The Dangers of Space

Excerpt from “Above a Whisper” (Nanowrimo 2016)

“I remember one of the required books we had to read back when I enlisted in the program. ‘The Dangers of Space.’ That thing is decades old, but it still rings true:

‘There are many things that can go wrong in space. In fact, this book would be shorter if I listed the things that wouldn’t go wrong. Since space is a vacuum, you would assume that there’s nothing out there that can hurt you. On the contrary, it opens up an infinite universe of things that can and will hurt you.

Earth is the sole place in the universe we know of that can naturally support our particular type of life-form. Yet, there are forces of nature that can still harm us. Weather, volcanoes, earthquakes. The ocean is deeper than the tallest mountain and would be untraversable by even the most fortuitous of men. On Earth, the number of people who have lived and died in the entirety of history outnumbers the number of people living right now. Yet, the Earth is still infinitely safer than space. It is our caretaker, keeping us us safe from the dangers that exist outside our atmosphere.

In order to be prepared for space, you must expect the unexpected. If something can go wrong, it will. You have to know how to fix it, because if you hesitate and expect someone else will be able to fix it, it will already be too late…’” Cecil’s scripted-sounding monologue trailed off. He looked at Alika with a smirk.

“Well done. My grandfather told me about how they used to televise everything about the space race all those decades ago. He told me how one of the old-model space shuttles, the big white ones, burned up in our atmosphere in a giant fireball. The Columbia. All seven crew members died.”

“Back then NASA was in the public eye; everyone was in it for the knowledge, and they did so on a relatively more manageable budget. In the last decades, they’ve had to spend more and more money to keep up, the make sure that their endeavors go to plan. They don’t tell anyone anything, because then the public can only believe that everything is going A-Okay.
Tell me, did you or anyone hear about my accident?” Cecil pointed at his face.

“No. Not a thing.” Alika avoided his gaze.

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