3… 2… 1… Launch Successful!
“Ei baba shono!!!” Abhigyan shrieked at 3 o’clock in the morning jumping off his humble stool, eyes still stuck to the TV set. His father Rajkarna, came out of the washroom with an anxious, pale face, rubbing his eyes which looked rather jarred and sleepy.
“Yes dad, We made it!!!” Abhigyan tells his father , exchanging happiness, something that was happening in most of the millions of households of the country.
Very soon, the PM addressed the nation from the barracks of ISRO, congratulating the team and countrymen on the successful launch of Mangalyaan 13. Three of the nation’s most experienced and celebrated astronauts Ravish Malhotra, Shawnya Tewari and Mrityunjay Sharma had taken off to make history for mankind.
It has been 198 days since the take off, and the astronauts knew the wait was nearing the end. They had entered the Martian trajectory for landing. The atmospheric entry was about to begin and the touchdown was about seven minutes later. There was a huge amount of tension in the ambience of the spacecraft and all the three astronauts exchanged exasperated, tensed looks and yet a sense of accomplishment was beaming right through their gleaming
eyes. An exchange of OK on fingers and moving ahead. Two minutes left for the touchdown. The spacecraft made the final manoeuvre.
There was anxiety on earth, specially with all the media speculation. Thirty seconds left to go. Mangalyan hovered above the Martian land for a few seconds. 2 seconds… Touchdown!
The payload opened up a parachute and big balloons were covering it, absorbing the tension and supporting it from the impact. The balloons burst and the payload opened up, revealing the spacecraft cabin housing the threesome. After scores of minutes of stabilizing, the moment seemed closer.
The legs came out of the payload and anchored it to the Martian soil. There was silence and the three astronauts followed some protocol, dictated steps and after almost an hour, the go ahead was taken for opening the machine and entering the Martian soil.
Ravish took to the padlock and gave a thumbs up to Shawnya to go up to the door to make the exit. Behind her was Mrityunjay. And the moment came and the doors opened. Wearing the spacesuit, with the oxygen helmet, Shawnya opened the gate and the automatic stairs opened and anchored it to the soil.
After a moment of uncertainty, Shawnya made a circumspect step onto the red, rocky and dry terrain. Shawnya took the first step making history as now all the future mars explorers would follow in her footsteps. As they all came out, they took a moment to take in the stunning scenery, red soil which gave the planet its name and a dazzling sky with different hues of red and orange.
Shawnya looked at Mrityunjay and chuckled, “The scenery here is quite ‘breathtaking’ and when I say that, I mean it quite literally.” showing the action as though she was removing the oxygen
As the instructions came pouring in their headgear, the team got down to executing the strategic and scheduled steps. They started taking out there analysis equipment and distributed it among themselves. All of them went in different directions knowing that no time could be wasted as they had a window of eighteen hours of work. Ravish and Mrityunjay compiled samples of rocks, stones, soil and other elements of nature while Shawnya set up the weather studying apparatus.
After about seventeen hours of research, the Martian expedition was closing on the time allotted on the surface and the astronauts were wrapping up their work. Shawnya was to have the engines fired and ready. They were to leave in the next hour, as the placement of the cosmic bodies would be such that the amount of time for the ranger to reach back earth would be less than 200 days. They knew that if they missed this timeline the placement of the Martian and Earth orbits would be such that it could them more than a year for the ranger to reach Earth.
Just when they were wrapping, Ravish saw a peculiar green object behind a large dark rock. Ravish jumped up off his feet. Startled by this Mrityunjay checked on Ravish, “What?”
Ignoring him, Ravish walked up to the rock and behind it he saw a peculiar looking creature hiding its face. As soon as it saw Ravish it looked up to unfold a face with pearly, black eyes, thin woody arms, ghoulish legs and prickly thorns for hair. It’s body colour was green with hints of grey.
Ravish gestured for Mrityunjay to come to see the extra terrestrial creature. Astonished, “Ravish it looks very vile. There could be more of them around us,” Mrityunjay said in a cautious tone.
“We must warn Shawnya about this.”
Ravish studied the creature up close. It looked rather harmless. Just when he extended his arm to reach out, the creature spewed a murky yellowish fluid which seemed like a pernicious toxic chemical. It exhibited hostility and charged behind him. Ravish toppled over the rock and saw Mrityunjay run towards the spaceship. Ravish balanced himself and started running too. Just then he saw the creature tumble into a deep gorge reaching out with its slender woody arm.
Ravish was torn between returning to the spaceship and heading back home. He was already getting late. Should he help this hostile creature. He chose the latter and flung his arm open, helped the light weight creature up and ran to the spaceship. Without further ado, Shawnya had the doors shut and then ignited the spaceship and took off.
It was an experience of a lifetime, ‘Into the unknown, with the unknown.’