Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Episodic Music: The Great Red Eye Part IV


In the year 2900, mankind had reached the beyond the orbits of Neptune and Pluto on their slow march to the stars.  The Second Great Space age of man was coming to a close and massive shipyards were being completed on the skirts of the planetary solar system preparing for man's imminent exit to the unknown.  Finally, mankind was ready to set sail on the cosmic ocean.

Not a day passed, however, that didn't see every man, woman and child look towards the Sun, straining to catch a glimpse of a mote of dust, caught in some mighty beam of light.  Hoping to see that pale blue dot, one more time.

Image is of Earth, from the Pluto orbit, called "the pale blue dot."  Carl Sagan penned an essay by the same name, which is used in this piece of music.  Please learn more about Mr. Sagan's work and make a donation to the Planetary Society today!


Track is available for free download here!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Episodic Music: The Great Red Eye Part III


Luna, our mistress

After the loss of Devin Langshire in 2653 the human race waited and tested for another ten years before trying to launch another man into orbit. This time, the entire event went off perfectly and Captain Bashir Alvarez became the first man in nearly half a millennia to successfully orbit the Earth, before splashing down safely in the Indian Ocean.

Alvarez and his development team based in Australia then proposed and began leading the effort to return man to the moon – and not just for a visit. Mankind knew, thanks to the vast amounts of history stored in the Vaults, that we had visited the moon several times in the past and had countless legends about our nighttime companion. Entire religious mythologies, pseudo-science arenas and even popular entertainment in the form of movies and rock music in the 20th Century all dedicated themselves to Luna, our mistress.

The initial set of proposals were ambitious: establish a permanent, self sustaining base on the moon by 2690 with a rotating population. Each Vault agreed to take a set of problems from the goal and solve them independently, if possible. Food, fuel, water, radiation shielding, shelter, habitat design/construction, and the logistics of how to get it all to the moon in the first place. In 2672 the initial equipment launches began when the first non-test flight of the Roman I freight rocket. Transporting heavy digging equipment from the familiar-looking lunar backhoe to the exotic of the newly engineered Lunar Tunneling Drill.

The Tunneling Drill (often called Touchdown by the design engineers due to the abbreviation of “TD” used in shorthand notes) was half of the main habitat building module specifically designed to allow for quick excavation with minimal human input. Weighing in at 15 tons, the drill will sit face down on the surface of the moon and, after being secured with the scaffolding to be place by human hands, will begin it's journey below the ancient surface. Each turn of the drill itself brings the regolith and other debris up a corkscrew conveyor which leads to the top exterior of the alpha base tent, spraying it in a radial pattern around the tent to create a slight bunker around the base itself. Once the TD has reached a depth of 3 meters, the gyroscopes mechanically shift and the drill begins turning into it's horizontal position, using vacuum suction, air pressure and a series of track gears to push the drill forward.

If the Touchdown drill was to accomplish its mission, it relied on the much more complex and impressive Regolith Automatic Metallic Arranger, named in honor of the first Vault discovered in India. The RAMA machine was designed to follow directly behind TD, using scraps of metal from earth and the geology of the moon to seal the drilled tunnel using a plasma heat generator and the most powerful, perfectly balanced pressure pistons ever created by man. RAMA helped to ensure stronger radiation resistance, a seal from the toxic cosmic vacuum and a support structure for the habitation tunnels themselves.

2690 arrived just as the drill began it's horizontal journey, the last and longest of the drilling process. The human colony that had been living in temporary quarters in the Alpha Base tent (except in the case of emergency solar flares, at which point the tunnel was flooded with breathable air and the machines placed in standby mode) finally made the permanent move underground in 2694, as “Touchdown” and RAMA were finally powered down.
In 2760, the declining health of Sir Bashir Alvarez forced him to leave his home planet. The time he had spent in space and on the moon had done enough damage that his nearly 130 year old body could no longer thrive in the gravity of Earth. In 2783, at the age of 150, Bashir Alvarez became the first person entombed on the moon.

Before his death, Alvarez helped lay the groundwork for a grid of buried power cables linking the Earth side to the Far side of the moon, onto which kilometers of solar arrays were placed, allowing for use of non-essential energy consumption during the long lunar nights (including more aggressive farming), when all the colonists could see was the Earth. Construction on the grid was rumored to have inspired the anonymous Hymn, “Earthrise,” which quickly became the unofficial anthem of the lunar colony. The Translunar Power (or 'Bashir') grid was turned on with few hiccups in 2790, creating man's first permanent home in space.

Europa, icy tomb

While construction and scientific research continued and blossomed on the Moon at the beginning of the 28th Century, the earth-based authorities began focussing on the question that started the entire space-race: are we alone? The Alvarez Foundation in Australia were given the resources and authority to continue the Luna project and the remaining resources trained their crosshairs onto Europa. In 2710, the Europan lander the Santa Maria landed and began it's melt through the icy surface.

The lander's main platform anchored itself to the thick ice surrounding it and dropped a pill shaped piece of metal the size of an industrial refrigerator, attached with an impossible thin cable to the lander itself. Glowing red, the metal pill slowly began its descent through the frozen surface of this alien world. All seven Houston Controls were inundated either gathering or analyzing new data being sent continuously via a complex relay of solar system satellite way stations. For nearly a week the hot pill slowly melted downwards, giving up no signs of life or ocean.

Shortly after one week had passed since the melting began, the data drastically shifted as the probe's external temperature dropped without warning. As the scientists back on Earth held their breath, the hot pill cracked open, and a tiny automated submarine (to which the thin cable was actually attached) emerged, slowly coming to life. Cheers of jubilation erupted in control rooms across the world as the predictions made centuries ago proved true – Europa was a water world.

Early picture transmissions from the Santa Maria were featureless black, leading engineers to fear that either the cameras or the lights had malfunctioned, even though the spec readings of the probe itself were all optimal. The tiny submarine robot began it's dive towards the bottom, dispensing more of the thin cable from inside its shell to maintain direct connection with the surface. Three hours after being born into the frigid Europan Ocean, the submarine component of the Santa Maria changed the human perspective forever – a wisp of debris rushed into the light of the camera which had been working the entire time. The realization that there was simply nothing to reflect the light initially gave way to relieved sighs, until the cause of the debris swam past the submarine, never taking notice.

Europa was a world of life.

Twenty four hours after man's first glimpse of alien life, the Santa Maria finally discovered the first volcanic vent - the hypothesized source of energy for all Europan lifeforms - and the view was both spectacular, and stunningly familiar. Worm-like plants heaved and gyrated in the volcanic heat, as tiny shrimp-like creatures flurried about eating something invisible to the eyes of the camera. As the view of the Euroshrimp became clearer, their physical appearance was disturbing: while their shell was transparent like many deep sea creatures on Earth, the top half of the crustacean was shaped like that of a man with no face: two arms on a rectangular torso, topped by a neck and 'head' which had no eyes, and only an mouth at it's top. The thing had 'hands' with four main fingers and two rows of thumbs on each hand.

Small samples of the surrounding water were tested and confirmed that these life forms were carbon based. Within 36 hours, the first strand of DNA of isolated and the world was turned on it's head: this life may have been from a similar 'seed' as life on earth. That, or life simply has fewer paths than had previously been assumed.

In 2770, the first of the modified and updated TD and RAMA equipment landed on Europa, near the Santa Maria, and began the slow work on creating a livable environment for mankind to lay down roots outside of the Earth system for the first time. Additional probes were sent (after the Santa Maria discovered life) to analyze the natural resources and found trenches of metal from impacts that had yet to be swallowed by the icy world. A predictable amount of trace metal in the ice itself was also discovered, becoming more concentrated in deeper cuts of ice. Using the lessons learned from the moon and the more abundant resources on Europa first human settlement on the moon of Jupiter was officially founded in 2800.

The first humans to settle began immediately studying the biological aspects of this new world. After the first 90 days of scientific preparation, an average of 300 alien species a day were being cataloged. The amount of data gained was going to take the greatest minds on Earth decades to digest and analyze – and the scientists making the discoveries were beyond celebrity – they were the paragons of the age.

When lead biologist Shari Cho took ill six months after arriving, no one gave it a second thought. Per protocol, she was quarantined to her personal quarters and lab, where she continued her work seamlessly. Her symptoms grew progressively worse over the next week by which time half a dozen other members of the colony had been quarantined for wildly different symptoms.

As the illness spread quickly through the settlement, the scientists on Europa, Earth and Luna all worked feverishly on the data to discover what was causing all of these varied sicknesses. In all of their hubris and joy over finding life on the hostile Europa, mankind had overlooked the most important lesson: life was opportunistic.
Shorty after mankind arrived, an otherwise benign alien bacteria found its way into the living and work areas of the colony. After infecting its first human, the bacteria quickly began multiplying in the new, much friendlier environment. Each new generation grew more aggressive, slowly destroying its host – but each time the infection spread, it destroyed its host differently, but always at the same pace. Fifteen days after her first symptoms appeared, Shari Cho died in a fit of screaming psychosis, exclaiming that she was burning away.

Once the video images of her gruesome death leaked to the settlement at large, and then to Earth, panic ensued. Demands were made to send emergency help from Luna to Europa with medical aid. Each day brought more death to the settlement. Petty Officer Daniel Rogby was elected to represent the ailing and dying Europan population, as he had yet to develop any symptoms and was thought to have some natural immunity. The devastation was that much more complete when Rogby died mid-sentence while trying to finalize a deal with the command on Luna to send emergency aid.

On February 9, 2801 the Earth and Luna command issued their final stance on the issue: no aid would be sent to Europa. By the summer of 2801, Europa was nothing more to humanity than icy tomb.

Titan, methane seas

Odyssey I, II and III science probes were launched in three successive months in the year 2775 bound for Ganymede, Iapetus and Titan, respectively. With the massive success of the Luna colony and the promise of the colony on Europa the exploration of the other massive satellites began in earnest with the Odyssey program. Each probe was outfitted with complete science laboratory, as well as deployable all terrain automated vehicles to explore more than the immediate landing zone. Soil and rock sampling kits and hardware like drill bits helped to ascertain the composition of the moons.

The first mining operations were set up on Ganymede and Iapetus to gather a ranger of silicate rock and minerals in 2780. Often, the materials were launched off planet to orbital processing facilities designed to refine and ship the materials to the rotating lagrangian space station near Titan, established during the initial stages of the resource gathering.

Odyssey III's mission to Titan had hoped to find life, but was met with the chemical precursors of life seemingly stuck due to the inability of the chemicals to dissolve into liquid methane. There was, however, more slow burning fuel than another other visited body in the solar system – and an atmosphere thicker than the Earth's. Plan to colonize the bizarre world began in 2795 with plans to launch the first TD and RAMA machines at the end of 2801. Full human occupation of the icy world was set to begin in 2807, but was postponed indefinitely after the world witnessed the slow demise of every member of the Europan colony early in the year.

Finally, in the year 2812 the new Automatic Tunneling Metallic Arranger, which was more a compact, faster and more powerful tool that acted as a combination of both the TD and RAMA devices used on the Moon and Europa, was launched towards the distant world of Titan. Exactly three months after the launch of ATMA, the Abraham science lab was launched from the the new Houston base on the moon. The Abraham itself was designed to gather samples of local minerals, gasses and quasi-organic material and expose it to several types of human biological material, cataloging all responses.


By the middle of 2816, the first human crew to travel to Europa was being assembled despite some pleas from the public to abandon the project. Replaying the footage from the Europan catastrophe and audio of Devin Langshire's fateful mission next to images of the Titan Cruiser waiting in orbit around the moon. The public outcry was outstanding, despite the many assurances from the Houston collective that there were absolutely zero potential infectious agents that have been detected in the Titan atmosphere or soil.

The date set for departure of the Titan Cruiser (itself a fully operative living module that will land permanently on the surface of the moon) approached with the public outrage building to a fever pitch. Leaders were pictured as sadistic and the cosmonaut crew were framed as ignorant lambs being lead to slaughter. Worse, the idea that the cosmonauts could bring back some mankind ending disease spread through society like a spark to a dry tender box. When June 15, 2817 finally arrived after months of sometimes violent, the crew boarded the craft and awaited command from Earth to ignite their engines and set sail.

For six hours, the crew of thirty men and thirty women, sat restlessly listening to the authorities bicker back and forth about public opinion and budget wastage. Finally, three hours before the launch window was to close, the call came to the Titan Cruiser's crew, “Titan Cruiser 00-1A-38, this is mission control, Luna,” the voice crackled through the cabin of the bridge. “Commence vehicle shutdown and depressurization – you're not going anywhere.” For a full minute, all sixty men and women that had trained and prepared for years for this moment sat in stunned silence. They would likely never see Titan.

“Titan Cruiser 00-1A-38, please confirm orders and comply,” the growingly impatient voice on the other end of the radio tether called out again. Bridge Commander Daphne Colbert stood from her seat at the helm of the ship and turned to the crew without word. She scanned the faces she had trained with in complete isolation for over a year – these were her family and she was their leader. “We have been ordered to abandon our mission. To not explore. To not push forward,” she started brokenly to her crew. She breathed deep and steadied herself as the crew looked to her for direction.

“As I see it,” Commander Colbert said with a steely gaze coming over her eyes, “we have been ordered to disobey.” The crew erupted in a jubilant cheers as the radio buzzed back to life - “Commander Colbert – why have you not responded? We are sending a boarding party in case your communications system isn't working properly, even though all systems read normal. I don't know wh-” the voice stopped suddenly. “COMMANDER COLBERT, I ORDER YOU TO CEASE YOUR ACTION IMMEDIATELY!” a stronger voice barked across the radio as the ship began it's launch maneuvers. “This will be seen as treason, Daphne!” the voice continued.

“Commander?” first engineer nervously asked the expressionless woman, trying to read her thoughts. “Set course for Titan,” she responded evenly.


In the year 2825, relations between the rogue colony of Titan and the Earth system had resumed and started to level off. The Titanians had technically stolen the Titan Cruiser against orders and had landed on the surface of the Saturnian moon without the support from Luna or Earth – but they had thrived.
The thick atmosphere of Titan enabled humans to walk outside without the need for pressure suits. Combined with the low gravity, the colonist quickly realized with 'wings' strapped to their arms (and a fair amount of practice) the thick air allowed them to 'swim' into the air and fly without the aid of engines or additional aircraft. When regular trade and relations resumed in 2830, the Titanians had already developed a series of basic human flight equipment, self sustaining subterranean hydroponic farming and flight bikes used for traveling long distances at altitude with minimal energy input.

Incoming engineering students from the Earth system streamed in with ideas and designs for structures impossible on Earth. Floating platforms, giant steps, precariously positioned pillars and other mind bending structures quickly covered the 100 square miles the colony had come to cover by 2840 after the surge of immigration. The New Olympic games officially opened in 2844 and saw human from the Earth, Luna, Titan and the Iapetus and Ganymede mining operations come together in the name of sport for the first time in over five hundred years.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Episodic Music: The Great Red Eye Part II

Maiden Voyage and the first man to Jupiter

After the discovery of the first Vault in India, the information quickly disseminated into the local communities - where the first reforms of technology where instituted to help with farming and living conditions. Water sanitation was the most urgent need, followed by mechanical processes to ease farming and basic electricity enabling easier travel at night as well as more expansive subterranean exploration.

Each community volunteered their brightest children to be immersed in the new information at the pre-designed learning modules included in each of the vaults. There were detailed instructions (in each of the three most prevalent local languages) on how to power these modules with the remaining batteries, or by using methods such as solar and wind supplies. Diplomatic exploratory teams were sent around the continent to the other Vault locations as mapped out in the Vault named for the Indian Epic hero, Rama.

By the year 2480 all but the Vaults of the America's had been discovered and preliminary long distance voice communications had been established in each of the seven major population centers, now located near each Vault (or its reported location). The Vault of the Central South America was discovered in 2483 which had recorded unusual tectonic disturbances near Central America. After nearly a decade of searching, the final Vault was discovered in 2492, nearly a mile further underground than previously thought, as a massive cavern had opened during the quake recorded in 2350.

The 26th Century saw unprecedented technological growth and advancement. Each step forward, each new breakthrough, aided by the fountains of knowledge that were the Vaults, brought mankind closer to the heavens – and their eyes were universally cast upward. 

They had finally accepted their destiny.

In 2620, the first unmanned science satellite was launched into low earth orbit. The M-0 series rocket had been designed to allow small observational payloads to be thrown into space for fairly cheap. It had taken the engineering teams at each of the seven Houston bases (the name “Houston” was decided upon as the name for all Earth-Based space command centers in homage to the pioneers of extra-planetary exploration) nearly a decade to complete the first acceptable design of the M-0 series rocket.

Naming the craft was a much easier task. In following suit with the First Age of space exploration, they decided to dig into mythology and choose a figure that would best symbolize the splitting of the gulf between near extinction and our return to the infinite; the Moses Class 0 rocket returned the first view of a distant hurricane from space that any living human had ever seen on July 15, 2621.

By 2653, the yearn to reestablish man's physical presence had become to much. The M-1 rocket, originally designed for larger scientific loads, had be refitted for the first human orbit of the Earth in over three hundred and fifty years.

The airlock sealed shut and the quick hiss of the last bits of air escaping the pod echoed in Captain Devin Langshire’s ears for far longer than he had expected. His last moments on the planet Earth were fast approaching, not that he knew.

He checked and rechecked his ship’s systems and fail safes. Triplet. Check everything in triplets,” he whispered to himself as he went over his pre-launch checklist. His entire life had built to this moment: mans’ return to space. The Great War that dominated the latter half of the 21st century had set back progress into the cosmos almost to the point of starting over from scratch. Entire populations were wiped out between the constant fighting and the coast lines across the globe slowly pulling back as the oceans reclaimed land that had been dry for millennia.

The warm hum of Devin’s radio fizzed to life before the even voice on the other end reiterated the launch angle, mission time and estimate time the pod would crash back into the Indian Ocean after a quick orbit of the Earth. In his mind, Devin went through the checklist of preparation that had been rehearsed to the point of each movement being as natural as breathing.

Launch angle verified, Houston. Pre-atmospheric ejection process complete – commence countdown,” the Captain called back to the disembodied voice. Time to re-make history, he thought quietly to himself has his heart rate quickened slightly. The cosmos was still patiently waiting, even more than 500 years after man had first tasted her sweet and terrifying glory directly. This time, he continued to himself, this time, we’ll do it right.

A jolt shook him from his musings as the mechanical claws clamping his enclosed reality, his eternal tomb, pulled back to expose the entirety of his craft - poised to slingshot its way through the thin veil of Earth’s atmosphere. “Ten.”

The countdown was thunderous. “Nine.” Each number ticked by like an eternity unwinding slowly before the dawning of everything. “Eight.” Each number thrusting Langshire irreversibly towards his fantastically terrible fate. “Seven.” Each number echoing through time in what would be the last real human language the Captain would ever hear while on Earth. “Six.” History would be made – not only would Devin be the first man to space in several centuries, he would be the first human in history to visit another planet. “Five.”




His heart stopped the moment before launch was declared. His brain screamed “ONE! ONE! ONE! ONE!” over and over at his reality, standing still in the shadow of years of training and preparation for this last inevitable event, yearning for the resolution.

One,” the deadpan announcer erupted from the mounted speaker in Devin’s helmet, shaking him to his core and catching him at his most unaware in years. He stiffened his body by instinct before he was pushed violently into his seat. The rush of air outside his enclosure roared as the rumbling jets shook his body wildly. With his eyes fixed on the bright blue sky, he found himself fast becoming nauseated from his violently shaking field of view. Pulling himself further into his seat with his arm bars to lessen the vibrating, he forced his eyes closed for the first sixty seconds of thrust to allow his body to adjust to the sudden change in conditions.

He couldn’t move his head to watch the Earth sink below, but the slow purposeful tumble of the ship turned him upside down as he exited the hold of his home’s gravity. The oceans, glistening in the light of the sun, swept together with the massive white clouds that smeared themselves across the surface. Cities and countries faded into a mass of land as the sun was approaching the opposite horizon, preparing to set as he settled into orbit.

His chest heaved as his eyes widened and sweat poured from his brow. The burnt remnants of Sri Lanka struck him from this height, as the scorched black islands made themselves abundantly clear against the deep blue of the Indian Ocean and sweeping greens and browns of India into the white of the Himalayas.

Devin absorbed all he could – the sensations of lift off, the color of the burning plasma, the blue sky fading into the black of space and the great monster of the moon swinging slowly overhead. Briefly, he tore himself from the splendor which no human had seen for almost half a millennium to radio his current position and speed back to Houston. His descent would begin shortly, he reassured himself, time to enjoy the view while I can.

Houston to Captain Langshire, Houston to Captain Langshire,” the sudden and slightly frantic call rang across the air in the pod. “This is Captain Langshire,” he responded automatically, never dreaming that something could go wrong. “Captain – can you confirm your trajectory?” Devin sighed to himself and checked rechecked his diagnostics to confirm. “Houston, I repeat, we are currently settling in at -17.0 MJ/kg….” He stopped abruptly as the number jumped to -17.1 Mj/kg, then -17.5, eventually to -25.0 Mj/kg. The trajectory of -25.0 Mj/kg seemed to hold steady. “-25.0 Mj/kg,” he announced finally, with an air of absentminded confidence. “Captain…” the voice on the other end start, gravely before trailing off.

The weight of the situation finally dawned on the Captain. I must be wrong, he thought checking again and again. What am I missing? Langshire checked his maps and calculations, he pushed the panic down as he began re-estimating and confirming that his trajectory couldn’t be right – he should be in low earth orbit now, starting his descent – but as it stands he’s going to skip right off the atmosphere and simply drift away.

Captain,” the trembling voice on the other end of that awful squawking box cut into the deafening ringing in Langshire’s ears bringing him back to his training – to his purpose. 

Houston,” he began somewhat unsteadily before strongly reasserting himself, “my calculations tell me that my orbit will continually widen until I reach the moon. Could I use the reserve landing thruster to go into lunar orbit? My pod's first aid kit contains an emergency biostablizer which should incapacitate my metabolism for up to four days. If we fire the thrusters at the right time, I could slingshot back into Earth orbit and possible re-enter.” The silence in the pod was deafening as the moments seemed to stretch into nothingness as Devin's eye's drifted back longingly towards his home; Earth.

Captain Langshire,” came a strong voice over the radio minutes later. “Captain Langshire – this is Lead Engineer Gupta of Houston Command.” A surprisingly warm smile forced itself onto Devin's face at the sound of his dear friend Amit Gupta. They had been working together since early in their adolescence when they began their cosmonaut training as one of the thirty match pairs of theoretical and practical learners. “Captain, your calculations are sound. If we time the blast of the emergency reserve engine, you can enter a return course...” his voice trailed off in an unfamiliar fashion. 

Something was wrong.

Devin,” Amit dropped all pretense of professionalism, “We just detected a massive ejection from the Sun. The particles will reach the Earth in a little less than 36 hours. It will reach your craft before you reach the Moon... Your pod has essentially no shielding... Our estimations show that you will die immediately once it reaches you... I'm... I'm so sorry, Devin... we failed...”

The radio transmissions fell silent for many minutes. The fate of the first man to reach space since the Great War sank in across the world. Inside his private pod, his coffin, his tomb, Devin Langshire steadied his nerves and and breathed. “Houston,” he began after more than 15 minutes of almost complete silence. “What went wrong?” He felt oddly calm and detached has his old friend came back with his astonished explanation, “Devin, it seems there was a miscalculation. The M-1 series rocket's science module was replaced with the habitation module as planned.”

Langshire interrupted by habit, “and the mass of each module was calculated to be exactly equal per pound of thrust – how could have there been a mistake?” “Right,” Amit came back with his usual cadence, pretending not to notice the incursion, “but the thrusters calibration didn't account for the extra thrust per pound of fuel – the new, more stable, fuel was too light... We made a mistake. Someone made a mistake...” he continued, his composure again deteriorating into frustration.

If only -”

Don't.” Captain Langshire stopped his friend and colleague firmly. “If I use 24 hours of my biostablizer, will you be able to calculate my extended trajectory by the time I revive?”

I think, Devin, but that would leave you little time, we must try to -”

Amit,” the previously stoic Captain interrupted once more, finally allowing his affection to show through, “my fate is written. Gupta, you have been my partner for as long as I care to remember, and we have done exactly as we trained for years to do. I hate that I won't see your face again, but this is it. Earth won't be my tomb. But I would like to know where I may be headed...

I am not the first to die for the noble cause of human exploration. Not the first, and we all know damn well that I won't be the last. My life now belongs to the cosmos – and it's the responsibility of you – of all mankind to ensure none of this was in vain! These stars – they call to us! We must, in the words left to us by the Saganites of Hypatia, not only dip our toes into this cosmic ocean, but navigate it's currents and deserts! Chart its depths! Never stop - never give up in our quest to uncover all of this Universe's secrets! Our survival depends on it!”

Before Lead Engineer Gupta or Earth could respond, Captain Langshire activated exactly 24 hours of biostablizer slipping into a metabolically stable coma.

He awoke, groggily 24 hours later as if no time had passed. He balked at himself for thinking it had really been 24 hours – it was never easy to accept, even after years of training. Three minutes after awaking, the hailing beacon on his radio came suddenly to life, jolting him harshly back into his bizarre reality. He activated the communication module and began transmitting his computer's log back to Earth. The computers had been collecting data dispassionately throughout the crisis.

At least they didn't forget the mission, Devin thought to himself as the data streamed back to Earth, blocking active communication with Houston for at least another seven to eight hours. Despite his bravado in his previous interactions, he was not looking forward to the next conversation. The fact was that it would be the last human voice he would ever hear – the last interaction with his home. He wasn't ready.

After the final bit of data had left his pod, Devin steeled himself. There was no more turning back or delay. This was it.

Good morning, Captain,” began a strangely familiar voice from the other side of his invisible radio tether with Houston. “This is Prime Minister Talbot III, how are you son?” “Sir!” Captain Langshire responded immediately, saluting and doing is best to sit at 'attention.' “No need for formalities, Devin,” the Prime Minister continued “I wanted to thank you for your sacrifice... and to give you the news.”

Captain Langshire thought he was going to vomit. He looked out towards the Earth – that beautiful blue marble in the black sky. He knew every living person on that planet was looking skyward, towards him. He knew he was, somehow, humanities first emissary to the beyond. With this he breathed in deeply, strongly and rallied his spirits. “Yes, sir, Rufus,” calling the Prime Minister by his rarely used first name. With a smirk he added “What's my heading?”

He could hear the conflicted smile in the Prime Minister's reply: “Congratulations, Captain Devin Langshire. You will be the first human being to ever breach the atmosphere of the gas giant, Jupiter. We have also recalculated the arrival of the radiation... It will arrive at your location in roughly one hour.”

The final words seemed to echo through his pod endlessly. There was no parade, no news interviews, no celebrity, no pomp. His name would be spoken for ages beyond - as the first man to give his life in the second age of man for the sake of reaching the stars. The first man 'entombed' on an alien world. Not that any of that mattered. Soon after he received the news, his radio transmitter failed as the first wave of cosmic rays and magnetic interference destroyed the electronics of is pod.

He looked intently towards the Earth. As every inch of his being stretched for that distant world the light in the cabin brightened blindingly as his consciousness slowly darkened.

Captain Devin Langshire, World Medal of Honor recipient then knew no more.