I fashioned a small pod, mostly out of paper and aluminum, as per the instructions from a kit. The trip there was exciting, until we passed orbit range (it seated two), when it became alarmingly clear that we were in space in a ball of paper and aluminum, and would probably die soon, quickly, and painfully. “Shit, this was a really stupid idea.”
Space travel apparently fosters a kind of delirium, and at one point I almost stepped out of the pod for “my first spacewalk,” eerily placid, until my co-pilot stopped me, thank god.
I arrived in the middle of the night. The moon base was very much like an airport, men with flashlights guiding me to the terminal. Even the insides, filled with rows of grey, plastic seats, mostly empty due to the late hour, but marked by the occasional woman thumbing idly through a magazine, looking up at me briefly as I passed. “Aww,” I thought. “Astronauts’ wives.”
The moon had been colonized for what felt like probably 10 or 15 years. Everyone there worked there, like I’d imagine Antarctica to be. Once outside the station, I found myself in a concrete plaza, with benches, a pedestrian street, some small shops and restaurants, by the look of things. Seemingly desolate beyond a block or two away. Small amenities. Dozens of people out enjoying the warm, artificial atmosphere. I looked up and saw Earth, fully illuminated by the sun.
I was giddy with pride that I had made it here myself. I approached a family eating ice cream, struck up a conversation. “Have you been here before?” “Yeah, you know, a couple times.” Nonchalant. “Would you believe me if I told you I got here in a pod I made myself?” Disinterested, incredulous, polite laughter.
The return trip was a bit more harrowing. I remember it being loud and painful; it required that I sever some wires connected to nodes grafted onto my skin, each snip producing a vague, metallic, dizzy, nauseous kind of pain. Alarms were sounding, I didn’t think my pod would hold up. I must have blacked out, and soon I was parachuting down into the Pacific.
A week or so later I told Ben and Jon about my trip, and invited them on another. We made it up there with no problems, hung out in the plaza in the sunlight. Looking up, construction was being done on a kind of stained-glass balloon, a big sphere in a stylized, color-saturated tribute to Earth, meant to inspire, I intuited, a reverence for all we had accomplished as a species.
Suddenly, a small firebomb was hurled unsuccessfully at a security helicopter, when we realized that the political climate on the moon was unstable, and that we had to leave before things got ugly.
We raced down dark flights of stairs, hurried but not frightened, though I didn’t have faith in my ability to get us back and was beginning to panic. “Guys, I should tell you, sorry I didn’t tell you earlier, but, getting back is kinda hard, I almost didn’t make it last time, I’m not sure we’ll be able to do it, and even if we do I know it’ll be really uncomfortable, I’m sorry.” I did feel guilty. But I guess the adrenaline got me through it, and before we knew it we were tumbling safely down a chute into the basement of some facility back on Earth.
I woke up around 5:30am, still brimming with pride at what I had done.