DRAFT CHAPTER 2

THE ARTISTS MEET

On a bright sunny March day in Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne, California, the hand-picked artists, soon to be trained astronauts/tourists, met at the Space X headquarters for the first time. 

The Space X headquarters consists of large three-story facility, originally built by the Northrop Corporation to build Boeing 747 fuselages, now houses SpaceX’s office space, mission control and all vehicle manufacturing.

Kyle was the first to arrive. He entered the lobby, which had vivid red velour chairs and white plastic tables which made him recall the moon station in Stanley’s Kubrick’s 2001. He was greeted with huge grins from polite, muscular security guards in monogrammed shirts who monitor all arriving traffic to the headquarters.  They recognized him from his live TV appearance when Yusaku selected him to be the first artist to join him on the mission to the moon.

The security guards jumped up when they saw him enter the impressive entrance way. Shaking his hand, they greeted him.

“Kyle” Everyone seemed to like to call him by his first name. Everyone was his friend after that big announcement. “Kyle! What a pleasure to meet you! We have been waiting for you – and the other artists. You are the first to arrive. “

Kyle barely got any sleep last night. He was excited to meet the other famous artists in person who would be joining him on a return trip – dream of a life time – trip to the moon.  Of course, like everyone else he was only aware of the master drummer from Africa. He wondered who the other artists would be.  The media speculated that Yusaku and Elon Musk would make a huge announcement of their identities soon – then Kyle suspected “All hell will break loose!”.

The purpose of this secret meeting is for the artists to meet each other. Amanda contacted Kyle in Havana three weeks ago to arrange travel to Hawthorn.  She emphasized the importance of not telling anyone about this meeting.  His reply was “Who am I going to tell?” – with a little sarcasm in his voice.

He wondered what the artists would be like. Introverts, extroverts – he reminded himself that it is only a week that they will be in the “tin can” --but he also knew that they will soon be starting an intense period of training that will last the next two to three years depending on how the development of the Starship progresses.  Despite some setbacks, the development of the Starship appeared to be  on track. 

Kyle was reading all he could about how to survive in space. He followed Leslie DeChurch, a psychology and communications professor from Northwestern University and  the principal investigator on the Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) project. The goal is to better understand what happens to astronauts' mental well-being and interpersonal relationships when they travel in close quarters on long-distance space missions. In an article published in 2019, space travel is described as endless hours in space. What happens if you do not get along with all your crew mates – there is no escape?

"If you think about a spacecraft, it's like a hall of mirrors; every quality of every other person is getting amplified and exacerbated. You're seeing it day in and day out…" 

Unlike this exercise of bringing artists to space, this study focused their examination on healthy people aged 25 to 55, who have a degree in science, math or engineering, and exhibit qualities like future astronauts on missions up to 45 days long.

NASA’s HERA experiment is located at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Subjects live in a three-story habitat where experts are testing isolation, confinement, and remote conditions in exploration scenarios. The studies are only 45 days long – so that they can run many studies. So far, they have learned what works and what does not work – tweak and try another scenario. This is a great opportunity to examine personality traits that work and those that do not. Preliminary results show that intelligence, resiliency, an attitude of collectivism, and positive humor—are excellent qualities of people to have to travel for long distances in space. Other personality traits — like narcissism or highly individualistic attitudes are not beneficial. Typically, astronauts are highly competitive and successful people individually.  This individualistic personality trait does pose issues when training each to be part of a team.

Kyle is guided down an impressive hallway lined with cabinets and was stunned to see a life-size replica of a Cylon from Battlestar Galactica and an actual Iron Man suit signed by Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow.  The cabinets were filled of artifacts of Space X’s journey so far into space. News articles, posters, and images of Mars and of SpaceX rockets—the Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy, the company’s signature rocket models for delivering satellites into geosynchronous orbit or payloads of varying size and weight to the ISS, but oddly no patents.  The reason for the lack of patents is from a quote from the founder and CEO – Elon Musk: “"We have essentially no patents in SpaceX. Our primary long-term competition is in China," said Musk in the interview. "If we published patents, it would be farcical, because the Chinese would just use them as a recipe book."

Space X is a private American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California, which is its primary manufacturing plant. The company was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, South-African CEO, founder, advisor, entrepreneur, businessman, engineer, and investor with the goal of reducing space transportation costs and enabling the colonization of Mars. The mission of SpaceX is ““You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great - and that’s what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.” -Elon Musk

SpaceX also owns a test launch site in Brownsville, Texas and operates from three other government launch sites. The company also operates regional offices in Redmond, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. The innovative company’s goals, from the beginning, has been to reinvent every stage of the rocket production process so that rockets are reusable and reduces the overall cost of rocket production. As a result,  SpaceX consistently underbids United Launch Alliance, a joint venture owned by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, by 40 percent for a NASA contract to put a GPS satellite into orbit. As a result, Elon Musk’s Space X has won numerous contracts with the US Government including a $135 million contract by NASA as part of a nearly $1 billion effort to return astronauts to the moon by 2024. The goal is to land a man and the first woman on the surface of the moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

Elon, is the owner of the world’s most-hyped companies, including SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity, Starlink, The Boring Company, Hyperloop, OpenAI, Future of Life Institute, Neuralink and co-founder of PayPal, is passionate about changing the world through his entrepreneurial spirit.  SpaceX has since developed the Falcon launch vehicle family and the Dragon spacecraft family, which both currently deliver payloads into Earth orbit and to the ISS. [45]  Space X, with NASA’s help has recently successfully launched humans back into orbit from US soil for the first time since 2011.  

SpaceX has an impressive history. To date, according to the company’s website they have had 115 launches, 77 landings, and 57 reflown rockets. (https://www.spacex.com/mission/, retrieved on March 22, 2021). This innovative company gained worldwide attention for making several historic achievements in Space flight. As stated on the company website: “It is the only private company capable of returning a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit, and in 2012 our Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station”. SpaceX became the first private company to take humans to the International Space Station in 2020. The key to SpaceX’ success is the believe that “fully and rapidly reusable rockets” is required to reduce the cost of space access. Up until recently, rockets were designed to burn up on reentry, after just one use.  The rockets designed and flown by SpaceX not only withstand reentry but also successfully land on Earth to be flown again.

Space X successfully launched a 4 crew members into space to the ISS from American soil after the successful launch of Bob Behnken and Douglas G. Hurley for a 2 month stint at the ISS.  They were also the first humans to splash down in water since the Apollo program in the early 1970s. 

With success comes failure and set back. Elon was quoted as saying: “If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”  At an interview at an energy conference in Norway, Musk said, “You should take the approach that you’re wrong. Your goal is to be less wrong.”

Notable failures and setbacks include March 2013, a Dragon spacecraft in orbit developed issues with its thrusters that limited its control capabilities. SpaceX engineers were able to remotely clear the blockages within a short period, and the spacecraft was able to successfully complete its mission to and from the International Space Station.

In June 2015, CRS-7 launched a Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 to resupply the International Space Station. All telemetry readings were nominal until 2 minutes and 19 seconds into the flight, when a loss of helium pressure was detected, and a cloud of vapor appeared outside the second stage. After an investigation to determine a reason for the failure, the Dragon software issue was also fixed in addition to an analysis of the entire program to ensure proper abort mechanisms are in place for future rockets and their payload.

In September 2016, a Falcon 9 exploded during a propellant fill operation for a standard pre-launch static fire test. The payload, the Spacecom Amos-6 communications satellite valued at $200 million, was destroyed.  Musk described the event as the "most difficult and complex failure" ever in SpaceX's history; SpaceX reviewed nearly 3,000 channels of telemetry and video data covering a period of 35–55 milliseconds for the postmortem. SpaceX, CEO reported the explosion was caused by the liquid oxygen that is used as propellant turning so cold that it solidified and it ignited with carbon composite helium vessels.  Though not considered an unsuccessful flight, the rocket explosion sent the company into a four-month launch hiatus while it worked out what went wrong, and SpaceX returned to flight in January 2017.

In March 2020, the uncrewed Starship prototype, named  Serial Number 10 (SN10), landed successfully in Boca Chica, Texas. The previous prototypes, SN8 and SN9, crashed during their test flights. During the test flight, SN 10 achieved a height of 10 km (6.2 miles) then descended into a belly flop to slow the rocket during re-entry. The rocket then transitioned back to a tail-down configuration to land. Unfortunately, the rocket’s landing legs collapsed causing the rocket to lean. The Starship prototype suddenly leapt upwards and exploded eight minutes after a successful landing.

 

As Kyle walked towards the conference room, he noticed a diversified work force; every nationality and race were present. There also appeared to be an equal ratio of men to women. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry. They also looked happy.  

Kyle came to the end of a long hallway, which ended in an impressive boardroom named “Gemini”. A name, Kyle thought, was very appropriate. Gemini was the name of the American second human spaceflight mission.  The goals of the program were to test an astronaut's ability to fly long-duration missions (up to two weeks in space); to understand how a spacecraft could rendezvous and dock in orbit around the Earth and the Moon; to perfect re-entry and landing methods; and to further understand the effects of longer spaceflights on astronauts. Two walls of the room were made of glass that showed impressive landscaping of the SpaceX campus, which was a large green space close to the Pacific Ocean.

Kyle stopped and looked at the view before selecting a seat across from the windows so he could enjoy the scenery during the meeting.  The security guard assured him that the other artists/astronauts would arrive soon and asked if he would like to help himself to some coffee or tea provided.  He said he was fine – and helped himself to some water from a glass jug that sat in the middle of the huge table in front of him.

Moments later he could hear clicking of heals coming down the hallway he had just walked.  Amanda appeared in the doorway.  “How nice to see you again Kyle?!” Amanda exclaimed – walking quickly towards Kyle with her hand extended.  

Kyle was happy to see Amanda. Shortly after his invitation to the moon was announced, she was the one to help him “escape” the craziness afterwards. 

“How are you?”

“I’m doing great – a little nervous.  I’m also excited to know who the other artists are. I’ve been chatting with Bangoura over Skype. He is totally pumped to meet them too. Can you tell me anything about them?”

“I’m sworn to secrecy about their identities, but I can tell you that one is an architect, another is landscape photographer, and writer have all agreed to go to the moon with you!”

“I can’t imagine saying no to this opportunity. “Kyle exclaimed

“You would be surprised. We have approached at least two dozen artists and for personal reasons – family, career, illness – many of them said No! But no worries – the people on this first trip to the moon, in more than 50 years, are a great bunch! Diverse and international.   I think you will make a great team once you get to know each other.  Today, is a great chance for you to meet and chat. We have planned another longer-term adventure in a month or two that will help you learn more about each other.  We also need to start you all of you on a training program as soon as possible. There is a great deal to learn. Sit tight!  Everyone should arrive in a few minutes.”

Suddenly, Bangoura, the master drummer, walked into the room – carrying his drum, which was something he was rarely seen without.

“Hey Kyle! Hi Amanda!” Bangoura rushed over to Amanda and gives her a warm hug – nearly knocking her off her feet.  “So nice to see you again!” Then, rushes over to Kyle on the other side of the table, extending a hand “I’m so happy to finally see you in person man! Hasn’t this “moving his hands far apart” been crazy! Really crazy?”

“Yes! It’s been crazy but I’m excited to meet everyone else.” Kyle said with a grin.” Today is the day!  It’s like Christmas “pausing” but better.”

Bangoura carefully placed his drum on the large wooden table and settled into the seat next to Kyle. He decided to wear his traditional performance outfit today. Why not? He was proud of his culture and wanted to emphasize its importance of it to the group of artists he was meeting.

Kyle was dressed casually in a pair of jeans, cowboy boots, and a blue golf shirt.

“When does our training begin?” Bangoura asked Amanda. “Where will it be? Have they selected the astronaut that will join us? Will there be one or two?”

“WOW! Hold on” Amanda says – holding out her palms to Bangoura – motioning him to stop “Hang on!  First, I love your enthusiasm. And - those are all great questions Bangoura.” Pausing, then continuing “Everyone arriving today wants to know the same news. I can answer a few of those questions once everyone arrives. “Pointing to the food on the giant table “Please have some breakfast and coffee.  Meanwhile, I’ll go and see if anyone else is in the hallway milling around.”

Turning on her heals, Amanda slipped out of the room.

“How was your flight here?” Kyle asks Bangoura.

“Oh! Great! There were no problems with customs. They zoomed me through.  It was amazing to see California from the sky.  Did you see all that pollution?  Man, flying has a whole new meaning to me now.  I can’t wait to get off this rock and see Mother Earth from a distance.”

“Me too! But to be honest – I’m a little nervous. I’ve been having repeated dreams of the blast off. My dreams scare me a bit..  The trip to space is not smooth.  Are you worried?”

“I know what you mean. Really!” Bangoura had also been to at least two shuttle launches. Never in his wildest dreams did he think he would have this opportunity to go into space.  He was in awe of the entire process.

Just then they could hear a conversation outside the door and they both turned to look who was arriving next.

Through the door came an older gentleman in his early 60’s with Amanda. Extremely fit looking – he appeared to be a runner since his  skin was tanned and wrinkled with age.  His short silver hair is neat and tidy. He has a sparkle in is green eyes. 

“Hi!” Giving a half wave with his right hand. My name is Daniel – but everyone calls me Dan!” extending his hand to Bangoura and then Kyle.  “I recognize you two from the news.  WOW! You both have been under the spot light for some time now. How does it feel to be world class celebrities?”

“Pretty intense man! Pretty insane!” Bangoura exclaimed with a laugh “It’s all been good though. People are generally great. It has really, really helped my music. Everyone is learning about my drum –  my music – my passion. I love it! “

“I agree with Bangoura but some of it has been nasty” Kyle added. “ I didn’t realize how nice it was to be anonymous.  I guess there is no going back now!” He said with a smirk.

Amanda added “And we are sorry about all that! We expected that announcing the identities of the artists going to the moon would generate hype but never at this level. That is why we decided to keep our selection process private until we had our team.” Motioning to Bangoura and Kyle, saying “ Bangoura and Kyle – we really appreciate your patience and tolerance. We are constantly striving to improve our evolving processes. This is a learning experience/experiment for us too.” Placing her hands on her chest for emphasis. “Going to the moon after more than 50 years!  It can’t be any more exciting than this!”

“But before I retrieve the others – let me introduce you to Dan.  He is a writer – he writes poetry – Children poetry.  “ she smiles and puts a gentle hand on his back.  “Again, I must find where the others are.  Please chat – while I find the others. “Amanda leaves the room again to retrieve the other artists soon to be astronauts.

“Do you think we will meet Yusaku today? Maybe Elon?” Dan asks.

“No – I think this is an opportunity for us to meet the team of artists.  ‘Very causal’ is what Amanda told me over the phone. I’m thankful for not having to be in a big news conference during the first time we meet the others.  I love that they are thinking ahead - finally!” Kyle said with a sigh. Turning to Dan “ By the way – I must admit that I am not into poetry.”

“Me neither – sorry!” Bangoura added.

“That’s ok! No worries. Believe me – if someone told me back in high school that I would be writing poetry – children poetry for a living, I would have laughed in their faces.” Rubbing the back of his head. “I discovered that I liked to write after reading a bunch of poetry while working at a soup factory.  I had difficulty sleeping at night and it relaxed me reading poetry.   On the line, I was constantly day dreaming – the job, working on a factory line, was mind-numbing work. I bought a little note book from Dollarama and started to write down my ideas during the breaks.  After about a year I filled the book! I was amazed looking at all the ideas that were in there. I continued to write in my free time – never thinking anything would come of it.”

“After 9 years at the same company, the company was bought out by a larger company. Shortly after, things started to change – especially how they ran the factory line. In a year, I was laid off. To be honest – I was very relieved. I wanted to try something different anyways.  SO – “Dan says with a sigh “My wife encouraged me to take a college writing course while I looked for work. I thought she was nuts since we had 4 young kids at home – money was tight. She told me money will always be tight! Writing makes you happy – do more of it!”

“So, I took a community college course. I really liked the prof and worked closely with her. I eventually got up the courage to show her my work. I was surprised how much she liked it.  She showed her friends in her network – eventually – led to my first published work.” With a big smile, Dan exclaimed
“Can’t tell you how good that felt.”

Just then a younger fellow with curly brown hair in a loose pony tail appeared at the door.

“Hello! My name is Jorge! Am I in the right room? I kind of got lost out there and ended up taking a short tour of the campus. Beautiful campus.”

“Hi, I’m Dan – this is Bangoura and Kyle.  Are you an artist?” Smiling, then says ” That sounds a bit silly to ask that question here!”

“Oh! Yes – sorry! I’m here to meet Amanda of ZOZO – Is this the Gemini room?”

“Yes!” Bangoura exclaimed – extending a hand “Welcome!”

“So, you missed Amanda?” Kyle asked “She left a few minutes ago to meet you at the main entrance.  I’ll call to tell her you have arrived.” Reaching for the phone on the boardroom table.

“Hello! This is Kyle – In the Gemini room. Can you tell Amanda that Jorge just arrived? Thanks!”

“She should be here quickly.  Have a seat – how are you?”

“Good – nervous! I guess you are all artists. I recognize Kyle and Bangoura.  Dan – you sort of look familiar. What do you do?”

“Writer/Poet”

Amanda’s heals could be heard walking quickly down the hallway “There you are! So nice that you have come Jorge!” Shaking his hand. “Have you introduced yourself?”

“Just my name. I just met the others.”

“Great! We have one more arriving. I wonder where she is.  We will start shortly.”

“Please grab some breakfast” Motioning to the center of the large table. “Everyone – please introduce yourself. I need to collect the last participant in the trip to the moon.”

Nodding his head, Jorge says “I just can’t believe I’m at Space X for this!”

 “I wonder what our training will be like?” thinking out loud, as he is known to do often. “ I read that astronauts train for years and years.” Looking towards Kyle and Bangoura. “They never really stop training – do they?” almost tripping over his words he shows his excitement. “I can’t wait to try weightlessness. Will we ride the vomit commit? Sorry – I have a million questions. I feel so honored to be here” Jorge said with a huge sigh. Being invited to join the artists to the moon, seemed meant to be. As if his training, education, and experience as an artist has come full circle.

“Yep! Dream of a freaking life time” Kyle agreed with a bit of sarcasm in his voice. “I can’t believe I’ve been selected to do this. It’s my childhood dream come true.” Smiling.

Bangoura and Dan node in agreement.

Amanda returned just then saying that the last participant was running late – stuck in traffic from the airport. She welcomed everyone to grab a seat around the table.

“Welcome to Space X! This is the first BIG day – the first chance for you to all meet each other as we plan and train for your trip to the moon! How does everyone feel?”

“Pumped” Bangoura exclaimed

“A little nervous and curious.” Kyle added.

“Very curious” added Jorge “I’ve been reading up on all the training astronauts do – the years of training astronauts do to travel to space and I’m wondering if we are going to go through the same regiment?”

“We are in the middle of determining what training is required for tourism space travel or Space flight participants.” Pausing, almost apologetically she continues. “It is the term coined by NASA, FAA, and the Russian equivalent Federal Space agency for people who travel into space, but who are not professional astronauts. Currently, there are two universities who are teaching classes in Space tourism and we have contacted their professors for advice.  Of course, we have the help of experts from NASA and have hired former astronauts as consultants to help with your training.  You are in good hands.”

“You may already know that there have been a number of space tourists who have enjoyed a sub-orbital tour of our planet.  The world’s first space tourist paid 20 million dollars for almost 8 days to orbit in a Russian spacecraft in 2001. His name was Dennis Tito. Since then, there have 9 other Space tourists.  There are several different types of space tourism, including orbital, suborbital, and very soon lunar space tourism. To date, only the Russian Space Agency has developed orbital space tourism. Space X, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic are all in a race to develop suborbital space tourism vehicles. In fact, Virgin Galactic has more than 700 people signed up for a low orbit trip around the Earth. You will be the first group to enjoy a free-return trajectory around the Moon.”

“As you can imagine – the cost of space tourism is astronomical. It is reported that everyone wanting to travel on Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise have paid a deposit of £200,000 ($250,000) for a ‘seat to space’ and ‘membership of the Future Astronaut community’. The price will decrease over time but unfortunately, the individual cost will never rival Ryanair unless something like a space elevator is developed where fuel is no longer needed to escape our atmosphere. You are the lucky few to have your entire trip – including training – paid for.” Amanda states with a giant smile. “It is like winning the best lottery ever offered!” Amanda exclaimed.

Between 2001 and 2009, the publicized price for orbital space flights on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft ranged between US$20 to 40 million. Space Adventures is the only company to facilitate all the flights for the space tourist in conjunction with PAO S. P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation. The first three participants paid over US$20 million each for their 10 day visit to the ISS.

Russia cancelled the program in 2010 when NASA cancelled the Space Shuttle program. NASA required the Russian Soyuz to send American astronauts to the International Space Station.  

 The group could hear rapid clicking of heals coming down the long hallway. Everyone turned to the door of the Gemini room to see who was arriving.

“Hello Everyone! I’m very sorry that I’m late. I could not believe the traffic, not to mention the long line up at customs! But! I’m happy to be here. I’m Sophia! I am an architect from Brazil – originally from Italy!”

She quickly walked around the room extending her hand to everyone with a warm hand shake and then delivered a warm hug to Amanda – the final person she greeted.

“Wonderful! We are happy that you are have arrived too Sophia!  Please help yourself to some breakfast – and Tea and Coffee and I will continue.” Amanda greeted her.

Turning to the screen on the largest wall in the room – Amanda commanded “Hey Google dime the lights. Hey Google show slide one”

The entire wall facing the large windows showed the first screen animation. The first animation was the Dear Moon Logo with a rocket ship leaving the earth and traveling to the moon showing stages of the flight (Similar to what is seen in the www.dearmoon.com website).  This image is replaced by a star lit sky with a bulleted list appearing from either side of the screen.

“Here is what I would like to discuss with you today:” pointing to the screen behind her, Amanda begins:

  • Dear Moon Project Summary

  • Introductions – who is our team?

  • The Overview Effect

  • Fitness Test Results

  • Training

  • Rescue information

“ then we will have lunch in the ‘Mercury room’, which is down the hallway where you will meet Sarah – our professionally trained astronaut who will be your guide to the moon.  We will take a tour of the space capsule so that you can see where you will sit, live, and travel to the moon after lunch. Finally, we will visit the Command Center and meet a former astronaut who will be the primary CAPCOM for mission to the moon.” Turning again to the group, Amanda asks “That will be all that we will do today.  How does that sound?”

“Great” replied Bangoura

“Super” Stated Dan

“I’m glad we will see the Starship today! How cool is that?!” says Jorge

“I’m curious about Rescue information” Kyle piped up. “Why??”

“In the unlikely event that something goes wrong – we want to reassure you from the get-go that we are thinking ahead. I will provide you with an overview – then as you are trained, you will learn more about the safeguards we will have in place for a safe and successful journey to the moon and back.” Amanda sounding reassuring to the group.

“Oh – OK! Sounds good – I guess.” Kyle replied, not feeling so confident.

“OK! Let’s start then. Yusaku – the Japanese Billionaire – owner of several successful on-line merchandise stores in Asia and across the globe is an avid art collector. You may already know that he broke the record by paying $ 110 million for a single painting by artist Jean-Michel Basquiat in 2017, setting a new auction record for the 20th century great nearly 30 years after his death.

The follow quotation appears on the wall behind Amanda with an image of Yusaku and the multimillion-dollar painting:

"I am happy to announce that I just won this masterpiece. When I first encountered this painting, I was struck with so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art. I want to share that experience with as many people as possible."

“Yusaku is truly a passionate art collector. He also always has dreamt of traveling to the moon. He jumped at the opportunity to have lunch with Elon Musk later in 2017 to discuss the possibility of becoming SpaceX’ first space tourist.  Initially, he imagined going alone but then was inspired by the art that surrounds him. He thought “how wonderful it would be to inspire artists to create while they experience weightlessness traveling around the moon.”

“The dearMoon project’s mission is clear” announces Amanda and another quotation appears behind her:

“People are creative and have a great imagination. We all have the ability to dream dreams that have never been dreamt, to sing songs that have never been sung, to paint that which has never been seen before. I hope that this project will inspire the dreamer within each of us.”

Yusaku hopes that your art will inspire PEACE on our planet.”  He contacted Elon soon after their initial meeting and made arrangements to purchase 5 additional seats to ride with him on the Starship to the moon. This project also presents an opportunity for humans to return to deep space for the first time in more than 50 years.

“Along with Yusaku, Space X and NASA have selected a highly trained veteran astronaut to join you and keep you safe on your journey.”

The next image that appears is of Sarah.

“Sarah is a 15-year veteran Astronaut. As I have said, you will meet Sarah later today.  She holds a university degree in Aerospace engineering from Standford . She is the oldest of three girls in her family. Prior to becoming an astronaut with NASA and traveling to the ISS on mission STS-120 on Discovery in 2007, she was a flight instructor for three years then became a test pilot for the military.”

“We expect that your training will occur in several locations across North America and in Star City, in Russia over the next 3 to 5 years. The crewed flight will not take place until after the Starship systems are tested on Earth and in outer space.  Lift off is scheduled, at this time, in 2023! This team will follow the same lunar trajectory as Apollo 13 minus the problem that they experienced during the doomed/successful mission.” Amanda said with a smirk.

“Let’s introduce ourselves briefly.  My name is Amanda. I am Yusaku’s personal assistant. I’ve been working with him for the last 5 years. I have met all of you in the last 6 months. Please tell us who you are and your reason for going to the moon. Kyle – can you introduce yourself?”

“Sure, - My name is Kyle. I’m a landscape artist. I’m originally from Texas.  I have always wanted to be an astronaut and travel to space. I had a collection of telescopes as a child. Whenever my family visited a friend’s cottage or when we camped in the woods, I watched the skies at night with my dad. I have been to the Kennedy Space Center more times than I can count.  Anyways, my dreams of going to school to become an engineer did not come true because I have difficulty with math. Instead, I discovered my passion for creating large – very large – murals in high school. My motto is if you have dreams – Dream BIG!  I’ve been extremely fortunate in my career. I was honored to be contacted by Yusaku initially.  All the attention I’ve received since the announcement has been – admittedly more than I could handle – but I’m trying to take that in stride.” Out of the corner of his eye he could see several images streaming on the large wall beside him of his famous art.  Shy and a bit nervous, Kyle finishes with “I’m happy to be here – excited to meet all of you! I guess that is all I have to say for now.”

“Thank you, Kyle, Bangoura- you’re next!”

“Hey Everyone! Thank you, Amanda. I’m Bangoura – master drummer from Conakry, Guinea, Africa.  I’m super pumped to be here. I love my instrument. It is called a djembe or jembe  – I carry it where ever I go. Now I get to take it to space – the moon! I’m so happy and thrilled to be chosen.  Thanks!”

With that brief introduction – he quickly sits down and looks at the next person beside him.

“Thank you Bangoura for your brief intro. Before, Jorge introduces himself – I thought perhaps Bangoura could give us an example of his art by playing his drum for us. Bangoura would you please play one of your favorite songs for us?”

“Sure –‘pausing, then continuing “ I have not prepared to play anything today.” Moving his drum from the table onto the floor. “I’ll play one of the songs.” After a few minutes, Bangoura says “Ok! I think I’m reading.”

Amanda replies “Please start, any time.”

Without hesitation the room suddenly filled with the sound like a heart beating, which transforms to a flurry of fingers and sounds.  It is hard to see his fingers and hands moving to match the sounds that were heard in the room.  Bangoura is lost in his music as he plays the song.  Everyone in the room is taping their feet or the table with their hands enjoying the rhythm. After about 10 minutes the song ends. 

Silence fills the room.  Amanda turns to Dan and calls his name “Dan?”

“WOW! That was fanatic Bangoura. Thanks for sharing that song with us.” Turning towards the group “I guess we will hear lots of drumming while in space.” Dan said with a chuckle. “I understand Yusaku was the drummer in his high school band before starting his companies. Maybe he will bring a set of drums to space too! I think that would be cool.” Pausing and looking at each person, “I’m Daniel a writer/poet. I specialize in children poetry. Please call me Dan – everyone calls me Dan!”

An image of a children’s book with a cartoon of a little girl in a jungle appears on the large wall behind Bangoura. 

“I am still in shock that I’m am in this group of artists traveling to the moon.  I forgot to tell you earlier that I am from Windsor, Canada.  My journey to becoming a poet did not start in high school or even university or college. I married my high school sweetheart and she quickly became pregnant. I had to support my new family so got a job at a local soup canning factory.  My mind wandered quite a bit on the factory line, and I started to jot notes down in my journal on breaks.” Making a motion of putting something in his back pocket. “I kept it in my back pocket and took it where ever I went. You never know when thoughts enter your mind, and you need to jot them down before they leave you. “His voice softening. “Eventually, the factory was sold to an American firm and I was laid off. “He says with a big grin. “My dear wife, Loretta, of 35 years, encouraged me to take a college course to continue my writing.  My instructor really liked my work and shared it with her friends. I was shocked that “Journey through a Jungle” was not only published but became a huge hit - especially with parents of young children.” Straightening his posture, Dan continues “As I said before - I’m thrilled to be here. Honored to be chosen and extremely excited to get to know all of you better.” With that Dan sat down.

Without any encouragement or direction Sophia jumps up and says” Hi I’m Sophia! Originally from Italy but now I call Brazil my home.  I am passionate about my art – I’m an architect. My dream is to have my own firm own and run entirely by women.”

Behind Sophia, images of her famous buildings appear.

“I love to create environments for people to live in that reflect nature.  Gaudi – the great Spanish architect of the Familia Sangria church in Barcelona inspired me as a child to build nature into structure. Like you – I was shocked! Shocked to be asked to join the dearMoon crew the moon. I thought my invitation to meet Yusaku for lunch a few months ago was to discuss a new building for his online merchandise business. Never in my wildest dreams did I think he would ask me to join him to the moon!” Her hands fly up to the sky as if they were rockets taking her to the moon. “It took me” she emphasized me” -- a long time to decide if this adventure was what I needed to do.” Pausing for a long moment of silence. Then suddenly, Sophia erupts again exclaiming “Needless to say – I had lots of sleepless nights but now I think I made the right decision.  I’m here not only to meet you but to learn more about this adventure.  An adventure of a life time. Thank you for your warm welcome and for inviting me to join you!” Turning to each person with a little bow, she sits down again.

“You are most welcome Sophia! Thank you for joining us. I’m glad you could join us!  Last by not least Jorge will introduce himself. He is our photographer. Jorge!”

“Thank you, Amanda!  Hi! I’m Jorge!  I am from New Zealand and I am a, I guess you can say, I’m a world traveler. “saying with a big smile. “The travel bug bit me right after university and now I’m going to the moon. I really can’t believe I’m with all of you.  I love to share my view of the world through my camera’s lens.  I started – believe it or not – in university wanting to be an aerospace engineer wanting to work at NASA.  Well – even though I loved everything about space – exploration and the rest – I became dead tired of doing math equations and I could not see myself researching fluid laminar flow through a nozzle for the rest of my life. “Throwing his hands up in exasperation. “I took a break right after I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BS in aerospace engineering. I saved all my money and started traveling in my home country and continued to travel.  After 20 + countries, I ran out of money and got a job working  for Pratt & Whitney Air New Zealand Services, Christchurch International Airport, New Zealand. I did a bunch of engineering things but on the weekends and evenings – I hiked and took photos of my beautiful country.”

“My strength is I’m a problem solver. I guess that is part of the reason why I chose engineering.  My first problem is that I could not take a decent photograph. I researched and networked to find a passionate group of photographers willing to help me. Over the last 10 years, I worked diligently to improve my photography skills and after a long struggle started my own business. Now I’m a writer, speaker, photographer, teacher and a world traveler.  My big break came when Nikon asked me to take promotional photos for their series of photographs.  I was thrilled. My company received a great boost of publicity and I received a huge number of photography gigs.”

Jorge notices everyone not looking at him but gazing at his portfolio of unique images of the Earth that he has taken over the years – a portfolio that he is extremely proud of and always has fun sharing with others.”

So – like all of you, I am thrilled to be here to have a chance to meet all of you and to go to the moon. I still am pinching myself. I can’t wait to begin training. 2023 can’t come soon enough!” Jorge sits down again and begins to tap his fingers on the table anxiously.

“That was fantastic everyone! Thank you and welcome to the Dear Moon team. Welcome!” Amanda proclaimed.

“You have all expressed your excitement for going on this adventure of a life time. “

The next image on the screen behind Amanda was a simple phrase with a quotation:

The Overview Effect: “to see things as you see them with your eyes, but experience them emotionally and viscerally, as with ecstasy and a total sense of unity and oneness.”

“While preparing for this mission, we have talked to several astronauts who have either traveled to the moon or have been to the ISS.  They have all experienced a change in how they feel about our Earth. It is a common phenomenon among astronauts called ‘The Overview Effect’.  It has been described as a meditative, spiritual, or religious experience. Space travelers return to Earth fundamentally changed, with a renewed perspective on humanity that stays with them for the rest of their lives. Like the Apollo astronauts before you, this crew will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration.” Amanda pauses. She is a keen presenter and knows when to pause for effect. “What will it be like to be in space? You are all probably wondering.”

“According to many astronauts that we have talked to, it will be a physically demanding experience. In the first 24 hours, you will feel dizzy and nauseous, as your body tries to determine which way is up.  Our bodies have evolved to expect Gravity to push our blood down – away from our head. In Space, gravity is much less so all the blood rises to your head.  One astronaut described it as being on the top of a huge roller coaster ride, when your stomach is in your throat for hours.  It does not sound pleasant, but you will be amazed by how quickly your body adjusts.”

“Returning to Earth will pose another issue. Suddenly, gravity will be upon you once again. As another astronaut has told us “Gravity Sucks!”. “ Amanda smiles. “Holding your head up takes effort because your neck muscles will have relaxed while in space. Chris Hadfield in his book “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth“ described how when he returned to Earth after living in space for more than five months he was surprised that he had difficulty speaking. Every part of his body felt heavy – even his tongue! The good news is that you will only be in space for one week so your recovery will be much quicker than typical astronauts who can spend up to 6 months in space or more – as in Mark Kelly who spent a year in space. Experts at NASA and the Astronauts we have interviewed have told us that for every day in space, you will need a day of recovery on Earth. To aid in your recovery from the lunar trip, the Starship is outfitted with two exercise machines. You will be able to exercise up to 2 hours each day to keep your muscle mass and reduce bone loss. It will also be a good way to pass the time.”

“Thankfully, our team has developed a complete training schedule, which will begin later this year,  to prepare you for your trip.  The goal is for you to be in top shape so that you can sit back and enjoy the view. Create and be inspired.”

Once training is complete, and the Starship has passed all initial tests for certification to fly into space, lift-off will be from SpaceX newly designed and built vertical launch pad facility just south of Brownsville, TX.   

Amanda picks up a folder located in the center of the boardroom table and says, “I have the results of your initial fitness tests here.  They are confidential and we would like you to respect that. This is a benchmark – if you will – of where your fitness level is today. We will be tracking it throughout your training, and it will guide your personal training staff on things that need to be improved before launch.”

Amanda paused to distribute sealed envelope to everyone in the room. Each envelop had a SpaceX logo and a ZOZO logo in the upper left corner.  A neatly italicized typed name in the center on the envelop identified their names.  Underneath Kyle’s name was “Landscape Artist – Future Space Tourist”.  Each of the artists, opened their envelops and started to scan their own reports.

After handing the last envelop to Sophia, Amanda stated next. “Training – what will that be like?”

“Part of our selection criteria is that each of you were in reasonably good health and active in a sport daily.” Amanda answers Sophia’s question. “We will have a team of personal trainers to help you continue with your favorite activity be it cycling, running (looking at Jorge), swimming, or hiking (looking at Dan). “

“Your training will not be as grueling as a professional astronaut, who are trained to pilot and conduct complex scientific experiments during their complex missions. Our training program is developed to give you optimal preparation with the least disruption to your busy regular schedule.” Smiling at Sophia – who nodes.

“Thank goodness” Sophia said with a noticeable sigh.

Your preparation will take place in many of the same facilities used by professional astronauts, but your training will be several months compared with several years that is performed by astronauts. You will be trained to, among many other things, high-G Training…”

An image of the centrifuge hall in Star City, Russia with a nozzle-like structure – the world’s biggest and most powerful centrifuge appears on the wall behind Amanda.

“ to prepare your bodies for the additional gravitational forces that you will experience on the Starship. This will prepare you for lift off because it simulates the forces you will experience while leaving Earth.

Published: March 26, 2021
#dearMoon  Audition video 

“Your training will take place at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, on the outskirts of Moscow. “Just as Sophia was about to raise her hand to ask when, Amanda adds “the date and time has not been scheduled yet. We will notify you well in advance and arrange travel to Russia for each of you.”

The centrifuge is made to simulate the g-force that astronauts experience during lift off and space flight. As the centrifuge spins at breakneck speed, the future space tourist are subjected to several times the g-force on Earth. The g-force is the acceleration due to the Earths’ Gravity under freefall. The higher the speed, the greater the g-force experienced, and the more pressure, or tugging, felt inside the body. Astronauts, fighter jet pilots, and racing drivers all feel considerable g-forces.

With excitement in her voice, Amanda says “During g-force training, while you are strapped into the centrifuge, you will experience two types of G-forces.  In the horizontal direction, you will experience up to 6 times the G-force, which is known as 6Gx. Fighter jet pilots call this “eyeballs back” because of the enormous pressure on your eyes.  You will also be subjected to 3 times G-force (3Gz) to simulate a downward movement or “eyeballs down” – to push your blood to your feet.”

Continuing Amanda says, “You will also experience weightlessness. As much as it is an incredible experience, we feel it is essential to learn to control your movements while floating, to avoid spinning around too much and too quickly. Otherwise, it is amazingly easy to get the equivalent of seasickness, with all the same consequences, such as vomiting — not the best thing to do in microgravity. It's best to learn how to maneuver and deal with the temptation to do all sorts of silly things, because it is so thrilling. This part of your training will include several chances to ride the “Vomit Comet” before you leave Earth in the Starship.”

A flight path for a zero gravity maneuver appears behind Amanda.

“The fixed wing aircraft – known as the Vomit Comet – is most often used by training astronauts, conducting research, and making gravity-free movie shots creates brief moments of weightlessness.

The aircraft gives its occupants the sensation of weightlessness by following a parabolic flight path relative to the center of the Earth. Initially, the aircraft climbs with a pitch angle of 45 degrees using engine thrust. Weightlessness begins while ascending and lasts all the way "up-and-over the hump", until the craft reaches a downward pitch angle of around 30 degrees. At this point, the craft is pointing downward at high speed and must begin to pull back into the nose-up attitude to repeat the maneuver. The forces are then roughly twice that of gravity on the way down, at the bottom, and up again. This lasts all the way until the aircraft is again halfway up its upward trajectory, and the pilot again reduces the thrust and lowers the nose.  In each 65 seconds of flight to complete a parabola, 25 seconds of weightlessness id experience. In weightlessness training, the airplane typically flies about 40–60 parabolic maneuvers. In about two thirds of the passengers, these flights causes nausea due to airsickness, thus giving the plane its nickname "vomit comet".

Bangoura looks at Kyle and gives him a look of discuss.

“Since air sickness is common, our flight surgeon will be prescribing Scopolamine to use since it is an antiemetic during reduced-gravity-aircraft training. Furthermore, we have a team of psychologists and therapists available around the clock if you experience any anxiety or stress throughout your training.  We understand that this trip is not only exhilarating but also frightening. It is natural to feel afraid and stress as you leave our planet.  I will send you their contact information to you in an email tomorrow.”

“ZOZO and SpaceX are working together to select personal trainers who are available around the globe. So far, we have recruited trainers in Canada, Ecuador, Europe, United States, and Russia. The initial stage of training, which involves daily exercise can be done to suit your individual schedules. Our teams of trainers will help you improve your endurance so that you are able to run, non-stop up to 10 miles ( 16 km) and have the ability to swim 50 m/ 165 feet in the pool in case there is an emergency landing in the ocean and you need to exit the Starship to swim to a life raft.”

“There is no need for the group to be together for each stage of training.  We understand that you have your families and professional responsibilities so we will do our best to respect this. Your personal trainer will be with you during all stages of training to guide you. If you prefer to do it with another artist who is here today, please let me know and we can arrange for joint training.”

“You will also be trained for extreme environments and conditionsSince the team will only be gone for a week – there is no need for isolation training.”

“There will also extensive Safety and life skill training that will cover how to safely protect yourself, your crewmates and the vehicle. Instructors will provide scenarios; emergency equipment including breathing apparatuses and verify your readiness. Use of the lavatory and as well as basic life skills in weightlessness are included.”

A segment of your training will also include User Qualifications Certification. This phase of training prepares you to independently operate basic systems aboard the Starship such as the communications system and video equipment to record and share events with folks on Earth. You will be able to film a movie or commercial while you are traveling to the moon.

Finally, you will be trained for ascent and reentry.  Vehicle training covers launch and landing procedures, and life in the capsule during the rendezvous period – the time between reaching orbit and reaching the moon. There is no operating or piloting training as your host astronaut will fulfill those functions.”

Looking around the room, Amanda asks, “Do you have any questions?”

Everyone speaks at once in a big cacophony of noise.

“OK! Yes! Of course, you have lots of questions. Perhaps we can save them then when we meet Sarah this afternoon.” Pausing, then Amanda asks “Are you getting hungry?  Let’s cover the last topic before lunch. Ok?”

“Sure” Sounding a bit disappointed – Kyle said.  “Well, at least we will get to meet our Astronaut today!” Thinking that meeting the astronaut will give Kyle a chance to ask her some of the burning questions he has had since he said yes to this mission.

Amanda commands Google to show the next image in her presentation. It is an image of one of the Apollo landings in the North Pacific Ocean, 900 miles from Hawaii with the helicopter flying overhead.

Amanda, motioning to the image besides her, she continues “We want you to have the safest, most positive experience visiting the moon.  For insurance purposes, and in preparation for both launch and landing, U.S. Air Force “Guardian Angel” Pararescue forces will be pre-positioned in key locations, alert and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice in the event of an emergency. This team is called the Detachment 3 from the 45th Operations Group. Det 3, which is the Department of Defense’s office.  This detachment consists of pilots, combat systems officers, para-rescue personnel, combat rescue officers and survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists. They are a dedicated and extremely busy group since they are a shared resource between Boeing and SpaceX and we are continuing to support the Soyuz mission.

As the name Guardian Angels suggests, these rescuers are trained to protect. Their primarily responsible for all aspects of human spaceflight recovery. They are specially trained to problem solving in very dynamic and extreme circumstances. They are also trained to perform rescues in any climate – whether on top of a mountain or the bottom of an ocean. There are only about 500 pararescue specialists worldwide. They are fully qualified paramedics, and can perform field surgery, if necessary.  This includes the development of rescue tactics, training and equipping of forces, real world execution, and overall command and control rescue aspects of the human spaceflight missions.

These pararescue specialists will be prepared to jump from the aircraft with inflatable boats, an inflatable ring -- called a stabilization collar -- to steady the capsule in the water, and other equipment.

“Let’s hope that is not necessary” Jorge interjects.

“We hope so too” Amanda answered “But we must be prepared for all situations.  As I said going to Space is hazardous.  Going to the moon has not been done in over half a century.”

“Where was I?” Amanda continued “The Guardian Angels will be used to test and develop specific rescue procedures and plans, including how mitigate potential hazards while entering the spacecraft and safely remove the crew. A full simulation of a rescue and recovery effort will be rehearsed for space tourist recovery operations from start to finish.  The team is continually working with SpaceX and NASA to refine their processes, and have kept pace with your evolving training schedule.”

“It is critical for all teams to practice a variety of landing scenarios so during your training you will practice rescue missions together. I will work closely with you to determine when you can meet again as a group to practice these maneuvers with these specially trained pararescue personnel. This will include water landing scenarios, including crew extraction and equipment interfaces, using a mockup of the Starship at the Brownsville Vertical Launch site.”

Astronaut’s Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley’s return was the first splashdown for American astronauts since Thomas Stafford, Vance Brand, and Donald “Deke” Slayton landed in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii on July 24, 1975, at the end of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. The SpaceX’s Crew Dragon splashed down under parachutes on August 2, 2020 in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida and was successfully recovered by SpaceX.

“Landing of the Starship space capsule will be like re-entry of the Soyuz capsule. According to some astronauts, the landing is often described like a series of car crashes.  Once the capsule re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it is expected to land in the ocean.  If the astronauts are incapacitated from the atmospheric changes and the force of the landing, the Detachment 3 will be called.  The Pararescue team have been part of the space mission from the beginning and will continue to support Space X and NASA’s desire to expand Space tourism.”

Everyone in the room was silent.  Everyone in the group had concerns about the safety risks of traveling to the moon. This discussion of a possible rescue mission made it seem more real. 

In a cheery voice, Amanda asks again,”  Does anyone one has questions?”

“WOW! So that description was interesting. When do we meet the individuals, who will save our skins when we are in an emergency?”  Bangoura asked in a nervous voice.

“They will be part of your training when it starts later this month.  I’ve met them and they are extremely professional. You are in good hands as I’ve said before. You will feel confident in their training and lifesaving skills. Their primary goal is to get you all home safely.” Amanda said with a grin. “So who’s hungry?”

Silently, in deep thought, they all got up to leave.

“Follow me to the other side of the entrance way.  I’ve booked the Mercury room for our lunch. It should have been delivered by now since we are running a bit late.  Thank you again for making the effort to be here today.” Amanda said by the door as the artists filed passed her.

“I would not have missed it for the world” exclaimed Kyle. “Your presentation was intense – like everything else so far but also informative. Thank you for filling us in on everything.”

As they leave the room, Sophia is the last to leave. She purposely stayed behind to talk to Kyle.

“Hi Kyle! I wanted to chat with you. How are you doing?  I was hoping we would connect. I’ve watched you on the news. You’ve been through a great deal in the last few months with all the publicity.  I wanted to ask you if you had any advice.”

“Yeh – run and hide! Seriously! Once they announce your name as an artist going to the moon – your life – your privacy will change forever. Soak up every ounce of anonymity now.  Anonymity.  It is golden.  I miss it.” Kyle replied in a much more serious tone than he had intended.

“I’m very concerned about how the announcement will change my life.” Sophia said with worry in her voice. “In hind, sight what would have you done differently?”

“I don’t think I would have said yes on live TV. I think I would have asked for some legal advice too.  You are lucky that they have not announced your identity yet.  It is tricky.  On one hand it is fantastic for your art and definitely for your career. The attention I have received I have dreamt about all my life. But now – I never dreamt that it would mean that I’ve had to leave the country, my friends, and family.  I’m dressing in disguises to go grocery shopping.  Somedays I wish I didn’t say yes to be honest. It is difficult – not easy.”

“Well, thank you for your honesty. I greatly appreciate it.”

“So, we have a surprise for all of you!” Amanda announces as they cross the main entrance way of Space X to walk down another long hallway on the other side of the building to enter the Gemini Room.  “We thought it would be a treat for you to all try space food for the first time together.”

“While in space, you will be able to eat three meals a day: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and one snack a day. The menu is designed to ensure that you have a balanced diet during your visit to space. We will also ensure that any dietary need you have is taken care of.”

“The food that is taken to space for consumption must meet certain criteria to be allowed in orbit. The food must be compact, lightweight – of course nutritious and tasty. All food is processed or pasteurized and to keep crumbs from floating away – food must be sticky or wet – including seasoning like salt and pepper. Astronauts squirt saltwater and pepper oil for seasoning.  It is tricky to eat in microgravity so you will always need to take care not to contaminate any of the equipment. By the way, coffee and juices come as powder that is hydrated.

Food in space has come a long way since the first American, John Glenn, traveled to space in 1962, aboard Friendship 7. During the flight, he squeezed applesauce and puréed beef with vegetables from metal tubes down a straw and into his mouth through a port in his helmet.  The world was captivated. This strange method of eating food, pureed food consumed through a straw, was quickly abandoned.  It’s no longer about astronauts simply meeting a calorie requirement while on short trips to the moon; it’s about them living semi-comfortably in space over months or years, especially with the next goal of going to Mars, possibly terraforming the planet so that humans could migrate and live on the planet permanently.

“NASA and Space X have hired nutritionists to ensure the food you eat provides a balanced supply of vitamins and minerals. Calorie requirements differ for astronauts. For instance, a small woman would require only about 1,900 calories a day, while a large man would require about 3,200 calories compared to on Earth where the same individuals would require 2,000 to 3, 000 calories per day and 1,600 to 2400 calories per day respectfully according to the U.S. Department of Health.”

Amanda continues, “You will be able to choose from many types of foods such as fruits, nuts, peanut butter, chicken, beef, seafood, candy, brownies, etc. Available drinks include coffee, tea, orange juice, fruit punches and lemonade. Spices are available to enhance the taste of your food but always in liquid form. Any power spice could float and damage electronics while in microgravity.” Motioning with her hands as she walk, Amanda says, “As on Earth, space food comes in disposable packages. Astronauts must throw their packages away when they have finished eating. Some packaging prevents food from flying away. The food packaging is designed to be flexible and easier to use, as well as to maximize space when stowing or disposing of food containers.”

The team of artists and Amanda enter the Gemini room and take seat around another large and impressive board table. Amanda says. “There are five-steps when preparing food in space:

  1. Reheat the meal in the conduction oven or rehydrate it according to the instructions.

  2. Prepare the beverage by rehydrating it with hot or cold water. You shake it up, you let it sit for a while.

  3. Carefully Cut the meal packaging with scissors because the food is in a sealed package.

  4. Open the sealed package. Eat the meal from the package and drink using a specially adapted straw. It is important that you don’t spurt sauce all over the inside of the spaceship because nothing will fall on the floor.

  5. Catch any stray food with a utensil... or your mouth!  In microgravity, I think that will be quiet fun.”

On the table there were seven trays with plastic packages of food in each.  There was also a container in the center of the table with syringes of water.

Amanda continues “The meals have been selected and packaged to ensure that they will last for the entire duration of each mission. A small sticker indicating the expiry date is also affixed to each food item.”

On the wall behind Amanda there is a poster with sticker for food preservation categories appears showing the symbols for fresh, dried, natural form, irradiated, thermostablized, and rehydratable. 

Amanda explains, "Another sticker on the packaging will describe how the food is preserved. Fresh foods would include fruits and vegetables, while rehydratable food would include spinach and fruit juices."

“Based on the questionnaire that you filled out during your fitness test, we have selected personalized lunches. Please take the tray with your name on it.  Food consumed in space falls into the following six categories indicated by symbols on the packages of food in front of you. Fresh fruits and vegetables are considered a huge treat in space.  For those of you who are vegetarian, vegan, or plant base – we will follow your dietary restrictions. In fact, did you know those who may go to Mars will be asked to be vegan? For the Mars mission in the future – possibly 2030, the space administration’s Advanced Food Technology (AFT) project is ensuring that the crew will have a completely vegan diet of fresh fruits, vegetables and even live plants “

“You might wonder what Therostabilized and Irradiated foods mean.  Termostablized foods have been heat-treated, while irradiated foods have been subjected to ionizing radiation to remove certain microorganisms. Currently, the food that is consumed on the ISS could have been prepared a few years before any mission. Once food is prepared on Earth, it travels from where it is made to Houston where NASA is. The people who work at NASA go through and do all the quality control, and package it for space. Then, Houston ships it to whatever rocket provider is going to launch it to the space station. Up until last April, when NASA and Space X successfully launched “Bob and Doug” into space from US soil, the food was sent to Russa. In the future the food might be shipped to Brownsville, Tx were SpaceX facility and control center. At the launch site, the food is stored for ‘who knows how long’ – Amanda raises her hands to the air – “before that particular crew gets to go to space with their food on board.”

“Just think about eating Shrimp in space. The fisherman, somewhere, who pulled those out of the sea probably never suspecting that shrimp was going to end up going 5 miles a second to be eaten a few years later, on board the International Space Station.” Amanda says with a smile.

“Please hydrate your food and enjoy!” Amanda motions to the trays in front of everyone.

Just then a fit blond woman in a jumpsuit appeared at the door.

“Hello Everyone! I’m Sarah – the dearMoon astronaut who will accompany you on your voyage to the moon.  I hope you don’t mind if I join you for lunch!”

“Oh! My! No, we don’t mind at all. Please – have a seat!”  Dan said while jumping to his feet to shake her hand.

All the artists jump up and rush towards Sarah to shake her hand as well.

“We have so many questions – really! I’m glad you are here” Bangoura exclaimed.

“Yes – have a seat! So happy to meet you finally” Kyle said with a firm hand shake.

“I’m glad you are taking us to space” Sophia chimed in “I’m thrilled that another woman has been selected. I have been feeling like the token woman up until this point – not that I’m not used to being the only female on the job.” She states with a smile. “ I’m thrilled that you will be the one to join us. Thank you!” The guys stopped and all stared at Sophia’s bold admission.

“Well – you are quiet welcome!” Sarah said with a warm smile.” I knew you were coming today and that we were to meet this afternoon but I’m hungry and need to eat so I thought I would find the team and have lunch with you.” Looking at everyone in the group of artists, “Like you, I have always dreamt of going to the moon. I never imagined, in a million years, that if I had the chance to go – I would be able to bring a crew of artists with me.” She said with a smile. “It is my thrill, honor, and pleasure to keep all of us safe on a journey of a lifetime!”

There is an extra tray on the table without a name. Always prepared, Amanda had arranged a lunch for Sarah just in case she appeared.

She decided to sit between Jorge and Dan. Like an expert, she grabbed a syringe and started to hydrate her dried space greens.

“So does food in microgravity taste differently than on Earth?” Dan asks.

“Well – I’ll say yes and no! Initially, because of the change in gravity, your body will have a hard time adjusting to the microgravity environment. You will feel like you have a minor cold because you are mostly congested. It feels that you are standing on your head all the time. As you know, when we have colds our taste buds do not work the same. Your food does not taste the same because your sinuses don't reflect the smells of it. Your tongue is a little bit swollen. It masks the subtle tastes of food. After a few days, your body adjusts, and the taste of food is greatly appreciated.” Sarah explains. “That is the reason why some Astronauts crave spicy foods in space.”

Amanda chimes in, “Did you know that some Astronauts experience something called Food fatigue? For ISS crewmembers, their menu repeats every eight days. On holidays, they can request special items that remind them of home. They also get “psychological support kits” from friends and family that can contain special treats. But having an assortment of foods isn’t necessarily enough to ward off food fatigue. The problem with space foods is that they don’t quite taste like the Earth version. The food is either blander or there’s a weird flavor. It needs to be highly processed, pasteurized and tweaked a million ways to deal with the packaging for safety and extended shelf life.”

“The wonderful thing is that shows like the Food Network and Top Chef has trickled down to NASA. Astronauts in the 60s and 70s would be shocked to know that celebrity chefs have been asked to create menus for the astronauts on board the ISS. Space foods are also being developed that reflect “the diversity of the crews up there,” she says. “One example is Space kimchi.”

“What was your favorite treat while on the ISS?” Jorge asks Sarah?

“That’s easy – I love seafood so I’m really into smoked salmon and shrimp. You be surprised how yummy the desserts are in space too!  I really like the Molten Mocha Lava Cake. It’s delicious!” Sarah replies with a smile.

“Wow! That sounds delicious!” Kyle commented – feeling a bit stupid after he sounded like a kid. Wow! Smart and attractive – Kyle thought.

With hesitation, Sophia gazed at her selection of space food for lunch: Colorful raw vegetables, shrimp cocktail, vegetable quiche, and soup. This should be interesting she thought.  She picked up the Shrimp Cocktail first and grabbed the syringe and plunged it into the plastic wrapper. Slowly water filled the package, and the dried shrimp absorbed the liquid and started to look a bit more appealing.  “It’s only one week, 7 days” She thought with a sigh.  “I hope I can bring some wine on board.”

“What are your thoughts so far about the mission?” Sarah asked the artist crew.

“I am very excited about seeing and experiencing everything” Dan was the first to speak.  “I can’t wait to see the Starship up close. I’ve always wanted to experience weightlessness. When I was asked to join the team to the moon I could not imagine saying No to this opportunity.”

Everyone else in the room nods in agreement.

“I mean – a free trip off this rock to see it from space?! That is the ultimate trip!” Jorge added.

“To be honest,” Sophia added “I was hesitant. I struggled very much making this decision. I’m passionate about my career. This trip will really derail my personal and professional goals. Let’s be honest with ourselves– The journey might not happen and there are tremendous dangers. Before making my decision, I weighed the potential benefits against the risks. I have dreamt of becoming an architect my entire life and I feel these years are my most important but when this opportunity came out of “left field” – it made me pause to think of the benefits of seeing the Earth from a distance. I want to see for myself the impact that Man has on our planet.  I expect that it will inspire my future designs.  I’ll gain a unique prospective in my field and will help me in my goals to marry Mother Nature with structure.  My hope – and I stress hope – is that I will survive this trip so that I can create environments for humans to experience what I hope to experience in Space. I see that this is an opportunity for challenges that will shape the rest of my career.”

“Well said Sophia” Amanda added. “Well said!”

“Bringing Artists to space” Amanda motions to all of them present in the room “Is impacting the space industry and space tourist industry greatly. It is also impacting schools and curriculum.  For decades STEM has been emphasized as the pathway to the space. The dearMoon project is inspiring parents and children to express their creativity through the arts. I’m glad to see this change in attitude happening.” Amanda touches her heart. “It makes me believe that no one will be left behind in the goals of moving our civilization off our Mother Earth.  We truly need everyone -every type of professional to build culture on another planet if we want to be a multi-planetary species.”  Sarah added.

“So how does the food taste?” Amanda asked the group.

“A little mushy” Sophia pipes up.  “When you add water to everything in these little plastic packages – Is anything crunchy in space?”

“If you are a big texture person – it will take a bit to get used to the texture.  How is the flavor?  The team here do their best to satisfy all our dietary needs, but they also know how important it is to have enjoyable meals in space. Flavor is so important.” Sarah answered.

“It’s fine. I need to get used to hydrating the food -as you said” Bangoura said.

“What did you miss most regarding food in space?” Dan asked Sarah.

“I missed the smell of food because nothing smells while it's cooking. For example, I missed the smell of a good pizza or a greasy hamburger cooking. Foods like that are impossible to bring to space.” Sarah replied.

“What was the first meal you had back on Earth?” Sophia asked.

“A toasted fresh BLT with crunchy veggies on the side. It was delicious because it was so fresh and colorful.  The tomato was fresh from someone’s garden.  The toast was made from home-made bread and of course bacon.  Butter, Bacon, and Booze improves ALL recipes!” Sarah replies with a warm smile.

“Can we make special requests?  Could I give the chefs my mom’s special recipe for food from my home town Conakry, Guinea Africa? The most difficult challenge moving to America to teach was finding ingredients that are so common in Africa – especially spices. My family ships me spices regularly so that I feel at home -far from home.” Bangoura asked.

“Food serves so many purposes – nutrition, energy, but also gives us comfort in all situations.  Yes- our team will do our best to satisfy any special food restrictions or requests.” Amanda replies.” The Starship is not ready yet – there are many proto types to be developed until the find a successful design to not only blast off from Earth but to land safely for reuse.  So while preparing for your week-long adventure to the moon  each of you will select the food you want to eat during your trip. You will also participate in food tastings.”

Kyle was excited by this thought. He is a foodie and is always interested in trying new foods.

According to NASA, astronauts are given more than 200 food and beverage choices to select from, most of them developed at the Johnson Space Center’s Space Food Systems Laboratory in Houston. About 8 to 9 months before launch, astronauts join a food evaluation session where they sample foods and pick breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, from scrambled eggs to macaroni and cheese. While they need to consume about the same number of calories as they do on Earth, the amount of iron in their diet is limited to 10 milligrams per day. Sodium is also limited, to maintain healthy bones.

“You will meet with NASA’s dietitians and chefs and will be given a morsel of 40 or 50 different types of food to taste.  Then, you will rate the sample from one to 10. Your favorite picks will be your selection of food while you travel.  So – Bangoura, we can easily include your mother’s recipe in your selection of foods.”

The Astronauts on the ISS today have meals that their family prepare for them and our kitchen seal so that they can enjoy tastes from home on their long journey.  For example, the Canadian Chris Hadfield’s  who has flown three space missions, spent a total of 6 months in space, conducted two space walks and most recently served as commander of the International Space Station special request during his space mission was maple syrup cookies, duck rillettes, and candied wild smoked salmon, which he shared with the other astronauts in the ISS. Chris once filmed a famous video of nuts on board the ISS. He said “That was spooky when we opened that can of nuts. Just because of weightlessness, it suddenly looked like it was infested with small, living insects. It was such a shock to us so we thought it would surprise others - so we made a video.”

“You can't have a bag of chips because the crumbs would go everywhere, and you'd breathe them. “ Sarah says while making a face. “Everyone makes different food choices in space.  There is no refrigeration and there are no microwaves. But I assure you that eating in space is healthy.” Sarah states. “Our dietitians work really hard. I actually showed up back on Earth a little bit more fit, a little bit less fat, and at the same weight.” Sarah continues to describe the challenges of eating in space, ”Unfortunately, you cannot put any food on a plate and there is no way to mix your potatoes with your gravy and roast beef because all foods are in separate containers. You feel like you are either on an extended camping trip where electricity is limited, or you are constantly eating like a college kid- out of the containers the food came in.” Sarah explains.

Bangoura asked the next question” I heard a weird story that the astronauts demanded to have a table in space. Initially, the table was removed because nothing was on it and they needed to conserve space (excuse the pund). Is this true?”

“Yes – NASA determined that a table was not required because food floats while you eat but the astronauts missed sitting around a table to relax and exchange stories.  They demanded to have the table put back with Velcro straps to stick food pouches and trays. They said to the administrators that they wanted to eat like humans!” Sarah answered.

“I’m glad so much thought has gone into food in space. What do you think the next step in food preparation will be?” asked Dan.

“I think there will be a real need to figure out food systems that could feed astronauts on missions lasting years. NASA’s current standard for shelf life is only 18 months. To go to Mars, the food will need to last years – maybe as long as 5 years. The agency imagines that astronauts will need to build “hydroponic growth labs,” to grow vegetables, potatoes, soybeans, wheat, rice and beans.” Touching her index finger tip and then the next fingertip she says “Another issue, that will become a serious problem, is food fatigue. This will hopefully lead to allowing astronauts to cook for themselves in space. Cooking is a very social activity and an outlet for creativity – which is important when you are locked up in a small space for months on end.  Allowing astronauts to cook for themselves will allow them to share experiences and cultures. Furthermore, cooking empowers you over your food. You can make endless choices, make changes to a recipe, and there’s a bonus: it improves social cohesion. You talk about food and you share food. It’s a basic human desire to share information and food.” Sarah added.

Annually, since 2013, NASA has funded the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog & Simulation — otherwise known as HI-SEAS. During HI-SEAS four-month long feasibility study to see if astronauts could cook for themselves. They learned many things and tested different types of equipment such as a bread making machine – which is light and used shelf stable ingredients. It could create wonderfully smelling bread for years. Another product tested in simulated space conditions was the Instant Pot pressure cooker, which could make perfect rice or fall off the bone ribs in less than 1 hour. Since the first HI-SEAS simulation there have been 7 simulations performed. 

Once a meal was prepared, each member of the crew weighed and photographed every single item of food. The crew members evaluated the food before they ate it and then evaluated it again after eating. Then, the cooks would write a report giving an overview of the recipes. This data is now at Cornell University being analyzed.

In the study, the most popular foods made during the study: mashed potatoes (from flakes and granules) and the assortment of soups made in the Instant Pot, from seafood chowder to Russian borscht. Apple pancakes were also popular. Simply, rehydrate apples and put them in batter. Kung Fu Chicken was least liked. The goal is to create comfort food on Mars.  Wouldn’t it be something to have restaurants on Mars?

“This idea faces many challenges and objections from NASAs administration. As you may guess, astronauts are extremely busy and simply do not have the time to cook. Cooking takes time – which results in better meals for the astronauts but at the same time – cuts into the time they should be working and doing experiments.   It is dangerous to cook in microgravity too. At this moment, cooking in space cannot be a reality on the ISS but perhaps on Mars where gravity is 38% of Earth’s. Finally, cooking requires water and energy in space – which are very precious resources – expensive and hard to come bye. “ Sarah comments.

As they finished their first space food lunch, Amanda asked if they were ready to tour the Starship?

“Definitely!” Kyle said with his mouth full.  “Let’s go and do it!” jumping up with excitement.

“Thank you for answering our questions” Dan said to Sarah “I can tell we are in great hands. You have a wealth of information.  Thank you for having lunch with us.”

“My pleasure. I was excited to meet you all in person. I’m glad I was able to stop in for lunch.  I was given your profiles as you agreed to be a crew member on dearMoon.  I expect that we will spend a great deal of time together to get to know each other when training begins later this month.”

“I’m super excited to begin” Dan added.

“Follow me please” Amanda said turning to leave the Gemini room. “We will board the Space X company private jet for a quick hop to Bowmanville, Texas to see a prototype of the  Starship and Starhopper.”

Stunned – the dearMoon crew follow Amanda out of the room to a waiting limo to take them to the nearby airport. There, they board the gulf stream G650 Extended Range (ER) Private Jet. It was built in 2015 and delivered to Musk in 2016.  It can fly nonstop 7, 500 nautical miles/13 890 km.  It is the highest performance long range business aircraft available. It is registered to Falcon Landing LLC – the name refers to Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 space vehicle.

Walking across the tarmac at the Los Angeles International airport in California, Kyle could not believe how his life had changed. He was glad to be where he is but astonished at how things were working out. Settling down into a leather swivel leather chair in the middle of a large room – equipped with a bar and an air hockey table Kyle said “WOW! I want to pinch myself. Is this for real?”

“Yaw – I know what you mean” Bangoura replied. “WOW!” sitting in the chair next to him setting his drum on the floor between the two men.

“This is kind of unexpected – I never expected to be traveling again today” Sophia said with a sigh as buckled herself into a seat across from Bangoura and Kyle.   She just had been to the Los Angeles International airport, traveling from Brazil earlier that morning. She was tired and was looking forward to relaxing at the hotel before returning home in two days. 

“Look at this place!” Jorge exclaimed. “I wonder how many time Elon has used this. It still smells new.”

“He only uses it to flight between Space X launch and construction sites. It is the easiest and hassle-free way for him to travel. No line ups – just call the pilots and he can leave within the hour. Every minute of his day is precious, and he does not want to waste any time.” Amanda answered. “It was very kind of Elon to allow us to use his private jet for us to see Starship today.  I’m very excited to show you how the progress of building the Starship is progressing.  We’ve had a few mishaps, but Elon is happy with the evolution so far. 

“I read that the next stage of tests involves incremental test flight program using this test vehicle, with very low altitude tests that, over time, will go higher and faster.” Dan added.

“You are correct “Amanda confirmed. ” Those tests will use up to three Raptor engines. Today, when we take our tour -we will learn a little bit about the structure of the Starship.  SpaceX is on an aggressive development schedule. Elon said to the press that he expects to have the first orbital Starship prototype completed by 2022. SpaceX’s goal is to fly to Mars by 2023.”

Jorge raised his eyebrows to this. “That is cool but I don’t think I would like to live on Mars. I love Mother Earth too much. I can’t imagine living the rest of my days in that harsh environment with no trees. I’ll just wait until it is terraformed or something. It is an ambitious goal to move our species to another planet but I’m happy with seeing the moon up close!” He added with a cheezie grin – realizing how lucky he was that he said yes to this opportunity.

At that moment, the engines of the jet reeved, the artists were soon in the air flying towards Brownsville, Texas to see the Spaceship that would carry them to the moon.

 “I love your photography. You are so lucky to travel to all the places you have been to and be paid to take your fantastic photos” Sarah complemented Jorge. “How many countries have you been to?”

“You are one to talk – you’ve seen our planet from space! You have been to all of them.” Jorge said with a smile. “ My last count was 112 countries. My big break came with Nikon. I was slowly building my brand and enjoying teaching other amateur photographers what I had learned through years of disastrous mistakes.  I was really a horrible photographer when I first started. I reached out to many others who were successful in the field and built a network of people I relied on to teach me everything I know.  I wanted to give back, so I started to teach people by taking them on excursions locally.  That grew into a business.  I love teaching people and seeing how happy they are when they develop a technique for taking good photos.  I also have an online community of people who have signed up for my newsletter. It is a real art but also it is also fun. Our planet is beautiful, and I want to capture it for everyone to see.”

“I can see why you were asked to join this team” Sarah added. “Once you have been in space – you realize how precious our pale blue dot jewel is.  All astronauts have a desire to protect it.”

Turning to Dan beside her who was settling for the 5-hour flight to Tx – “How are you?”

“I’m thrilled and happy”  Dan replied.  “This crazy trip to the moon is taking me away from my family but they are 100% behind me so I am feeling pretty lucky. I can’t wait to tell the girls that I’ve been on Elon Musk’s private jet. They would go crazy to be here right now.”

“How many children do you have?”

“We have 4 girls and 8 grandchildren. We started our family very young – straight from high school.  So now we are young grandparents. My wife loves it.  I do too.  Life works out sometime even if it was not planned.  How many kids do you have?”

“Oh, I have one girl.  She is 15 – typical teenager now.  She is growing up so quickly. I can’t believe it!  Her name is Emma.”

“Yes- Just blink and they are driving your car and then they leave.” Dan said with a sigh.

“I’m really lucky to have married the right partner.  He has always supported my dream of becoming an astronaut, at a time when the role was still new for women. David holds down the fort at home while I work at NASA and all over the place.  I still feel as though I’m missing out on her life. I can’t do all the mommy things I would like to do – volunteering at school, going on trips with her. I miss her a lot.  But the sacrifice, I feel is worth it.  Everything comes with a price. Get something in life, and then miss something. I’ve learned that you can’t really have it all – even though you try.  How did your wife react to you being asked to go to space?”

“Can you believe she jumped up and down? Hugged and kissed me and said “Go! Go! Go!”  She is awesome! She has always supported me and encouraged me to achieve my goals. I would not have become a writer unless she encouraged me to take a night course when I had lost my job. We are lucky too though – all the kids have left home and they are doing their own thing now. We have two girls living in the same city as us, which is convenient for visiting the grandchildren. One is in Europe and the fourth – the adventurer – moved to New Zealand, of all places, after University. ”

“Where in New Zealand? “Jorge piped up “That’s where I’m from!”

“She moved to Wellington initially because that is where she felt she could find a job quickly. It’s the capital and was hoping to get a government job. After a year of traveling around the country she moved to Christ Church just before the Earthquake in February 2011. It was a crazy scary time for my wife and I. We could not reach her by phone for days because the infrastructure was such a mess. Thank goodness she was ok. She recently got married and had our 8th grandchild. Where are you from in New Zealand?”

“I’m from Wellington. I went to university there. My parents still live there. I was not near Christ Church at the time of the Earth quake – thank goodness.  I think I was travelling through Asia that summer.  Have you been there yet?”

“Yes- we took a trip last year when our grandson was born. It was our first visit. New Zealand is such a beautiful country. We especially enjoyed touring the South Island. The views are stunning.” Jorge smiled while Dan described his homeland. “Pam, my daughter, would typically come home to see us but with the grandchild on the way my wife insisted that we see her. I never thought of going there to be honest. It is so far away from everywhere else on this planet. You have a beautiful country though.  I would like to return there some day to see more of it.”

Published March 29, 2021#dearMoon  Audition video 

“I agree – I started travelling in my own country. Partly to save money but also because – to be honest – my family never took the time to see it.  After I got burnt out in university, I wanted to see more of the world. I thought spending a month or two in the South Island was the best place to start.  Queenstown is my favorite place in the world to hike. They have some top-notch trails, and the scenery is breath taking. Every landform in the world is in the three New Zealand islands. Spending time in the wilderness helped me develop my passion for photography. “

Across the cabin – about an hour into the flight, Sophia jumps up from her seat and heads to the bar. “I think I need a drink. Will anyone join me?”

“Sure” Dan replied

“Choice” said Jorge – using a term common in New Zealand for awesome.

“I think I will pass” replied Sarah.

“To each their own. I don’t think I’ve been to a bar in an aircraft before.” Sophia comments, “Do they have wine at the ISS?” Sophia asked Sarah. “I’m hoping we can celebrate heading to the moon with some wine with dinner occasionally over the course of our trip. It would be wonderful to have champagne while on the Dark Side of the Moon.”

“Did you know that Buzz Aldrin was the first to have wine in space? He took communion and wine during Apollo 11 first flight to the moon. It was just a thimble full.  NASA did not want the public to find out because they want to reflect a separation of church and state. There is no reason for wine not to be consumed in spaced.” Amanda states.

Sarah adds, “For a short period of time, to combat the terrible food being served to astronauts in Spacelab missions, Sherry was served with meals. It was decided by “experts” that it was the best choice because it is a very stable product – having been heated during processing. Unfortunately, Gerry Carr, the commander of Skylab 4 – accidently said in a news conference that wine would be consumed on his mission to space and as a result, there was a huge public uproar about it ever since. The public could not imagine astronauts drinking in space.” Sarah continues, “Unfortunately, NASA has adopted a strict policy against bringing wine to space.  The Russians – on the other hand – are encouraged to drink Cognac in space because their experts say it is good for them. Despite the benefits, the ISS is dry.  So to answer your question, No - I have not had wine in space. “ Sarah said with a sigh. “Perhaps, Space X will allow you to enjoy some while traveling around the moon. “ Stating firmly her opinion, Sarah says “I, on the other hand, will not be having any. Despite what Hollywood has depicted in movies – traveling in space is a full time – around the clock job! It is also insanely treacherous. As your only pilot on this mission – I will not be drinking a drop.”  Sarah added.

“Oh! I am sorry to hear that!” Sophia says with a bit of sarcasm in her voice. “I’m happy to help by drinking your portion.” Saying with a cheesy grin. “I don’t see why we should not drink – Everyone knows that every artist drinks or part takes in some adventure to get the creative juices flowing.  Since I’m from Italy, I’ve had alcohol since I’ve been a baby. My Nonna used to give me drops from her fingers to help me fall asleep when I was young.  It relaxes you - I can certainly see many benefits.” Sophia countered.

Speaking to the bartender “I’ll have a Cosmo, please.”

“May I have a beer please” Jorge added.

“And you Sir?” pointing to Dan.

“A beer too – please!”  Dan answered. 

“I can’t agree with you more” Dan added to what Sophia said.  “Not that I’m hammered when I write children’s poetry, but it certainly helps with writer’s block. Besides – it’s a treat to have a drink when you are flying.  It helped me on our long journey to New Zealand to see our daughter.”

Sophia turning to Kyle “I feel as though I know you. You were the first selected and the press covered every aspect of your life Kyle.  You are certainly the Guinea Pig for all of us.  I know that you are not married – don’t have a girlfriend or partner. I know where you grew up. Almost everything. Can you tell me something we don’t know?”

Feeling put in the spotlight he falls silence and then tries to change the topic, “What about you? You told us that you are from Italy but live in Brazil. Your English is very good so you must be tri-lingual: Italian, Spanish, and English. That is pretty amazing!”

“While I do speak a bit of Spanish because it is very similar to Italian – the official language of Brazil is Portuguese. “

“Really – I thought most of South America was Spanish?”

“It is – West of the demarcation line.  When Christopher Columbus “discovered” the New World, “ using air quotations to emphasize discovered, Sophia continues “it started a competitive land grab between Spain and Portugal.  All the land west of the line went to Spain and these countries have Spanish as their official language.  Everything East, including Brazil, belongs to Portugal – where the residents speak Portuguese.”

“Cool, I guess!  Are you married, have children?

“I really hate those types of questions. They are so personal!” Kyle tried to keep his mouth from dropping open.  Why was she treating him like a caged animal at the zoo – while she was keeping her life private?  He thought she was going to be in for a wild ride when the media gets a hold of her.

“But you are asking –“ Talking with her hands, she points to Kyle,” and we are going to the moon together, so I’ll tell you!” Sophia continues. “My one and only focus has been my career. There are so few women in Architecture. Thankfully, there is a change happening.  Today, there are more woman graduating in the field, but architecture is still a male dominated field.  It’s not that I do not have an opportunity to meet men. I am working with them all the time. I find often, I am either the only woman on a project or there is one other woman in the team.” Unapologetically, Sophia states, “My dream” touching her heart” is to have an architectural firm run by women only.  When I’m not working on a large project – I am visiting schools, where ever I am working, to talk to students hoping to ignite their passion – especially the young ladies in the crowd. My message goes beyond talking about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) – it is about discovering and following your passion regardless of the failures or barriers put in your way.  I want to strengthen their resolve that they must persist despite the odds of making it. “Again Sophia uses hand gestures to make air quotations when she says “making it”. She continues, “ Trusting in the process and keeping your dreams alive despite the thousands of hurdles and barriers that are put in your face. I’m driven to keep my dream alive. This invitation to go to the moon may delay my current goals but I am hopeful that this experience and opportunity will help more than hinder my dream.”

“So – to answer your question –“ smiling at Kyle, ” NO! I’m not married or dating anyone. I do not have any children, although I would like to have a family one day.  ‘Is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves?” Friedrich Nietzsche said that – I’ve always liked that quotation.”

“Do you like Brazil?” Dan asks.

“Oh! My! Yes – “Turning to face Dan to grab his full attention. “ I love the people and the culture. The food is amazing.  I grew up in a tight-knit family. Food is always so important in the Italian culture.  Well – in any Eastern European culture, really! You can’t leave an Italian home hungry. I fell in love with Brazil’s lively culture, the food – and decided to stay. I’ve lived there now for 8 years. I plan to live my life there – although my projects take me around the world – I feel it is my home now.”

Turning to Bangoura, Sophia asks “Where do you live now?”

“I wanted to move from Guineaso that I could give my drum more exposure. I was lucky to get a teaching position at SIBELIUS ACADEMY IN HELSINKI. I love teaching. I love interacting with young people.  They are interested in my drum, my music. Some take my class for interest- most want to learn to play. As you emphasized, this is my passion.  I can’t wait to play it in Space. I wonder if Yusaku will jam with me on the way to the moon.”

“You must know quite a few languages as well?”

“Well – French, English, and my native language Bambara – which is trade language which grew from two groups of people who did not share the same native language. The crazy thing is that there is a great number of dialects.”

“Growing up in the US – I could have taken different languages in school but I found there was no place to practice speaking it.  For example, I could congregate every French verb under the sun but because I never had an opportunity to speak French fluidly. Because I did not use it regularly -- I lost it” Kyle said with a sigh.  “It must help your creative process to speak, think, and dream in so many different languages.”

“It certainly helps with problem solving.  I find that I can attack problems on a construction site from all different angles and I see things a bit more clearly than others. I think having to communicate in many languages at the same time, on the fly, does help my creativity.” Sophia said.

“Would you mind playing your drum Bangoura?” Sophia asked pointing to his instrument. “I would love to hear it again.”

“Sure!  Is there anything you would like to hear? I just released another album – sorry CD – whatever they call them these days. Would you like to hear something from that?”

“Yes- that would be fantastic!”

So – Bangoura positioned his drum between his tights and everyone in the jet turned to watch him play. Dressed in traditional African rob – blue with white stripes – Bangoura begins to sing and bang the sides of this drum with the palm of his hands and fingers.  Then, he smiles brightly.  As he continues to play, his posture straightens, and his fingers become a blur. Suddenly, he pauses to put this left thumb in the middle of the drum to change the beat and starts dancing in his chair moving his shoulders in the rhythm of the beat.  Everyone in the plane joins in by clapping. It is such a joyful sound – everyone can’t help but tap their toes.

Suddenly, they could all feel the plane start to descend.  The pilot made an announcement to return to their seats and fasten their seatbelts.  Soon they were on the tarmac again and walking towards the small Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport, USA near the home of the Starbase, Starhopper, and Starship.

The team of artists, Amanda, and Sarah jump into another limo and drive a short 40-minute trip to the SpaceX Space Vertical Launch Facility in Boca Chica State Park, Tx.

Kyle is surprised that the testing facility is in a state park. He guessed that it made sense that it is far away from any community for safety reasons.

As they drove along, Amanda asked if they had any questions about where they were going.

“Well – Yes! I have a million questions.“ Answered Dan “Can you tell us more about the history of the Starship? I heard that the name was inspired by David Bowie’s song.”

“You are correct. It was named after the David Bowie Space Oddity song. The rocket itself was inspired by the 1954 adventure comic-book ‘Explorers on the Moon’ with Tintin. Although the Starship is made of stainless steel with a silver finish – Tintin’s Rocketship – if you can remember – some of you – was red and white checkered. The shape of the ship is remarkable similar. Elon even tweeted “If in doubt, go with Tintin” (September 2018) when he tweeted a prototype of the spaceship at one of Space X’s factories near Boca Chica Village in Texas.”

“The rocket that will take you safely to the moon has undergone many names. Musk has had a hard time settling on a name for his Mars spaceflight architecture. He called the initial concept the Mars Colonial Transporter, then changed the moniker to Interplanetary Transport System (ITS) in 2016. ITS became the BFR-BFS in September 2017, when Musk revealed an updated design for the combo. Sometime in  November 2018, he changed it again to Starship in a tweet. The sleek, shiny suborbital craft has three prominent fins that end in landing pads” – holding out her phone so everyone in the limo could see.

“The Starship consists of two parts. The rocket named Starship sits on top of the rocket booster called the Super Heavy. Together they tower 120 m – about the length of a football field. The fuel will be liquid Oxygen and Liquid methane.  Eventually there will be 6 raptor engines below the Starship and 37 below the Super Heavy rocket booster.”

Jorge asks the next question “Can you tell us about where we are going?”

“Space X purchased approximately 41 acres (17 ha) and leasing 57 acres (23 ha) of land next to Boca Chica Beach near Brownsville, Texas around July 2014.” Glancing at the notes on her phone. “Space X had selected the location near Brownsville as the location for the new non-governmental launch site, after a deal to build the big rockets at the Port of Los Angeles fell through. It is like San Diego, because Brownsville has a vast land of 147.5 square miles, a year-round subtropical climate, and is only 30 miles away from the beach. “Looking up at the group to check that everyone can hear her, Amanda continues “Also, in the competition to win the site, the State of Texas and the City of Brownsville beat out competitors by offering more than $15 million in economic incentives, plus another $5 million from the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, a publicly funded program that subsidizes businesses that create jobs paying more than $10 an hour. In return, SpaceX has promised three hundred new jobs that pay an average salary of $65,000 a year.”

“The installation of the first commercial space vertical launch site here has been an immense boost to the economy. The construction work, along with other service, vendor, and support and production jobs and the prestige of bringing space technology to South Texas adds a great deal of interest to the area for tourism.”

“The final environmental assessments were completed, and environmental agreements were in place by July 2014. This location has become SpaceX’s fourth active launch facility. The three previous facilities are leased from the US government: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida, Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 4 in California, and Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad 39A just a few miles north of their existing Florida pad at SLC40 on the adjacent Air Force Station.

In November 2018, Space X filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission seeking an experimental license to support communications with the hopper during upcoming flights. SpaceX said it planned a combination of low-altitude flights, going no higher than 500 meters, and high-altitude ones, going as high as 5,000 meters, from the Texas site. 

“Since I joined this adventure, I’ve tried to follow all the activity in the news” Sophia added. “This site has been a very active site since 2019.”

“Yes – it has. I can give you a short summary of all the activity that has happened here regarding the Starship, if you are interested?”

“Of course, please!” Dan agrees.

“Yes – give it to us” Kyle and Bangoura say at the same time.

“I’m interested” Jorge adds.

“There has been a great deal of activity at this site. Starting on January 10, 2019 – Elon announced that the assemble of the test-flight version of Starship was complete.” 

Amanda continues, “Since January 10, 2019, there have been many successful and unsuccessful launches at this site. The test flights conducted at the location we are heading towards, where Elon has named “Starbase” -- were like those that SpaceX performed on the Grasshopper test vehicle between 2012 and 2013.”

“On January 23, 2019, there was a set back where high winds blew over the rocket causing damage to the nosecone that would takes weeks to repair. The tanks and rocket were fine in the incident.”

“The first tethered hop was successfully tested on April 3, 2019 after weeks of waiting and several airspace closures over the SpaceX test facility in Boca Chica, Texas. During this test, SpaceX used a less powerful version of the Starhopper which was firmly tethered to the ground. The very first test was a static fire which ignited the engines. Two nights later, another test was performed, and the rocket reached the end of its tether – rising a few feet or more above the ground and landing safely. In this case, the tether served as a safety line on the vehicle.” Amanda continues.

“On July 5, 2019, SpaceX performed a successful hover test of the Starhopper. Everything went according to plan.  On August 27, 2019, the third prototype of Starhopper performed a 150 m hover test. The miniature water tower with three fins rose out of a cloud of dust and smoke and,”--  using her two index fingers as air quotations “ ‘hoped’ 150 m to the landing pad along the coast.” Looking up to see all the artists paying close attention to her words, Amanda continues.

“It was almost an entire year before the new design and prototype of Starship, Serial Number 5 (SN5), was tested. A much taller ship was tested on August 4, 2020. This new design also had a successful test hop of 150 m. This version of the Starship did not have fins but had eight little legs that extended upon landing. The rapid testing of prototypes was well on its way. On September 3 – a month later, SpaceX tested SN6 tested the same 150 m hop between the launch pad and landing pad.  On Sept 18, about two weeks later, the SN 7 was intentionally destroyed in a pressure fail test. A spectacular plume of white smoke enveloped the vehicle and crushed it. “Amanda describes.

“The first suborbital test of Starship happened on Dec 9th 2020, when it traveled 12.5 km off the surface of the Earth. The prototype rocket ascended usingthree Raptor engines. At the maximum altitude the first and then second engine cut off successfully. The 6 minutes, 42-second-long flight ended by destroying SN8 as it landed hard on the Earth. The cause of the crash was determined to be low fuel tank pressure.  The SN9 flight test occurred on Feb 2, 2021, with a successful launch but very hard landing, which again destroyed the prototype.” Amada says.

“Finally, SpaceX had a successful landing with Starship, SN10 on March 3, 2021. During SpaceX’s third-altitude flight test of Starship prototype, the rocket reached the designated altitude and even landed successfully but blew up on the launch pad 8 minutes after landing. The Starship descended using “active aerodynamic control” by independent movement of two forward and two aft flaps on the vehicle – as described in a YouTube video I found. The cool thing is that the Raptor engines reignited as the ship performed the landing flip maneuver before successfully touching down. With each test, the SpaceX Starship engineers are learning how to develop a fully reusable transport system. “

“On March 15, 2021, SN 11 performed a successful static fire which ignited the engines, but the vehicle did not leave the Earth.  The fourth altitude flight test, which occurred two weeks later, was to test the propellant transition to the internal header tanks, which hold the landing propellant before reorienting itself for aerodynamic descent. Since there are no runways where the Starship is destined to fly, in-space refilling/fueling is critical to landing Starship and returning it to Earth. After a successful launch, the Starship blew up over the Starbase, sending debris over the entire area.” Amanda finishes reading from her notes on her phone.

“How will the final Starship be different from the one we see today?” Kyle asked.

Amanda continued “The orbital Starship will be taller, has a thicker skin (so that it will not wrinkle) and a smoothly curving nose. SpaceX’ long-term goal of SpaceX has always to help humanity to be a multiplanetary species. The first in the history of Earth.  So ultimately, SpaceX expects to have the Starship and the Super Heavy ready to fly to Mars as early as mid-2020!”

“That is an aggressive schedule!” Dan stated. “It reminds me of JFK’s challenge to send man to the moon by the end of the decade. I would love to talk to the folks at NASA to know what they were thinking when they decided to stop going to the moon. I understand a great deal of science and engineering has been achieved by having the ISS but still- it makes me wonder if we would have hotels on the moon now if they had opened the space race to the private sector.” Dan pauses, then continues “Good on Elon and SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin for driving this goal of not only landing on another planet but trying to live there.”

“We are close to the site where the Starship is being manufactured. Today we are lucky to see the prototype that is being tested and will meet with some of the engineers to ask questions.” Looking at everyone in the limo, Amanda continues, “ I’m sorry today will be a very short visit. I’m sure you are all exhausted. We have arranged for you to stay overnight in Brownsville and then there will be flights home for all of you tomorrow morning. I expect our tour will end at 6:30 – 7pm. It is 5:05 pm now.  I will arrange for us to go to a local restaurant for dinner. In fact, I know the top-rated restaurant in Brownsville, TX – a local Mexican favorite called the The Vermillion.Of the 330 restaurants in Brownsville – this one is rated number one. “ holding up her index finger for emphasis. “I’m interested in trying it with you tonight.” Amanda suggests.

 “Sounds great!” Kyle responds.

“Oh! Here we are!” Amanda announced as the limo slowed down to turn towards the security gate and guard building of the SpaceX Space Launch Facility. The entire test facility area is surrounded by a security road and a high fence.

The world’s first commercial launch site designed for orbital missions does not look like much.  There is a two-story office, few tanks, water tower, four lightning protection towers, workshop, warehouse, utility structures and large storage area for liquid oxygen and helium.  The site, which looks more like a construction site than a vertical launch site has a hangar and the Launch Pads. There will be several launch pads once the site is complete:  two sub-orbital launch sites, one orbital launch site, a landing pad, the Starship, tank farm (liquid fuel tanks) and a control center made of concrete.    It struck Kyle that – one day soon – that might be the location from which he would leave this planet.   

The site lies half a mile from the shore of the Gulf coast, at the end of Texas Highway 4, and 17 miles (27 km) east of the Brownsville city limits. The site is located on a patch of soft sand. When the Starship is complete, the finished launch site will cover 56 acres (22.6 hectors),22 acres or so (9 hectors) of them developed for the platform, warehouse, storage, and towers.  Also, there are two 30 feet (9 m) S-band tracking station procured from NASA's Merrit Island Spaceflight Tracking and Data Network station at Kennedy Space Centre that will be used track future manned Dragon missions. 

The ground was broken in April 2014 and has been an active construction site ever since.  The location is not an easy place to build anything because it’s nearly impossible to build on a shifting sand.  To stabilize the launch site, SpaceX needed a great deal of earth. 310,000 cubic yards (240,000 m3) of new soil was trucked to the facility to build the site since there is no bedrock in the area. The soil stabilization stage of construction completed in 2016.

SpaceX choosing this site as a launch site has brought jobs and an economic boom to the local economy. Brownsville has a poverty rate of 36%, compared to the country’s overall figure of 15.9%. When it was announced that SpaceX was building their launch site nearby, the locals were excited to learn that there would be construction jobs that pay more than minimum wage.  “A 2014 study to generate US$85 million of economic activity in the city of Brownsville and eventually generate approximately US$51 million in annual salaries from some 500 jobs projected to be created by 2024.” The mayor and other city council people hope that not only the site is successful but that it brings long lasting and economic benefits to the entire region. SpaceX is collaborating with local universities to encourage students to pursue a career in rocketry science instead of just supporting or manufacturing.  SpaceX also intends to build a research center to provide internships to students.    

The rest of the site consists of barren land -56.6 acres (22.9 ha).  The estimated cost of building this facility was in excess of US$100 million over 3 to 4 years. The Texas state government spent US$15 million to extend utilities and infrastructure to support the new spaceport.

After entering the security perimeter, Amanda said “I thought it would be best to visit the Vertical Launch site first before heading back to town for dinner. On the way, we will stop at the Control Center, which we passed 2 miles ago .” The limo entered the gate and drove towards a two-story office building a short distance from the gate.

All of the artists climbed out of the limo and gazed at the sparse surroundings.  It felt like a big school science project – brought to life.

“I’ve arranged to meet the site operator for a tour.” Amanda said to the group as they entered the building. She approached the modest desk in the center of the room. 

“Hello! I’m Amanda from ZOZO.  I’ve brought the artists who will be traveling to the moon with Yusaku. They are here today for the tour of the facility. “ Amanda introduces herself to the guard at the desk.

“We have been waiting for you. We have your security badges all prepared.  We just need your signature here.” The security guard provides a pen and lifts a large binder for the artists to sign with the pen he provides.

Each of the artists and Sarah took turns writing their signature and receiving a security badge that they hung around their necks.  Each badge had VISITOR in BOLD letters.  A photo of each person was displayed in the front with their last name.  The photos were sent to this office from SpaceX’s head office earlier in the day – which felt like days away to Kyle.

“Please follow me, this way” Amanda instructs.

They all followed Amanda to the elevators which takes the group to the second floor.  On the second floor they were greeted by Tracy who takes them to a boardroom with a fantastic view of the launch pad.  Everyone stood at the window and gazed at the view instead of taking a seat around the table.

“Welcome to Brownsville” A booming voice with a Texas drawl startled them.

“Thank you Brad! It’s been a long day for these folks, but we are glad to be here” Amanda replies.

“Please take a seat” Brad commands. “Thank you for coming all this way to see our little launch site” he said with a hearty laugh. Brad is a huge guy – former football player in university – continued to stay in shape by weight training every other day.  In his early 40s, his hair is already thinning but still had a curl to it.  Dressed in jeans and a SpaceX golf shirt – he appeared clean cut – down to earth type of guy. Someone who you would enjoy having a beer with.

All the artists turned away from the view and took a seat round the boardroom table.

“We would like to take you on a short tour of our facility today. Please ask any questions you have at any time.  We are so happy to have you here. You are our first space tourists who might be launched from this site. Amazing? Isn’t it! So where do I begin? “, Brad continues.

Trying to be helpful Amanda said “I’ve already told them about the history of this site and the Starhopper and Starship launches that have occurred here since the Starbase opened. Why don’t you tell them more about the Starship.  I hope we can see the current prototype today.”

“Definitely! That is part of the tour.”

“First of all – would any of you like coffee, tea? I know it’s been a long day for you coming from Southern California.”

After coffee and tea orders were taken, Brad started with his brief description of the Starship and it’s capabilities.

“The Starship is actually a new name. It is the upper stage of the next generation launch system, previously knowns as the Big Falcon Rocket or the BFR for short.  The lower stage or rocket assembly is now called the “Super Heavy.”  It will – when completed, use 31 Raptor Methane/Liquid Oxygen rockets to escape Earth’s gravity and carry all of you folks to the moon.” With both arms apart and his palms facing the audience, Brad gestures to everyone in the room.

The mixture of fuel is about twice as powerful as those aboard the Merlin engines currently flying in the company's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy engines. The first test of the Raptor rocket was in September, 2016. In the near future, seven additional rockets will be attached to the Starship itself.”

“The Starship hopper to be tested here is powered by three liquid-oxygen/methane powered Raptor engines develop by SpaceX. The tests are designed to ensure the reusability of the rocket assembly.”

“Starship is intended to be the reusable upper stage for the company’s next-generation launch system, with a separate booster called Super Heavy servicing as the reusable first stage. Development of Starship and Super Heavy are central to Elon Musk’s long-term vision of enabling human settlement of Mars in the next decade. The final design stands 387 feet (118 meters) tall when fully assembled. It will be capable of flying up to 100 people and 100 tons (90 metric tons) of payload into space.” Pointing to the rocket to the right of the large window, Brad says “ It is pretty cool looking with two of the three rear fins actuating.”

“What is the rocket made out of?” Jorge asks.

“The original design included carbon composite material for the rocket that was lightweight and had high strength. Then, the engineers at SpaceX and Elon Musk decided to use stainless steel instead because of its lower cost and can withstand much higher temperatures.  They selected a 300 series alloy known to maintain its strength at high temps. They determined that steel is strong enough to endure the intense temperature changes and pressure of flying through the Earth’s atmosphere. Also, steel is easy to work with.  Using stainless steel has accelerated SpaceX’s development schedule for Starship. The only downfall is that carbon composites perform better at room temperatures.”

“Stainless steel is useful because it has a mirror finish and can’t not be painted because the skin will be too hot for paint. The team building it feels that steel makes the Starship look spaced age with maximum reflectivity. The operational vehicle will have four large windows.”

Amanda piped up “When will we have a chance to see the Starship and Starhopper?”

“Why don’t we go now before it gets too late. It is already 4:30 pm. Follow me!” Brad replies.

The group rose, and silently left the room all contemplating that they were about to meet the next big factor in this trip to the moon – the capsule that will take them there. Well – the prototype at least.

Out of the building they went – and walked about 1.4 km (1 mile) to the Vertical launch site.  Off in the distance they could already see the giant polished rocket. 

“Did you know that Starship will have the capability to land on the moon? We are designing it so that it is not only fully reusable, but it will land vertically – using Vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) – even after surviving the trip through Earth’s atmosphere.  With the use of propellant transfer in Earth orbit, Starship will be able to land on the moon with up to 100 metric tons of cargo, depending on the amount of propellant loaded onto the vehicle. “

“Why is that?” Kyle asks.

“We expect that the Moon will eventually be colonized to have a launch site for future missions to Mars.  With lower gravity and no atmosphere, it might make more sense to have the Starship based on the moon instead of the Earth.” Brad smiles confidently, “Also, SpaceX’ long-term goals are that the Starship is used to help build up a base there,” he said of Starship’s role in lunar missions. “I realize it is a thrill for all of you to go to the moon but if it all goes well – eventually, we will have space tourists going to the moon for a holiday. Imagine a hotel on the moon with a similar future version of the Starship landing on a lunar landing pad.” Brad states. “The Starship will be capable of carrying about 100 people, but the "Dear Moon" trip will carry just a skeleton crew to accommodate extra fuel, food, water and spare parts, as a precaution in case something goes wrong – nothing will!” Brad moves his hands together and apart with palms facing down repeatedly.

“Ultimately, this type of vehicle is designed to help get people to the moon, Mars, the Jupiter moon Europa, the Saturn satellite Enceladus and everywhere else they want to go in the solar system, according to Elon’s plan.” Sarah added.

“It’s difficult to believe all the things that SpaceX has accomplished in the last few years.  We have perfected the intricate maneuver that returns rocket boosters to Earth – land them gently on the ground or on a ship off the Atlantic.  We simply clean them up and they are used again. We have launched more than 20 rockets into space without incident! Knock on wood” Brad makes a jester of knocking on his head. “Up until very recently, we were paid by NASA to bring supplies to the ISS.” Brad continues.

“A huge mechanical arm – as you may know as the Canada Arm – was used to reach out and bring the delivery of supplies and scientific experiments to a port. “Sarah added. “As you may have seen in the news a short time ago, SpaceX successfully sent a crew-friendly Dragon to the ISS. It was the first time in 8 years that an American-made space craft designed to carry humans arrived at the ISS. To accommodate this arrival, a new docking port was delivered to the station a couple of years ago.  The Astronauts on board the ISS installed new wiring and rerouted ventilation so that power and air could flow to the spacecraft once it docked.  It was a significant modification of hardware on the ISS.”

“There were no people on board SpaceX’s first mission to dock with the ISS. Only a space-suit-clad mannequin named Ripley, about 400 pounds of cargo, and a plush toy in the shape of Earth, a cute indicator that started to float when the spacecraft reached microgravity. The new Dragon is equipped with software, sensors, and lasers to autonomously guide it toward and attach itself to the newly made port.  The Astronauts on the station transmitted important information to the spacecraft computer as it neared the ISS. The Dragon performed the final intricate docking maneuver and – you know what? It performed it flawlessly.” Brad gave a huge proud Texan smile.

“I heard about all that in the news” Sophia exclaimed; a bit winded since she was trying to keep pace wearing heals. “I am most interested in the Starship design.  What will protect us from being burned up in the atmosphere when we return? “Sophia asked nervously as they arrived at the launch pad with the giant Starship prototype standing in front of them – tethered to the pad – ready for the next hopper test.

“Great question! It will get toasty outside the Starship as you descend back to Earth on your return from the moon.  The estimated maximum temperature will be around 1650 Kelvin (approx. 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, approx. 1,375 degrees Celsius). A thermal protection system is part of Starship’s exterior. This system will withstand the extreme temperatures associated with traveling through our atmosphere when returning to Earth, but it is slightly lower than the temperatures NASA's Space Shuttles were built to withstand (approx. 1,500 degrees Celsius).”

Kyle and Bangoura raised their eyebrows to this comment. Kyle speaks up “ Isn’t the heat shields used on the shuttle safter – therefore better?” 

“SpaceX uses a double stainless-steel skin with active coolant flowing between the two layers. The hexagonal stainless-steel tiles blanket the windward side of Starship.” Brad answers.

“What other safeguards are there to protect us from the harsh elements of space?” Bangoura asked.

“To protect you and other astronauts on board the Starship, SpaceX has a launch abort system that we called the ‘Launch Escape System”. This system allows the crew and the craft to get away from the Super Heavy rocket in case of an emergency.” Brad answers Bangoura.

“Phew! No ejector seats then?” Dan asked. “No! Our intension is to keep your team together throughout this adventure. I guess you will become the best of friends in the next year and a half!” He said with a chuckle. “As of today, the entire spacecraft would be ejected away from the launch vehicle.  This means that the crew will be able to eject the Starship away from the rocket anytime between launch and when the capsule is in orbit.” Brad continues ““The Crew Dragon has four main parachutes for the capsule's ocean landing. It also has a series of wind sock parachutes — small parachutes that can act as "brakes" — to slow it down before the four main parachutes open. “

Turning to address the entire group, Brad states “As you know everything is subject to change. Everything at SpaceX changes rapidly and regularly.  The project is a moving target. With each test we learn and make new plans for future designs and tests. “

“What about deep-space radiation and galactic cosmic rays? I hear they fly through Astronauts living on the ISS constantly. Will SpaceX shield us from this threat?” Jorge asks.

 “Travelling in space, living on the moon or even Mars is dangerous for many reasons, but one concern is the exposure to higher radiation, which will require an advanced form of shielding.” Brad answers, “When NASA, SpaceX or even our competition Blue Origin, attempt to send humans to the red planet, radiation exposure will become even more severe, and it’s unclear how that will affect the human body. While we live on Earth, the atmosphere and magnetic field protects us from highly energetic particles from the Sun or from distant galaxies. As they have discovered while living on the ISS, the cosmic rays can pierce through skin and other materials causing damage to tissues and organs. Some scientists suspect that cosmic rays cause damage to human central nervous systems and our brains.  They are still studying the effects of long-term exposure or what would happen during a large solar flare?”

“Where is the Starship being constructed?  Where is the Crew Dragon? “ Sophia asked in a rapid firing of questions in her Brazilian/Italian accent.

“The Starship is being constructed in San Pedro, Los Angeles at an aerospace facility but this one was assembled here on the platform.  It surprised the locals that we assembled this version of the Starship in situ. Many thought it was a water tower at first.” Answering her first question.

“Where is the Crew Dragon? –  It is in Florida at cape Canaveral where it launched recently into orbit to dock – with the ISS.   The Super Draco thrusters are being tested, which are part of that spacecraft’s abort system.  Luckily for you folks, we have one of the latest protypes of the Crew Dragon in the hanger over there.  It is not the one that went to space, but it is one of the latest versions. Would you like to see it?”

“Yes!” Kyle answers.

“For sure!” Jorge agrees.

The rest of the artists follow Brad to the hanger.

They all turned away from the vertical launch pad, except for Kyle who was still mesmerized by the structure standing in front of him.  Wondering if he has the guts to actually trust this machine to take him to the moon and back.  Worry takes over his thoughts - “Engineers built this thing! What the hell am I thinking? Anything could go wrong.  I must be out of my mind!” The thought that this was becoming more real by the month scares him.

As the group walked away from the rocket, Bangoura noticed that Kyle was left behind and hollers” Hey Kyle! Hurry up man – come join us!”

Startled a bit out of deep thought, Kyle slowly turned and then runs to catch up with the group of artists.

As they arrive at the concrete Hanger – close to the building they had arrived at about an hour earlier, they walked through a side door as a group and was greeted with an awe-inspiring site.  The prototype Crew Dragon was on a platform in the middle of a large open space. It stands 27 feet (8.1 meters) tall.  Looking grand and impressive it reminds the group of a ship straight out of a science-fiction film. Kyle thought “You got to love how SpaceX strives to bring pop culture into Aerospace Engineering. It’s like Musk enjoys bringing to life all of his favorite books and movies that he has read as a child and young adult.” He says with a smirk.  Engineering and art merged.

Brad described the sleek sight in front of them. “The black-and-white ultramodern design of the capsule is visually stunning. Don’t you think? It has seven seats, which are made from carbon fiber and Alcantara cloth. The interior of the capsule is spacious considering extremely close quarters that the Apollo crew and astronauts using the Soyuz. This beautiful machine has a number of key features.” He said with a grin.

“SpaceX wants a voyage in Crew Dragon and Starship MK (Orbital Design) to be an enjoyable experience for its passengers. It has four windows and a sleek digital display that will show information ranging from where the craft is in space to information about the environment inside the capsule. Crewmembers can monitor the interior environment with an Environmental Control and Life Support System, and they can set the onboard temperature between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit ( 18 to 26C).”

“Can you describe the life support system for the Starship?” Kyle asks.

“In addition, adjusting the interior temperature of the capsule, other life support systems add weight and complexity to the Starship.  Your team and Sarah need a place to exercise, sleep, drink water, and air to breath. As you know, a life support system includes all the fundamental requirements humans need to survive her on Earth or in space. Air to breath is the top of the list of life support systems. The gas/air that your crew breaths will be the correct mixture and remove carbon dioxide from the air before it builds up to a dangerous amount. The Starship crew will need drinking water, along with a place for water waste to go.” Brad continues to describe the possible life support system that will be used on the Starship. “I’m sure the engineers are looking to the ISS for ideas since the water and oxygen on the ISS are in a closed loop recycling system.   On the ISS some water is split apart into Oxygen and Hydrogen using electrolysis for air to breath.  All Urine and sweat are treated and turned back into drinking water.”

  “The best thing is that this crew capsule is a reusable space capsule. It is built to last for a total of 10 flights before it will need significant refurbishing. It was sent to space in early 2019 using 16,000-lb thrust Super Draco rocket engines.”

As Brad described the space capsule, all the artists drift slowly to the center of the room to get a better look at the design.  Wanting to sit inside the capsule, Sarah spoke “Too bad that we are not able to sit inside the capsule” Craning her neck to see the top of the Crew Dragon. 

“Well – this is not the capsule that will take you to the moon. I think you will get a feel for what the interior of the Starship will look l like during your simulation training” gazing at Amanda as he said this.

“Yes! For sure – once we have your training schedule sorted out – you will have many opportunities to be in simulators to practice maneuvers.”

“Well, I can’t wait!” Jorge exclaimed. “Thank you for showing us all this today!” He said as he extended a hand to Brad.  “It is all amazing. I’m so happy to be part of this project.”

“We are happy to have all of you here too.  It’s a mind-blowing adventure that you guys are on. We at SpaceX will do our best to keep you safe so you can do your creative work.” Brad replies.

“Thank you Brad for your tour and all the information you provided us today.  I think we are all getting hungry. I’ve made reservations for us at the Vermillion in Brownsville.  Our ride is waiting for us outside. The driver will take us to the Control Center to meet Matt – then we will make our way back to town for dinner.  Brad you are welcome to join us for dinner. The reservation is made under my name.”

“That’s very kind of you but I best make my way home. My wife puts up with me being away many nights with testing at odd hours. I’ll take a rain check and join you guys for dinner another time. Thanks!” He replied as they left the hanger and headed towards the head office.  “It was great to meet you ‘all! I look forward to working with you soon.” Shaking all the artists hand with a firm Texan handshake. “Thanks for making the trip out here!”

“It was a surprise trip for us and you are welcome! I’m glad we came too” Sophia said. “It’s amazing the work you do here. Thank you for sharing it with us.” She said as she shook his hand.

They all climbed back into the limo and drove a short distance to the Control Center – just 2 miles away from the vertical launch pad.

“Wow! We should have walked that!” Dan said – always looking for opportunities to walk or run instead of drive. 

“We are a little tight for time.” Amanda replied “Besides, it’s been a long day for you guys. You must be a tired.”

“Not one bit” Said Bangoura. “I’m actually a night person. It is my most creative time of the day. I start to wake up as the sun goes down. Crazy thing but it works for me. Besides, after all the things we learned, saw and experienced today – I can’t help but feel energized. This is utterly amazing stuff. Really cool!”

“Yes –The fact that you brought together as a team to meet each other today is wonderful. Thank you for arranging all of this for us today” Sophia said to Amanda. “If I may say so myself – I think we will work well together.”

“We selected you for your passions about the Earth in your own unique way. It helps that you have some interest in what SpaceX is doing here too – Interplanetary travel, colonization, and tourism.”

“And here we are at the Brownsville Mission Control Center. Here we will meet Matt Smyth. He is a former NASA astronaut who rode on Columbia and Atlantis. His first trip to space was not even to the ISS! His job was to fix the Hubble Space Telescope. At the time, the crew of STS-109 successfully upgraded the power unit, camera (Advanced Camera for Survey) and new solar arrays. You may have heard about all that in the news” Referring to her notes on her phone. Amanda continued “During this mission he performed two spacewalks totaling 14 hours and 46 minutes. Matt will be the Capsule Communicator or CAPCOM - the key person who Sarah will be in contact with when you journey to the moon.”

The spacecraft communicator role is an important one. This person is the key contact who communicates directly with the crew of the space flight. They are responsible for effectively communicating important and time sensitive information from all the flight controllers who aid the space flight at Mission Control.  Since there is a large team on Earth supporting the team in space – on any mission, NASA identified early the importance to have a single voice to communicate with the group in space.  This person can understand the situation in the spacecraft and pass the information in the clearest way to the crew.

The CAPCOM acronym originated from the Mercury program when the spacecraft was named a “Capsule”.  The CAPCOM role is filled by a team of experienced astronauts who was the backup or support crew member. They also train alongside the astronauts who are on the current mission.  During the Shuttle era, this role was solely filled by astronauts from the Apollo and Shuttle missions until the Shuttle program ended.

In the context of potential manned missions to Mars, NASA Ames Research Center has conducted field trials of advanced computer-support for astronaut and remote science teams, to test the possibilities for automating CAPCOM. Like other astronauts, Sarah did not agree with this changes since astronauts have always depended on a  human voice in time of crisis.

The artists make their way into the main entrance of the Brownville’s Mission Control Center. This large, spacious building will be one of the main points of contact between Starship and Earth as it travels to the moon.  The grand entrance has a Falcon 1 tethered to the ceiling. Just like the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, all the furniture - tables and chairs – are red, white, and black made of plastic and leather.  Five Poster sized images of previous launches, taken from drowns, are behind the desk where two large football size security guards were waiting to greet the team of artists, Amanda, and Sarah.

Amanda introduces herself, Sarah, and the team to the security guards and asks to meet Matt Smyth.

One of the two security guards begin to speak into the mic attached to his headset with a light touch with his left hand.  The second security guard turns to the low cabinet behind him and digs out their security passes, which were prepared ahead of their visit and started to hand them to each visitor. 

“Thank you!” Sarah – was the first to receive hers, then followed by all the artists. Amanda was the last to receive a pass.

“Matt should be here in a minute. Please have a seat” the first security guard gestured to one of the red and white tables close to the desk.

Each of the artists gaze up at the giant Falcon 1 hanging from the ceiling, while Amanda refers to her notes in front of her.

Bangoura leans over to Sarah and says “I’m just thinking that we will be riding on more than two dozen of those when we head to the moon. How the heck can that be safe?”

“It’s the risk all astronauts are willing to take for the biggest adventure of our lives.” Sarah answers.

Published April 4, 2021

#dearMoon  Audition video 

“Welcome Everyone to Space X and to the Brownsville Mission Control!” A booming voice – enhanced by the acoustics large room - startling the artists.  Matt came out from behind the desk wearing a security badge around his neck. Dressed smartly in a white golf shirt and blue slacks – leather shoes and walking briskly.  Matt was a towering man of 6’ 3” tall.  Jorge wondered how he was able to fly in the Soyuz with such a huge frame. Greying to white hair and many smile lines – Matt looked like a friendly person and greeted the team with a huge grin.

“We are so happy you had a chance to stop here to visit our center during your first visit.  I realize that you are all hungry and have had a long day so let’s make this quick. Please follow me” Matt directed after shaking each person’s hand with a firm handshake.

All the artists stood when Matt entered the room and followed him down a long floor to ceiling glassed hallway. On either side were large open concept rooms with several hundreds of half partitioned desks/tables with two to five people working. Kyle guessed that the half partition was to offer a bit of privacy for each employee but he knew immediately that he could not stand to work in an environment with this.  How could anyone concentrate on their task with so much action happening around them? On the perimeter of each large room there were several smaller glassed board rooms and smaller meeting areas. 

As they continued down a long hallway, Matt asked them how their day had been going so far.

“Pretty intense” Bangoura replied.  “I mean, I knew we would be busy all day – but never expected to see three sites. “

“Welcome to the life of space travel. Anything seems possible when working with a company like SpaceX. Even though there are thousands of employees spread country wide – they still operate as sort of a start-up. Get’R Done seems to be the motto with such lofty goals as migrating humans to another planet.  We are pushing the limits each and every day. Space X does not operate the way NASA operates – although we are strict on safety – this environment is full of perks including trying to get the job done faster and better all the time.”

“I can definitely see how quickly this company progresses through their stages. Setbacks do not even seem to hinder them -too much “ Jorge adds.  “I heard about the recent “failed” landing test of the Starship last month.”

Correcting Jorge, Matt says “Elon said the test was not failure. We received tones of data. The Starship performed almost exactly as we had expected.  He was quite pleased. Only the landing did not occur as expected – much harder than expected.” Matt says with a grin.

“This is the reasons why we test and test again. We are constantly learning and collecting data so that we make the correct adjustments for the safest commercial flight vehicle for our crew.” Matt added with a smile.

At the end of the long hallway, they approached double doors leading to the Control Room. Since all the outside walls were made of glass – it looked like a three-story fish bowl from the outside.   The room consisted of 8 long rows of desks with 10 stations on each row. A station consisted of a chair in front of three monitors, wireless keyboard, and an intercom box (with microphone) that allowed each flight controller to talk up to 32 different specialists with a simple key code.  Hanging from the ceiling is a large projector that would, during a mission, show flight plan and information projected on the 3-story wall in front of the rows of desks.

“Please have a seat anywhere guys! This is one of several contact points for Sarah to communicate with SpaceX and NASA on your journey to the moon. All of Star Ship’s movements will be monitored here. Of course, we have other mission control rooms around the globebut all the information that they collect will be analyzed and studied here so that you have a safe journey to the moon and back.  The room will be filled with the top experts in their field: the Flight Operations Director, Flight Surgeon, Booster Systems Engineer, Control Officer, Electrical, Environmental and Consumables Manager (EECOM), Flight Dynamics Officer (FIDO or FDO), Guidance Officer, Guidance, Navigation, and controls systems Engineer (GNC), Integrated Communications Officer (ICO), Network, Organization and Procedures Officer (O&P), Telemetry, Electrical, EVA mobility unit Officer (TELMU)  - “Matt taps  his fingers to help him remember all of the roles. Looking at the group he is addressing he says “the list can go on and on. The Flight Control team will be managed by the Flight Director. He or she will remain in constant verbal communication with all the specialists in this room and in the back room via intercom channels called loops.  The box that you see on each table connects everyone verbally during the mission.”

“The Flight Controller’s creed states ‘ They must always be aware that suddenly and unexpectedly we may find ourselves in a role where our performance has ultimate consequences.’”

“Have the positions been filled for all the specialists who will be in this room for our trip to the moon?” Sophia asked.

“The short answer is No!  Space X has personnel who fill these positions for the Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 missions but they have all been un-crewed missions. We have a small pool of astronauts and mission specialist who are still available from the Shuttle program but all of the specialist who aided the Apollo Missions have long since retired.  We are looking for young new talent to help us with this special mission to the moon.  In the next 6 months to 12 months we will be filling in the positions of the experts who will fill these seats as you train to go to the moon.”

“Amanda said you will be our CapCom for the Dear Moon mission. Will there be others?” Jorge asked.

“That is correct – I will be one of a team of CapCom specialists. I will most likely be the one to help guide Sarah during lift off and through the steps that will direct your capsule in the direction of the moon.  After that, there will be 8 hour shift rotations of CapCom specialists for the entire duration of your journey – there and back.”

Just then the back door opened and a young Asian man walked in. “Oh! I’m sorry – I didn’t think anyone would be here at this this hour.”

“No problem Gene! Everyone – This is Gene. He is a Network Architect – responsible for communications of all ground stations that relay telemetry and communications from our spacecraft – including the Falcon Heavy.”

“Gene – this is the group of Artists who will be going to the Moon.   This is their first visit here.  And – this is Sarah who will be the astronaut on board.” Stepping aside so that Sarah could shake Gene’s hand.

“We wanted to give them a tour of the Vertical Launch Site, which we just came from.  We are on our way to dinner and thought we would meet Matt and see the Mission Control Centre”  Amanda said – introducing herself and the team around her by first name only.  “We would appreciate if you kept their anonymity until SpaceX makes an official announcement. “

“Sure - Not a problem!” Gene said with a slight Asian accent. “ Your identities are safe with me! It’s a pleasure to meet you all. I recognize Bangoura and Kyle there!” Walking over and shaking both their hands.

“Gen is a wonder. He helped us stay in contact with the Dragon Crew when the fuzzy Earth Doll and Ripely safely and successfully docked with the ISS. He will also help us stay in contact with StarShip.” Matt complimented Gene. “We have been working together for the last 8 years.  If he is assigned Network for your mission – you will be in great hands. I swear the man does not sleep.”

Gene smiles weakly.  “It’s a tough job but I love the challenges. The people at SpaceX are great. Really supportive.  There is always something new to learn and figure out. Welcome to Mission Control.”

“Thank you!” Amanda said. “Well – it is getting late. I have made reservations at the Vermillion in town. You are both welcome to join us. I can easily change our reservation.”

“Sure!” Matt said “I could use a beer.”

“Thank you” Gene said “But I can’t join you tonight because I have other plans. Thank you for your invitation - I’m sure we will meet again. I just wanted to check something over here – pointing to the first row of desks “Excuse me!” he says as he leaves the group and sits at one of the desks to begin working.

Clapping his hands, Matt said “Ok!  Let’s get out of here!  I’ll meet you at the restaurant. It’s one of my favorite local restaurants. It’s a restaurant I never get tired of. Plain ole good home cooking with all the fixings. I highly recommend the Hamburger Steak Meal – simply delicious!”

The team of astronauts and Sara leave the control room, returned their security badges to the front desk.  All of the artists clamor into the limo.  As they take their seats, the atmosphere in the limo suddenly changed like all the pressure and expectations of the day suddenly release. 

The ride to the restaurant is silent. Everyone is deep in thought, trying to digest everything they saw today. Kyle, remembering all of the activities of the day, never expected to be flown to Texas of all places to see the Starship. Looking at Amanda and catching her eye he says “Amanda – I’m impressed that you arranged all of this for us today. Thank you! You really exceeded my expectations”.

“You are welcome. As you know, you can call me any time if you need assistance.” Amanda replies.

As the limo speeds down the highway, Sophia looks out the window. The surroundings are bare. The only vegetation is green scrub growing on mounds of sand in every direction.  As the limo speeds along the Boca Chica Blvd, the landscape changes as they leave the Las Palomas Wildlife Management area.  A few short deciduous and palm trees appear near the road. This view was not what Sophia had expected.  It was like a dessert with little to look at in any direction.

Brownsville is the most southern point of Texas and is growing with new neighborhoods and investments. The town’s population is growing and approaching 200 000, which is mostly Hispanic because the town boarders with Mexico.  The sister city of Matamoros has a population more than 750,000.  There is not much to do in this friendly, small Texan town. The locals often visit Matamoros or South Padre Island for family outings.  Established 1848 during the Texas revolution, the name Brownsville came when the U.S. Army Major Jacob Brown was killed by cannon fire in Fort Texas on the Rio Time.

It was unusual to see a limousine in Brownsville.  As the car made it’s way down Bocca Chica Blvd (Hwy 4) and entered Brownsville, people on the street looked to see who was in the car as it passed.  Just before the Hwy 69E overpass, the limo turned right on Pardes Line Road and then immediately left, just in front of the Vermillion Restaurant and Watering Hole sign showing their nightly special, into the parking lot.  The driver could see that there was no room to turn his car or park, so he let his passengers out in front of the main entrance of the restaurant.  He then carefully backed out back onto Pardes Line Road, with his flashers on and holding up traffic on both sides to find parking on a side street. Waiting behind the limo, helping to stop traffic, was Matt in his white SUV. After the limo left the parking lot, Matt slid into one of the remaining parking spots. Jumped out of his SUV and ran to catch up with the group.

“Hey Amanda!” Matt hollered after her as she entered the restaurant but did not hear him.

Inside the loud restaurant, Amanda was greeted by the hostess.  “Howdie! Welcome to the Vermillion and watering hole!” the young 20 something hostess shouted over the music and noise of the restaurant. “Do you have a reservation?”

“Yes, I’ve made a reservation under Amanda. For 7 pm, I believe.  I’ve made a reservation for a table of eight.”

“Yes! We have you set up in the party room!” Grabbing eight large menus, the hostess looks at the group and says “Please follow me!”

The large group makes it way to the back of the restaurant into a smaller side room with French doors. “This is perfect” Amanda says. “ Thank you for booking this room for my group.”

The hostess puts a menu in front of each seating as she asks “Have y’all been here before!”

Matt says “Many times! The food is delicious!”

“Thank you! And the rest of you?”

Amanda answers  for the rest of the group “No – actually, this is our first time to Brownsville, Texas.”

“Well, I hope you’ve had a great visit so far. Where are you staying tonight?”

“We are all staying at the ## hotel, just up the road.”

“That’s a great choice. Many people visiting the SpaceX site stays there.  Well, since you are new hear, let me tell you that we have over 100 items on our menu, plus daily specials.  All of the food is delicious – as this gentleman said here. Please look over the menu. Your waitress will be here real quick to take your drink orders. Welcome to Brownsville!” and with that – she turns and leave the room.

The group splits and moves to either side of a giant wooden table with a large bench on either side.  Four people seats on either side of the table.  Jorge sits first and runs his hands along the wooden finish. “This is a cool table” he says.

A petite brunette waitress enters the room, wearing a red Vermillion T-shirt and black jeans. “Hello everyone, my name is Kathy! Welcome to our little establishment in the southern most point in the State of Texas. Y’all look thirsty! What can I get you?”

“I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve had a long day. I’m ordering the Big River Brewery Wanderlust IPA.” Matt says.

“That sounds perfect” Jorge adds. “I’ll have one too”.

“I’m too tired to choose, I’ll have that too” Dan orders.

Bangoura speaks up and says “I’m not really in the mood for beer.  What ciders do you have?”

“We have a local cider called Texas Keeper Cider and in a can, we have Seattle Cider Company Hard Cider” Kathy responds.

“Ok! I’ll try the Texas Keeper Cider. Can you also bring ice water please?”

“Yes! Of course – does everyone in the group like me to bring ice water?” Kathy asks.

“Yes – please!” Amanda responds.  “Is anyone interested in red wine?  I would like to share a bottle with anyone.” Amanda asks.

“That sounds very nice. I’ll have some red wine too” Sophia agrees.

“Humm, Let’s try the Vermillion Reb blend from California” Amanda suggests.

“Yes! That sounds perfect. Two or three glasses” Sophia asks the rest of the group.

“Oh! I don’t think I’m in the mood for anything alcoholic tonight” Sarah responded.  “Please go ahead.”

Amanda turns to Kyle “What would you like to drink?”

“Oh! I’m exhausted! I think anything alcoholic will hit me pretty hard. I’ll just have an unsweetened ice tea please!” Kyle responds.

“I like that too!” Sarah agrees “Please make that two!”

“So that is 3 IPAs, I Texas Keeper Cider, 2 glasses of the Vermillion, and 2 unsweetened ice tea?” Kathy confirms with a large smile.

“Yes! I think that is right” Amanda responds. Everyone around the table nods in agreement.

“Back in two shakes!” Kathy leaves the room.

“Super friendly” Bangoura comments.

“Sure is! Everyone in this part of Texas is friendly” Matt responds. “But I would say that of the whole state. I’m originally from Florida and I find the people in this small community exceptional.”

“So how is everyone feeling? “ Amanda scans the group to judge how they are feeling.

“Pretty tired” Sophia speaks up. “What a day?! I didn’t expect so much travel. I was thinking I would have the evening to myself to catch up on email etc.” Without stopping “Oh! Well! Seeing the Starship and meeting Matt “ turning to acknowledge him “was definitely worth the extra trip. 

“I’m glad you were able to squeeze in a visit to Texas today”

“I thought it would be wise to bring everyone today since it was a challenge for me to get you together as a group.  To be honest, this might be the last time in months that we are together as a group.” Amanda says while addressing the entire group.

“Really?” Kyle asks.

“Yes – SpaceX wants to respect everyone’s busy schedule so you can return to where you live to be trained in situ.”

“Thank you!” Sophia says with some relief in her voice.  “I hardly take personal days or vacation so I was nervous – to be honest – how many days similar to this that I could attend.”

Amanda, sitting besides Sophia, turns and says “We completely understand.” Then turning to the group “I’ll try to bring us together again for formal survival training after you have finished your individual preparation for the trip. If we are not able to do this, you will see each other when you enter quarantine before launch day.”

“I guess that is good and bad news” Says Kyle. “That means we will rely on zoom, email and phone calls to get to know each other?”

“Yes! I think so for now at least. Everyone is extremely busy with their own demands.  This trip is a priority, but I feel we can do almost all of the training virtually.” Amanda responds, smiling.

“I know everyone is pretty tired. I suggest looking at the menu and ordering.”

“I already know what I want to order” Matt says with a grin. “My favorite dish here is Beef Fajitas.”

“Yes-  you have been here before Matt, what do you suggest?” Sophia asks Matt.

“Well – everything is good but my favorites are…” Listing the menu items as he touches the tips of his fingers. “off the top of my head: Chicken and cheese tacos, refried beans, beef nachos  - the beef is really tender. Everything is made fresh and the portions are huge!”

Soon Kathy returns with their drinks and take their dinner orders.  For a moment, the room falls silent, they group can hear the noise of the customer outside the party room doors.

Amanda stands up with her glass of red wine and say “Cheer to our dearMoon crew. May your experience and journey be successful and fruitful.”

“Cheers!” everyone raises their glass in response.

“Thank you Amanda!” Sarah says.

Matt turns to Kyle and asks awkwardly “Hey Kyle! I hate to admit but I don’t know much the type of art you do.  I’ve never see anything like it until your name was announced as one of the crew for dearMoon.  I really like it.  It’s very cool!”

“Thanks!  It’s experimental art.  I thought of doing it for years before trying to make it work.  I failed to get the effect I wanted but kept trying different mediums until I found something I liked. I’ve been getting many positive reviews from critics. Initially it was difficult to promote my work.  I was really excited to show people what I was doing.  Finally, I was able to show my work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  That really changed things for me.”

“I imagine it is very difficult to promote art and make a name for yourself.” Mat asked.

“Being an artist is not really choosing a typical career. You never know when your inspiration will hit you.  Capturing it before it leaves is a challenge.” Kyle explains.

“So – how are you doing to do it in space – I mean?” Matt asks.  “I can’t imagine SpaceX allowing you to bring buckets of sand and gold foil in to the Starship.  Your materials do not work well with weightlessness and electronics.”

“I figured that fact was true.  I’m not worried.  Recently, I travelled to Tibet to see Mount Everest. I met with the mayor and I showed him pictures of my work and he was very interested in helping me make local installations..  He helped me register for a trek to base camp. The entire journey was life changing. Tibet is such a  different part of the world.  The people are super friendly and spiritual.  The atmosphere of the busy towns is very different from North America. Especially the sounds and the smells.  On this trip, I could not bring my sand or gold foil – of course - so I brought a sketch book to capture my ideas. I also used my camera.”

“After the trip, I came home and worked on an idea I had of a climber standing in front of the peak of Everest. I was really pleased with the effect of the gold on the peak of the mountain. Here, let me show you “ Taking his phone out of his pocket, Kyle flips through a few images on his phone “Here is the image “ showing Matt one of his latest creations!

“WOW! That is really really good! Did you ship it to the Mayor?”
“Yes! He received it about a month ago. He was really pleased with it too. I think it is hanging in his office.”  Kyle says proudly.

On the other side if the table Sarah turns to talk to Sophia.  “Your passion for architecture is inspirational. I know how you feel being in a male dominated field and being the only woman in the room.  It can be intimidating at times.” Sarah says with a smile. “It is good to hear that you are promoting architecture to young ladies when you travel.  Can you tell me about some of the projects your firm is working on now?”

With excitement in her voice, Sophia is bursting with enthusiasm to tell Sarah every detail “We have a design for a library in Finland.  It is  a super fun project that I’ve dove deep into. There was so much to capture and consider in this project.  From the start, we knew there would be several rounds of reviews.  It’s a project I’ve been heading for over a year.  I think I’ve captured the atmosphere that the committee is looking for.  My work emphasizes bringing the outdoors inside. The atmosphere of the living space will be like a forest.  Hidden pods will be in the walls of the children area.  The center of the building will have a garden with trees and benches for people to read materials outside. The walls will also have gardens, and the roof will have a community garden to help feed the community.  We are creatures that need to be outside so natural light is so important.  The committee requested sky lights in almost every room so this modern library will look nothing like a dark cave that some older libraries look like. “

“Interesting” Sarah notes, “Please tell me more.”

“Libraries are changing because of how we access data and information. They are a place people used to go for information. Now there is the internet.  Now libraries are not only a meeting place but also a source of entertainment. As you know books come in many mediums.  Paper, digital, audio, and then there are movies.  Who knows what there will be in the future since technology is constantly evolving? As quantum computing becomes more popular, we will be able to conduct searches on smells, tastes, vibrations. I believe there will also be fuzzy searches like “Smells like, feels like, looks like.” All of our senses will be a source of information to be searched.”

“I also pictured a library that would have small theatre like rooms for movies to be shown. Eventually holograms will be available. Perhaps floating through the library as search engines. There are also small pods where one or two people would sit to listen to music or a book.  Hanging chairs from the ceiling will be available for children and adults.  I would like to have visitors feel as though they can float through the building.  It will be one of the largest libraries in Europe so moving sidewalks will be installed to zoom visitors from one end of the building to the other.   Also, there will be no librarians – I mean human librarians.  The visitors enter through a door that would scan the ap on their phone. Like  the grocery store in Seatle designed by Amazon. If the visitor selects a physical item (such as a book or movie), they would remove it from the shelf and the system would send a  code to track the person borrowing the book.  After their visit, they would be emailed a list of the items they borrowed and the due date.”

“Wow! That sounds very futuristic.  I love how technology is there to make our lives easier.” Sarah states.

Jorge, who is enjoying his beef fajita comments to Amanda how delicious the food is.

“Yes! It’s wonderful. I’ll make a point to bring other groups here.” Amada replies. “ The portions are too big for me though. It’s a shame we are staying in a hotel.  I will not be able to eat all of this.”

Finishing up his last bite and sitting back, Jorge says “ I’m full!” with a big grine. “Excuse me, I’m going to go outside for a smoke!”

“Yes! I’ve been meaning to ask you about this Jorge. Do you mind if I join you?”

“No! Not at all!” Jorge helps her by moving his chair out of the way.  They leave the room together with several eyes watching them.

Outside the restaurant, Jorge reaches into his pocket and lights a Marlboro. “Ah!” Taking a long drag and exhaling “I really needed that. What a day you had planned for us Amanda. It was pretty crazy but we managed to squeeze it all in.”  

“I want to apologize but to be truthful, it was so difficult to pick a day that you could all attend, that I thought it was best to see everything rather than trying to schedule another day in the future. I’m glad you enjoyed seeing the Starhopper and Starship.  They are amazing vehicles.”

“So what was it that you wanted to discuss? I’m an open book” Jorge remarks.

“Yes, well, I wanted to discuss your smoking. May I ask how long you’ve been smoking?” Amanda asks

“Quite a long time.  Why do you ask?”

“As you are aware, you will not be able to smoke while you are on the Starship.  Furthermore, you will not be able to smoke while you are in quarantine before your journey.  So you are looking at about 10 days or more that you will not be able to smoke. Not even once.”

Looking at his cigarette he says “Well! That could pose a problem!” smiling.

“Yes! That is why we are willing to help you with your addiction.  I’ve arranged for you to not only have a personal trainer but also a psychologist. Addiction has many facets.  Talking about how this addiction started and learning coping mechanisms to stop will help you with the process.  We need you to be smoke free before lift-off.”  Amanda states.

“Really?!”  Jorge asks.

“Really!” Amanda confirms.

Taking another long drag from his cigarette he says “I’ve tried many times to quit. Maybe the opportunity to go to the moon will be the change that will help me be successful this time.  I’m willing to try.”

“Wonderful! I’m going to head back in the restaurant.  “Please join us when you are done!”

“Sure!”

The evening continues with dessert and after dinner drinks.  Around 10 pm, Matt stands up to tell the group he is hitting the road.   “It was a real pleasure to spend time with you all tonight. I hope we can do this again. Thank you, Amanda for the invitation to this.  I really enjoyed myself!”

“Thank you for joining us Matt!” Amanda replies. Turning to the group she says, “It looks like everyone I done their desserts. Would you like to leave now?”

Sophia looking at her phone “Yes – please! I have to deal with a few work things before I go to sleep. Leaving now would be fine.”

Kyle looks at Sophia wondering where she has all of her extra energy. He is just waiting to crash into his bed any second now.

All the exhausted artists agree to leave. Amanda calls the limousine. When the driver arrives at the restaurant, they all tumble into the vehicle.  The limo turns right to drive North onto N Expressway 83 and drives until it reaches Morrison Road; where the limo makes two sharp right turns to  drive South. Along Frontage road, the Hilton Homewood Suites hotel soon comes into view. The limo pulls into the breeze way, which is the hotel’s entrance way.  The front of the hotel is well manicured with three flag posts and large palm trees.  Amanda is the first to leave the limo and marches into the hotel to arrange the rooms for the group.

The limo driver opens the trunk of the car to retrieve the artist’s luggage and day bags. Each of the artists grab their bags saying thank you to the driver and then follows Amanda into the entrance way of the hotel.  Kyle and Bangoura are the last two waiting for their bags.

When the driver pulls away, Kyle turns to Bangoura asking “What did you think of the prototype we saw today?  Do you think they will complete it and test it enough for it to be safe? I think it is a bit crazy that we will be training to be on a craft that is not even built yet.”

“Yeh! I feel the same as you. It’s crazy. I’m nervous but from what I hear the testing is going as SpaceX had imagined.  I heard Elon Musk once say in a news report “We should go into a project thinking that we have it wrong.” I’m paraphrasing. “ Bangoura continues,  “I think the more they test, the more they will learn what not to do. I have faith that ultimately, the craft that we fly in will fly us to the moon and back safely. Working extraordinarily hard, being obsessed, and  having resources – SpaceX and Elon Musk might be the perfect combination to allow humans to travel to the moon again.”

Published April 11, 2021

#dearMoon  Audition video 

INSPIRATION:

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