocking." Commander Ebashi responded before beginning the LSAM's undocking procedures. A few minutes later, the two would be undocked and the Command Module Pilot would get the opportunity to snap the following photo.

Tengu was aloft and was given the go for powered descent. Now, the journey to the Lunar South Pole began.

Offline Daitō

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Re: The Voyagers
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2021, 12:14:06 AM »
Part Four — The Landing
Tengu, Shackleton Crater
UTC 1338
Flight Day 3


The LSAM was now on its final approach to Shackleton Crater, set to land only a few hundred meters away from the rim. The crew braced themselves as the Commander and LSAM pilot guided it down with as great care. They were not to be the first to land on the moon, no, that honor went to the Rokkenjimans back in the 70s, but they did aim to have the longest stay on the surface. Five days, even if the lander was rated for longer, would be the duration of this mission. Future missions would push the lander to its limit of around a week, but for this flight, the main goal was to prove that it could be done. Now, some naysayers would undoubtedly claim that this was a precursor to a moonbase. While yes, it was in theory possible to convert the lander into a long-term habitat, and indeed the DNSA had contemplated it, there were no plans to do it in the current program, nor any for at a minimum a decade.

The surface was approaching quickly, less than a minute or so to landing. Shackleton looked like a door into the void that had been flung open, its floor shadowed in permanent darkness.
   "Twelve-point-eight at one. Clock is on." Isao, the LSAM pilot, reported as he flicked a switch. The rest of the crew was entirely silent, needing to focus or allow everyone else to focus. They were so close it felt like they could reach out and touch the surface now. "Twelve meters, coming down at half." He noted as they continued the approach. After a few seconds, he would pipe up, saying "Nine-point-seven at half. Looking good. Almost down. We are almost down." before returning to focus on their altitude and velocity. Then, that familiar light popped up with a beep. "Contact!"
   "Shutdown." Eijiro called out over comms as he flicked a switch designated as engine arm to its off position.

THUD

For a moment, the three aboard the lander looked at each other, pale as though they had seen a ghost. Perhaps they were wondering if they were dead, as it had gone quicker than any of them thought it would. But as they looked out of the windows, they saw they had stopped moving and were, in fact, down on the surface.
   "...By the gods, we did it. Great work, Ebashi-san!" Isao said with excitement, patting his commander's back as the crew began shutting down the spacecraft's various systems dedicated to landing.
   "We're really here... Amazing." Taeko said as she looked out the window before she, like Isao, turned to the mission's commander.
   "Shinkyō, this is Tengu, we've landed." Eijiro said over comms.
   "Roger, Tengu. Confirm you on the lunar surface. Now lets get to work so you can start your expedition in earnest." CAPCOM responded. After this, Eijiro finally turned to his crew, practically beaming with excitement over what they had just managed. First Daitōjin crew on the surface of the moon... What an honor.
   "Right, which of you want to ask?" He asked his fellow crewmates.
   "I'll do it." Isao said with a slight chuckle. "Uhh, Shinkyō, Tengu. Where are we?"

As it turned out, the LSAM had touched down just a few meters off from its planned site. And as they sat in the cabin on the south pole, waiting for their chance to go on EVA, they knew they had succeeded in going where few had dreamed.

Offline Daitō

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Re: The Voyagers
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2021, 12:57:12 AM »
Part Five — The First Step
Tengu, Shackleton Crater
UTC 1700
Flight Day 3


As he descended the ramp from the airlock, Eijiro thought to himself about what he would say with his first step. He had a good idea, sure, but he wasn't particularly certain about the specifics. If he were to take a look behind him, he would see Isao standing in the airlock and Taeko up in the LSAM's ascent module.
   "Alright, I am descending the ramp now." He said over comms, taking in his surroundings. It was beautiful and desolate. Above, Mundus hung, suspended in a sunbeam. And around him, save for the occasional comms chatter and his own breathing, it was entirely silent. Before he had left, he had made sure to activate the cameras, which would provide footage in 4k of the crew's first steps on the moon. Further footage would be provided by the crew as well on their expedition, meant to be streamed relatively live (there was a delay of a little under two seconds) as the mission continued. "Alright, I'm stepping off the ramp now." Eijiro said as he approached the edge of the LSAM. From above, Mission Specialist Akiyama took a photo of the moment just before he set foot on the lunar surface.
Then, it came time to actually step off. As Taeko descended the module and Isao followed slowly behind the commander, Eijiro would take his first steps on the moon.
   "I take this step for my nation, for my people, and for all the children of Mundus, knowing that today is but a single step in a voyage which will take us all to the stars." He said as walked forwards. "I know this is not the first voyage here, but I know in my heart that it will not be the last."

In time, the rest of the crew would disembark and begin operations on the lunar surface, including deploying a rover which would, in the next few days, take them around the landing site. But for now, any exploration would have to wait as they brought multiple experiments online for their stay here at the edge of Shackleton.

Offline Daitō

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Re: The Voyagers
« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2022, 03:15:39 PM »
Part Six — Discovery
Shackleton Crater
UTC 0800
Flight Day 5


   "Tengu, Shinkyo, go for descent, over." CAPCOM said over the comms loop. The crew had spent the last day readying for this part of the mission, with a winch being set up on the crater edge to allow for the mission specialist, Taeko Akiyama, to climb down into the crater and perform a survey. With any luck, she would find evidence of ice—frozen water, as opposed to other kinds— down there past the frost line.
   "Shinkyo, Tengu. Go for descent, roger." Eijiro responded before passing on the message to his compatriot. "Taeko, Shinkyo says you are go for descent."
   "Got it, cap." Taeko said as she backed up towards the edge of the crater, her suit strapped to the rig by a harness so that, should she lose her grip, she wouldn't be lost. "Beginning my descent, over." She said as she activated the lights on her helmet. Below stretched the crater, 4.2 km deep and about twenty-one in diameter. It was like staring into a great void, owing to its location on the south pole.
   "Just a reminder, you've only got enough cable to go 200 meters down." Isao remarked over the comms. "Enough oxygen for it and the trip back to the lander too."
   "I know, I know. No need to remind me." Taeko retorted as she began her descent. It was a long way down, but if successful, the results would be well worth the risks involved.

Several minutes passed as she continued her descent into the crater. One wrong move was the difference between success and having to call it off for the day. There could be future efforts to head down into the crater; the crew still had three more days on the surface, including a mandatory rest period on the final day, so while it would be inconvenient, it wouldn't be disastrous. No, it would be disastrous if the suit got damaged... or the tether was severed. Only the light of her helmet allowed Taeko to see where she was. That and the silhouette of the crater against the stars above.
   "Taeko, Shinkyo wants you to know you are now about 185 meters down." Isao reported as he looked down into the crater, seeing the faint light of his fellow Uchūnaut.
   "Roger, 185 meters down. Continuing my descent." Taeko said as she scanned her surroundings, tool at hand just in case. After a moment, she would resume her descent. As she descended, she would keep her comrades informed of her situation. "Alright, should be reaching 190 momentarily."
   "Copy, 190 meters. Get ready to head back. We can try site B tomorrow." Eijiro said as he watched the instrumentation panel on the winch.
   "Roger, preparing for return." Taeko said, making one more sweep of the crater. "Beginning ascent." She said as something caught her eye; a reflection from her light not too far away. "Wait... What is that?"
   "What was what, Taeko?" Eijiro responded over the comms loop.
   "I... I'm seeing what looks like some kind of ice." Taeko said, making her way horizontally towards the tube. "Shinkyo, Tengu. Looks like we found what we came for. Proceeding with sample retrieval, over."
   "Roger, Taeko, discovery confirmed. Go with sample collection." CAPCOM responded over the loop.

A few seconds would pass, during which time Taeko would preform the sample collection. A quick strike with the back of the scoop to loosen up the site before actually collecting it. According to surveys taken in years passed, there was likely more further down, but it'd require more equipment to reach than could be provided for the mission. Still, this was undoubtedly a momentous discovery by the crew, confirming what had previously been speculated to exist in the crater and others around the moon. Once the collection was done, the sample would be stored in a specialized bag that would, upon return to the lander, be placed in a cooler to keep it from heating up.

   "Shinkyo, Tengu. Sample collection complete. Returning to the crater edge." Taeko said as she finally began her return.

Offline Daitō

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Re: The Voyagers
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2022, 02:29:38 PM »
Part Seven — Final Day on the Moon
Shackleton Crater
UTC 1000
Flight Day 8


It was the final day at Shackleton Crater, the final on the moon. Only a few hours remained before the crew of three would lift off from the surface, returning to Hinode and then to Mundus, to home. But even as the crew undertook the final procedures to ready for takeoff, there were a few things left to do. They had about nine hours before they had to leave, before they would rendezvous with their spacecraft and its sole occupant for the last five days. Most of the crew had their own tasks to complete, some required by the mission, others by their own will, after all, this could be their only chance.

Before they could actually do anything relating to their own personal tasks, however, they had to secure several experiments placed upon the lunar surface in the days prior. These would continue to perform their tasks even after the crew had departed, providing invaluable data about the lunar surface both for future missions and for the simple purpose of furthering mankind's pursuit of knowledge. When this was done, the crew would go their separate ways, although none of them would stray far from the LSAM.
The Photograph
UTC 1322


Eijiro, the mission's commander, had long been looking for opportunities to take a picture that would, in theory anyways, be seen as emblematic of the mission as a whole. While he wished his crewmate's descent into the permanently-shrouded Shackleton Crater could've been fit for it, that simply wasn't an option as if it were taken, it would only be a picture of the void, no better than the sky above. While Taeko had gotten footage of her discovery of ice in the crater, and it would undoubtedly fit the bill, he wanted something more... personal, in a way. Something that would speak to the great journey that they had undertaken, even if they weren't the first by a long shot. He spent some time thinking it over, looking up into the void and back at Mundus.

That was it. He could try and get a photo of Mundus from the surface. He would make his way to some of the equipment left over, the central station in fact, from which he would attempt to line up a good shot of himself. It took several tries, but eventually, he would produce the results he was looking for, a photo which captured the immense scale of the undertaking his crew had set out on and of mankind's place in the universe. Behind him, as he looked down at the central station, hung Mundus, so small, looking like a crescent moon. Part of the equipment reflected in his visor, which had a golden polish as was the standard. This. This moment encapsulated the mission for him; it gave him a newfound perspective on the world at large. So small, so fragile. It needed to be preserved, protected, with every single person who lived upon it.

He had found a new reason to live, more than just for discovery, but for humanity as a whole.
The Pin
UTC 1351

Taeko, for her part, spent the next few hours in quiet contemplation, reflecting on the events of the past eight days. Of how she and her crew had lifted off from the pad, of the voyage here, of the precarious landing that had brought them down. Quite the story for a first flight, she figured. She was sure everyone else back home did, anyways. She looked down at her hand, where a small silver pin attached to a piece of cloth rested in her grip. It was her "badge", something given to every uchūnaut upon their selection, something to be replaced upon their first flight. While many of her colleagues kept their original ones as a memento, she figured she would, at least for the time being, do something more unique than that. When it came time for her to be given her golden pin, recognizing her as having flown before, her old one would, like her old life, be left on the surface of the moon.

As she knelt to the lunar surface, she thought, for a moment at the very least, about everyone who had worked to get her and her crew here today. The hundreds of thousands who had worked on the program over the last eight years, who gave everything they had so that the crew of Ryū M-3 could spend but eight days on the lunar surface. She thought of her crew, most of whom had slipped the bonds of Mundus before and certainly would again. Yet here she was, on her first spaceflight, standing on the surface of the moon. In a way, she felt as though she didn't belong, as though she was unworthy of this position. And yet, she had made history by descending into Shackleton Crater and confirming the presence of water, albeit frozen, on the lunar surface with her very eyes. Her mind soon turned to the future, to missions within and beyond Mundus's sphere of influence. One day, a landing on Nergal may prove possible, but more pressingly given their location, she contemplated the future of the lunar program. While the technology was still years away, if there was to be a site worth establishing a base on the lunar surface, she thought, this would be the place for it. And as she placed her old pin on the surface, she figured that, when that day came, maybe she would come back to recover it.

Maybe one day.

Ascent
Tengu, Shackleton Crater
UTC 1900

With the crew now aboard the LSAM, they began preparing for takeoff. As one would expect, tensions were running high at this point, given that if they failed, they were pretty much stuck on the lunar surface with no chance of resupply for some time. While there was a vehicle in development to ensure that, should the engine fail to ignite, the crew would have the option to return home, it was still at least a few months away from being ready. For now, they just needed to focus on actually getting off the surface.
   "Tengu, you are go for liftoff." CAPCOM said over the comms loop as the crew made their final checks on the spacecraft prior to ascent. It was certain to be a bumpy ride, but that came with the job.
   "Roger, Shinkyo." Eijiro said before turning to Isao. "Alright, Isao. You ready?"
   "Yeah, I'm ready." Isao replied as the commander turned to a panel on his left.
   "Right, engine arm on." He said as he flicked a switch on a panel. "Hiroki, if you're reading me, we'll be seeing you soon. Mind keeping the lights on?"
   "Roger, Ebashi-san." Haruki, who had remained in the Command Module, said in a light-hearted manner over comms.
   "Alright, abort stage." The commander said as he pressed a button on the panel in front of him. While it was used during descent to, as the name suggested, abort the landing and return, once on the surface it'd allow them to separate from the descent stage.
   "Got it, engine arm ascent." Isao said as he checked the flight plan.
   "Engine arm ascent. Lets light this candle." Eijiro said as he flicked the switch for it. Now, for the moment of truth. He held his breath for a moment as he looked at the lever to actually start the engine. "Ignition." He said, pushing the lever. The cabin began to rumble as the engine started to burn, and soon, they were in flight. "Tengu has wings, over." He said over comms. Within a few hours, the spacecraft would dock with the command module and the crew would be on their way home.