It was a cold Saturday morning and I was eating buttered toast absent-mindedly. I wasn’t really interested in the television news but something the announcer said made me pause. If he hadn’t repeated the call for volunteers to join an extraterrestrial mission to explore for water, I might have missed it.
Something about that call resonated with me and I knew that I had to join. I got dressed hastily, pulling on a pair of jeans and a woollen sweater, slipped my feet into my favourite pair of sneakers and made for the door.
Not caring about the consequences, I drove out of the driveway like a maniac on uppers and turned into the road to speed towards the city hall. I had to get there before the cut- off time. Only five people would be selected after they’d pass a battery of psychometric tests lasting four hours. I sat in the waiting area as hundreds of hopefuls just like me streamed in. I ate the last of my toast as I observed the people taking their seats. Many, I knew were too old. Some were just too young and out of control but everyone was hoping for a little bit of fame.
When my number was called, I joined the queue with fifty others to write the first test.I was thrilled to pass the first phase of the tests but my parents weren’t so thrilled. It would take another two weeks before we’d completed all the physical and medical tests.
Having no offspring, I was an easy choice for a stringent astronaut selection test. We were expected to be physically, mentally and emotionally at our peak. When we were told that the trip would last at least a year, we immediately started planning for this daunting undertaking, meeting each night at a different home to ensure that nothing was overlooked. The final twenty candidates still had to be whittled down to five.
The public would come out every day to cheer us on. The media hounded us for interviews and television broadcasts kept the world abreast of our progress. It was reminiscent of the build up to a major horse race of the good old days.
We also had to field requests from a wide variety of organizations who wanted us to transport their science projects.
We were surprised by the request from The Alternate Earth Movement who wanted us to transport seedlings they’d saved from the World Seed Repository to determine if they could survive in the nutrient-rich gel. If so, then we had an alternate option to farm elsewhere.
Frozen goldfish from Kryogen Unlimited, wanted to determine at which point regeneration would occur in space.
The strangest request came from a fifty-year old woman who wanted us to take her frozen embryos to be paired with Artemisian sperm. Our counter-argument to her was that we had no idea when we would return, if ever and in any case, if we did, she may be long dead. She determined that it was irrelevant, whether we returned or not. It was also irrelevant whether she would survive or not since someone out there might be responsible for saving the human race. We ought to just do it and see how far the experiment would go.