No Place like Europa

Note: After remembering reports on terraforming and reading books about the possibility of colonizing other planets and moons, I was wondering "Why not mention Europa ?". Europa is one of Jupiter's moons and it would be prime grounds for space pioneers. The setting, the future. The Earth is overcrowded and overheated. With Mars turned into a "green mars" and the moon turned into a literal "blue moon", human beings are looking for room to expand their boundaries into the final frontier. Europa becomes a main point of interest to NASA and their newest space travel exploration.

After training and briefing a team of 20 crewmembers, each with special abilities, a famous biologist and father of terraforming is sent in the space station Unity to see what possibilities Europa holds.

Not only do they discover that the atmosphere is capable of supporting life, but they come to the conclusion that they can continue being "space pioneers". Their arrogance has blinded them, until they come in contact with wise and noble Jovians who have had more experience around the vast indefinite universe than they have…

"Human beings, vegetables or cosmic dust—We all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by a invisible piper."—Albert Einstein in the Saturday Evening Post (1929)

"We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started... and know the place for the first time". —T.S. Eliot

"Knowledge for the sake of understanding, not merely to prevail, that is the essence of our being. None can define its limits, or set its ultimate boundaries."—Vannevar Bush, Science Is Not Enough (1967)

"It is frequently the tragedy of the great artist, as it is of the great scientist, that he frightens the ordinary man."—Loren Eiseley, The Night Century (1971)

Chapter 1—Many are Called, Few are Qualified

In the year 2020, space exploration wasn't uncommon. Summer vacation often included trips to the moon or Mars. The man responsible for making these places stable for life was the biologist Lord "Scotts" Wade Scottsburo. He had perfected the technique of terraforming and had developed cures for almost everything that had befallen the people of the new "red earth".

He had been called for a future mission on the space station Unity in order to see if Jupiter's moon Europa had potential to be colonized. Scottsburo was more than delighted to take this challenge since he had never been to any other planets and it had been his boyhood dream to be an astronaut. Now, he would have a chance to live that dream. However, he didn't realize just how difficult it would be to govern a group of 20 individuals without any prior leadership experience. So unexpectedly was Lord Scottsburo thrown into the training and briefing program with a plethora of incredibly qualified people that he wasn't certain who had the "right stuff" to be sent on the mission NASA was calling "Conquest of Europa". The whole ordeal was going to be long, harsh, enervating process for candidates to prove themselves to this incredible calling. This was only the beginning of the hardship that Scottsburo would have to endure with the crew he was about to become acquainted with.

The space station Unity had been put through vigorous testing day after day by technicians and mechanics around NASA headquarters, but that was nothing compared to what the candidates had to endure in their months of training and briefing. They had undergone every possible scenario of what could happen in outer space, as well as what could happen in the sophisticated Unity, one of the most meticulously crafted and near flawless crafts ever designed in astrological history. The time was coming where the astronauts would be chosen and those who didn't make the cut would be sent home. But, they would not be forgotten. Their efforts would be rewarded as well and they would always be welcome back on NASA's base as workers for ground control and monitoring the signals from Unity, if needed.

In a year's time, 20 of the best and brightest humanity could offer were deemed "A-1" material in NASA's book were given their last briefing and then were introduced to their elder teammate and Captain, Lord Scottsburo. Scottsburo had salt and pepper hair, and stunning raven eyes. But he didn't feel that he was up to leading 20 people. The crewmembers, however, let him know otherwise. "So, you're the famous biologist I've read so much about ?

It is such an honor and a privilege to be working with you !", Doctor Sienna Jennings, an accomplished geologist exclaimed. Sienna was a curly redhead with a svelte body and emerald eyes that make any logically minded man get weak in the knees. Scottsburo felt himself blushing at the leggy redhead's compliment, but he couldn't afford to be flattered, especially not by her beauty. Luckily, Scottsburo had his wedding band available and remembered he would be missing his beautiful wife Jean and his daughter Charity back on the moon colony. The Doctor acknowledged Sienna's complimented and then was surrounded by the other 19 candidates. He felt like he was the star attraction at a Star Trek convention. He didn't feel so nervous about this expedition. He knew that all the training he had undergone and the mission he and his new acquaintances were about to take a journey into the so-called "final frontier". It would be risky.

It would be perilous, and the possibility of death existed. But this operation was for humankind.

There wasn't enough room on Earth, and the weather was too torrid, even for those who had grown up and adapted to the sultry conditions. Everyone was counting on him, and the crew.

He had to continually remind himself of that, but he wouldn't let the idol worship and the potential of becoming Earth's savior go to his head. After all, he was a Doctor and a leader !

He had to keep a calm exterior and lead with tact and grace.

Chapter 2—Ascent into Outer Space

The entire crew including Captain Lord Scottsburo were loaded into the space craft Unity and it was lifted into the space shuttle Liberty. The countdown had begun and the mapper Hal 'Atlas' Connaly said, "I never become tired of hearing the team at ground control prepare us for lift off. My adrenaline is rushing, man ! This is so incredible !" The others agreed. This was nothing like G-force simulation. It was the real experience, and the actual feelings and emotions couldn't be described with mere words. Utterances, expressions, wide eyes and clasped hands of newfound friendship were abundant. The adventurous crew looked outside their windows and saw the red Earth shrinking beneath their spacecraft.

The Liberty was beginning to separate and the space station Unity was beginning to eject from its inner hull. It looked very similar to a Russian puzzle doll as the units separated and the fragments of the Liberty were pulled back to the red Earth by its gravity. Suddenly the Unity began to accelerate. It was making a crawl past Mars and would soon be on its way to Jupiter in a matter of days. It wouldn't be long until they reached their destination. They would have to be patient though. In spite of the advances in space travel, the Universe was a tough "road" to navigate. It resembled a coursing river that had changed over time since it was and always has been there (which is much longer than our human minds can possibly comprehend). Such a river was a real bear to ford but their efforts would be worth all of the toil, sweat and perseverance.

Chapter 3—Lovely Europa, Jewel of "Our" Universe

The Unity began its descent upon Europa and the drillers Reagan Gallant and Patrick Sullivan were sent out to break the hard icy service of the moon. The other crewmembers weren't jealous of the grueling work the drillers had to perform. Reagan and Patrick had to work quickly before the Unity landed on Europa's surface. The others began planning what they would be doing next and prayed that this experiment would certainly work. With the probability of fewer accidents in outer space, the crew didn't have to concern themselves with facing death.

But even if something did go wrong, they would be remembered as pioneers and heroes.

The Unity lowered its landing gear and the crew began working vigorously to prepare the moon to accept new life. Scottsburo had the honor and privilege to plant the American flag on Europian "soil" so to speak. But, the hour was getting late, and further work needed to be done.

That work would have to wait for the days ahead. Returning from their bio-dome in construction, the crew went to sleep for the night and allowed their rover Centurion to monitor the moon by night and shield them from any potential dangers. Thus far, the mission was turning out successfully, but they were by no means out of the path of plausible troubles.

During the next few days and spanning into approximately 2 ½ months, Europa was beginning to become greener and greener. The bio-dome the crew had built was begging to function on its own and no signs of electrical problems or structural problems could be detected.

Now, confirmation had to be made at how stable the purified air was. One by one the 20 crewmembers took off their helmets and were astounded at how sanitary the air was. It was pure, but not too pure, or all of them would've surely suffocated. Israel Aziz, the head astronaut called mission control back on Earth and told them of their success. The whole planet hadn't been colonized yet, only a portion. But, it was a start, and it was definitely good news for humankind as a whole. But, the explorers were about to receive a rude awakening for their lust for conquest, power and recognition.

Chapter 4—Words of Wisdom

As the crew worked together to terraform Europa's entire surface, Jovians visited them.

They lowered the platform from their massive spaceship and allowed them to enter their craft, and the craft alone was incredibly impressive. It was a metaphysical experience that couldn't be expressed by any measure. No one had ever thought that there were beings similar to us in the Universe, but it was obvious that there were indeed others. What was even more strange was the fact that the Jovians represented human in form, but were much taller. They had a much different color of skin, and their eyes were more Asiatic. Also, they bore no hair on their heads and wore loose-knit, silken robes that were sagely in design.

The Jovians meant no harm, but they wished to express their concerns to the travelling humans. "You are going too fast. The Universe alone is not your oyster to be exploited. We have been here much longer than you.", the younger looking of the Jovians said. The crewmembers looked at each other and felt ashamed, not only of themselves, but of the selfishness of mankind. Even the supposed 'voice of reason', Scottsburo had to reluctantly admit where he had been wrong. They felt even worse when they knew they could not undo what they had already done. The Jovians spoke to them of how they could not continue making the same mistakes they had been making. "We will help you, but you must not tell your friends about our contributions. Some are not ready for our teachings, or for us.", a wiser Jovian said. The crewmembers knew that the elder was correct. They agreed with one another and bowed to one another. It was a little frustrating to know all of the sage knowledge they were receiving from the Jovians could not be saved for posterity. But like the elder said, there would have to come a time when the Earth was prepared for such erudite lessons. But, someday, the world would be ready to receive knowledge that the Jovians had used for eons.

Time seemed to have moved so quickly when the crew had been talking with the Jovians. In all reality, no time had passed at all because that was a concept that simply did not exist. They only thrived in the present moment and embellished almost everything. All things and even the smallest matter, even if it seemed insignificant was seen in a new light. Life was such a joy to them and it was sorrowful to depart from them. But they left a memento with the crew. "This is a hologram pendant. When you feel sad, open the locket. It will remind you.", one of the more feminine Jovians said, before they parted ways. It was hard for most of the crew to hold back tears as they wished their newly made friends farewell.

Chapter 5—Return to Base

After the colonization of Europa had been completed, the crew and captain of the Unity had to make its return to the Earth. Of course when they landed, a cavalcade of media would swamp them. They were no strangers to bothersome reporters and they would only pay heed to those who had questions worth answering. Tabloid writers weren't nearly so numerous as they had been in the beginning of the "Information Age", but they were still around. Luckily, their opinions were not taken as seriously by the ignorant because more people were educated in this age.

Captain and crew made their preparations to leave the newly colonized Europa and return to Earth to be surrounded by billions of people who had planned to make their homes there. Some were doing so for the right reasons and some were not, but no matter the situation, the Universe was becoming a so-called 'playground of possibilities'. No one really knew where humanity was heading, but the crew of the Unity let their thoughts be heard once they arrived at the base when they were questioned. All of them had learned important lessons while they had been away, but they could not mention their encounter with the Jovians for the safety of all.

This little condition was understandable, though. However, there would come a time were all humankind would be prepared for the knowledge the captain and crew of the Unity had to share.

They were only just now, at the brink of understanding. These things took time and patience, but luckily, the valiant crew knew the true meaning of the word.

The crew had become celebrities not only for science and technology but also for the survival of the expanding "new frontiersmen" of the Universe. There was no limit anymore. People could go where they pleased, just as long as the environment was habitable. This world was something only many science fiction writers had envisioned in novels of the past. But, it was real, and they would've been surprised that such ideas were actually taken seriously. Even though the Earth was overcrowded and overheated, the situation was a lot better than it really seemed. Population was at its peak and not too high or low. People were more responsible for their actions and were much kinder than they had been in the past. Wars were no longer methods of solving problems. People would have debates and talk about their problems rationally. All of this was thanks to the advancement that humankind had made living a lot easier and more pleasant.

Epilogue

In the future, although the crewmembers and captain had returned to their homes, they had become close friends during their time on Europa. Europa was a popular place for vacations, especially for "snow bunnies". The Universe was still full of possibilities but humanity was taking its time exploring it and trying to understand it. There were many mysteries that would never be solved, but was the way God meant it to be. In its essence, that was what kept humanity reaching for understanding and transfixed in the awe of God's incredible handiwork.

The End

By: Elizabeth Berndt

March 24, 2004