Thursday, July 16, 2015

Lightning Sketch - The Heart of Pluto

My tiny vessel has been executing a series of corrective micro-spins to keep the flat side facing the solar winds. Three years ago, one of my orienting thrusters was knocked about by interstellar debris. The geniuses back home figured out how I could navigate to the nearest terrestrial body that lined up close enough to my trajectory. My speed is now decided by the winds that I catch; which by the time I get to my landing spot may have me well under, or well over, the desired speed. This will be a risky landing with a predicted probability of success between 3 and 8 percent. It beats the odds of zero percent though if I stay floating in space and end up flying through the Kuiper belt without functional guidance. For a spot of humor, I renamed my vessel to Space Swiss Cheese. It’s a little fatalistic but reminds me that it’s all out of my hands at this point.
               As for landing on the surface, and surviving, I’ve been told, through personal messages that were sent when the ops chief wasn’t looking, that Vegas bookies are taking 4,000:1 odds against, with some putting it at 10,000:1. There are so many things to consider: speed, weight, rotation of the planet, amount of fuel, structural integrity of the hull and the solar wings, and the fact that I have no landing gear since this section wasn’t meant to operate by itself. I hear that I missed an orbital slingshot by a month, which would’ve put me back on a course toward Earth, which would’ve given the brains back home some time to plan a rescue.
               The plan? Land intact, optimize the vessel’s life support capabilities, absolutely do not expose myself to the atmosphere, partly because I technically don’t enough water to last 10 years, waiting for my rescue team, so any exposure will release priceless moisture and I’ll never get that water back; on top of that, I have to share this water with the plants that I’m supposed to grow. The other half of my diet will consist of meat proteins reconstituted from my own waste.
               I look out and can see a tiny dot, and I know that somewhere on that dot is where I will land, on the plains in the heart of Pluto.

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