Forward Within

by on December 18th, 2010
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For a brief moment in history, the human race seemed dead-locked – paralyzed. The guilt of past exploration disasters, and fears of insignificance and failure loomed over them. This was not the first time in history that many believed that all that was to be discovered had already been discovered or all that could be invented, had. Really, it was over 40 years since the last sincerely celebrated space venture, even though within the scope of history and the future it was merely a blink. Subsequent planetary and lunar landings seemed mundane and uneventful. Doubts swirled around those who had once been captured by the heart of adventure, risk, and grandeur. Their heroes were fading pictures inside of dusty “National Geographics” and “Scientific Americans”. They seemed consumed with analyzing the past, like critics and spectators in a stadium, where few dared to enter under the scrutiny of their peers — mere imitations of those who had truly pursued discovery. But a spark of hope remained.

The president slowly made his way up to the podium, fighting back tears, and resisting the hopelessness that he felt around him. He looked at his notes, but his eyes lost focus. Time lagged as he slowly set his notes aside for a huge sigh, looked straight into the hearts of his people, and ignored the teleprompter, “Where are the pioneers of our time? Where are the adventurers? Who will replenish the lifeless regions and bring wisdom to the darkness of space? Ours is not the escapist mentality. For too long we have remained passive as the world degenerates. We have for too long sought to answer the questions, “Is there life in other parts of the universe?” at the expense of a more vital one, “Do we want there to be life on this planet?” We have as much an obligation to tend to the world we call our home as to build new homes on foreign plains. How can we advance to the far reaches of the galaxy without reaching within ourselves and caring for the least of humanity?

I am convinced that the next move forward in space can only be accomplished through unselfish, daring explorations here on earth – reaching deeper within the needs of humanity as a whole, instead of trying to ostracize the impoverished sections of the planet, or acting out of individual national interest. We will enrich the third world, especially Africa, India, and war-ravaged countries to help bring about a healthier humanity, so together we can reach forward into a new era of exploration. In the past mankind has been very successful in conquering life and destroying the very things that were the vehicle for their survival; in the future, it will conquer what impedes life and destroys it, while creating new life in its path. We will recreate our world by helping to make a healthier planet through answering the question, “Which environment is most conducive to life?” and replicating it. We cannot assume to understand the nature of what is genuine by studying only counterfeits, neither can we attempt to find life in other galaxies that have little that is truly conducive to life. We must multiply the fruits of our world and extend it into others. We will extend the boundaries of life in every direction – first at home, and then throughout our solar system. We must bring life there. Does other life exist in our universe? Is there a life-sustaining planet out there? The answer to these questions are “Yes,” and we will build it.”
* * *
“This is from The Chronicles of the Beginning of the 21st Century,” the old man said, touching the screen and closing the log. “Something awakened within inventors who had been reduced to laborers, musicians who worked in food service, and leaders who had succumbed to menial jobs. The dust was blown back from plans that had all but lost hope – shelved because they “would never amount to anything”.”

“But grandpa, I don’t understand how anyone could have ever thought that everything had already been invented,” seven-year-old Stacey chimed sweetly, dumbfounded. “Just look at all that has been discovered over the last 50 years!”

“Stacey, honey, you have to understand that in discovery there is always an element of unknown, and for many this is a place of fear. It is only when those who are destined to challenge this fear and overcome it do others begin to follow. The advances that we’ve made in technology have been astounding, and we understand more about ourselves and our world than anyone could have ever imagined, but people who rely too much upon their discoveries or inventions become anemic. And people who overprotect their discoveries end up becoming isolated. This is why the president deregulated information and technologies to the general public for greater creative exploration and use of these technologies at that time. The result was astronomical – literally.”

“T-minus 30 …” the loudspeaker called across the Kennedy Space Center, announcing the eminent launch of fusion rockets, boosting moon-bound passengers, their luggage, and packaged-mail to their lunar destination. Some were on a permanent relocation, others merely on vacation. A short distance away another ship had just landed, enabling the lunar-terrestrial trade to continue unabated. Relations between the terrestrial community and its “daughter” had been strained, but nonetheless peaceful. No one could have guessed that the advancements in discovery would have enabled this “offspring of the earth” to gain its independence, but only politically. Travels that once had been like visits to Antarctica 100 years ago, were now commonplace. This “young girl” had grown up into a beautiful, thriving biosphere. It wasn’t the only one. Mercury and Venus, and of course Mars, had been bio-transformed since 2050. Other planets and their moons were soon to follow. These too were seeking peaceful independence – a right to rule themselves.

The year 2029 was a golden wave year: the development of Strong AI, the first complete computer designed after the human neural network, super-cerebral processing, the first complete model of Earth’s ideal bio-diverse conditions, and solar energy harnessing and transmission from Mercury. After the exponential renaissance of the third decade of the 21st century, technology had progressed in leaps and bounds, allowing for easy atomic manipulation. Life sustainability became a mute issue. The lunar community had quickly become beyond self-sustaining. In fact, its asteroid mining efforts had become far more advanced and trade within the solar system was up by more than 20% from that of earth’s. While earth had been busy revamping ancient relics and recycling the urban architectural decisions of the last millennium and were somewhat reluctant to let go of the “good old days”, the young vibrant and flourishing biospheres throughout the solar system were setting their eyes out farther. Within the next decade bio-construction efforts were scheduled to begin on Pluto – something no one thought would happen for another century. But life had multiplied quicker and innovation and creativity had spawned more rapidly than scientific prognosticators had estimated. None of these had reached their zenith without “standing on the shoulders of their fathers” so-to-speak. Earth had had quite a tumultuous time dealing with its climate-change issues, but were finally forced to be proactive, instead of reactive. Biologists and chemists banded together.

Every branch of Science focused on one issue – life – developing the models for maximum life production, human and otherwise. Advances in fusion and atomic physics had led the way in cheaply and easily developing a model for the “utopian planet”. Adjustments had been made in oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide levels in accordance with biological findings – not just in local regions, but throughout the planet. As expected, atmospheric cleansing had been undertaken to remove CO emissions as well as other life-threatening contaminants, bonding oxygen or other ions to create benign molecules which could be harvested or left within the biosphere. Everything, everywhere within the planet’s biosphere was amicable to life. Large scale efforts had been made in creating a stronger water vapor canopy around earth to protect against extreme solar radiation exposure and to compensate for intentional melting of the ice caps. Of course other trace gases, like ozone were micromanaged as well, and weather was much more predictable and acquiescent. Africa had become the most prosperous continent on Earth, with the largest exports in produce, as well as technology. The Middle East was a center for peace-negotiations and mediation throughout the solar system. Antarctica was its own country. Truth-be-told, this was not your “20th Century Earth”. This is what the lunar inhabitants had benefited from. These are the shoulders they stood on.

“10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 0 Lift off!”

Stacey’s bright eyes twinkled and her smile warmed Jim’s heart as they both followed the ascending ship up into the atmosphere. She had grown up with all this and almost took for granted the great advances in light-weight, nanotube technology as well as energy-efficient propulsion, which led to much more feasible space elevators as well as (the less frequent) rocket shuttles. She admired the splendor of it all – traffic that to Jim reminded him more of the airline skyways growing up.

Jim sat silently, watching his granddaughter intently. He wondered at her keen intellect, her fearless determination and creative imagination. He learned as much from a few refreshing hours with her as he did in the years he spent in academy. She seemed so ahead of her time, so mature for her age. He banished the thought of a world without such a valuable asset. He wiped away a tear.

Stacey glanced back at him, “What’s wrong Sabba?” (as she sometimes endearingly called him).

“Nothing dear — I am just so grateful that you have such a wonderful future ahead of you, that this world values life and want to see it prosper – so full of hope and promise. There is so much opportunity here for you on Earth and on Mars where you live, but I don’t want to hold you back.”

“I love you Sabba,” as she squeezed his arm and held it tightly.

* * *

Darius sat pondering the computations. Something still wasn’t adding up. “I don’t understand why the numbers won’t crunch,” he thought, re-examining the charts and trying to figure what was wrong. Some of the long-term goals of the Bio Expansion Program on Mars were to make fine-tuned adjustments in the planets’ atmosphere as well as their orbits. They had a long way to go on the some of the research, and Darius was a key part. “Maybe we should ask people to stop breathing,” he joked to himself.

“Here it is! Here it is is!” Lexi came storming in, interrupting his thoughts.

“Open video stream,” she commanded; the computer display flashed, and everyone gasped and stood in awe as the images appeared on the full screen – the first exoplanetary videography. Probes had been sent out 20 years previous, powered by solar sails and fusion propulsion across the galaxy to Alpha Centuri and Epsilon Eridani in lue of viewable feed. Discoveries in hyper-light speed technology allowed the images to be transmitted back to the local solar system much faster — within a few hours, as opposed to years.

“This is amazing – truly amazing.” Darius remarked. “Under any other circumstances…”

“I know; I know – ‘Don’t interrupt my research.’ – but I thought you would want to be one of the first to view it.” Others in the lab nodded and stood speechless, riveted to the screen. Below, the computer was analyzing and streaming data on the planets’ specific material composition, temperature, and atmosphere. Thousands of microscopic probes were being released into the obit, while others were released unto the surface to test various parts of Alpha Centuri A.

“Perfect. Completely perfect,” Lexi commented. These numbers are closer to Earth’s composition than Mars was 50 years ago.” Within 20 minutes, they had a working model of the bio-architectural design for life-sustainability.

“I love technology,” Darius commented.

“If only your neuron-implants could compute that fast,” Lexi kidded.

“Hey, hey…” Darius retorted.

“I know, I know, but at least we’re not strapped to some keyboard and an LCD screen for information.”

“I’ve got it all right here,” pointing to the place where the implant was placed.

“Like I haven’t heard that before,” she said, laughing jovially. “Look, the universe mapping software is already updated with these images.”

“Come on,” let’s grab some lunch. “I want you to meet my niece.”

“Some things never change – you’re always thinking about food.” She glanced back.
“…but you’re still in great shape,” recovering himself.

“Besides, I can’t help it. The chef here is one of the best here on Earth or the Moon; I guess you’re right though – some things technology won’t ever replace. Stacey’s parents were some of the few who perished in the recent surveying trip to Pluto that went array.”

“You’re kidding me. So tragic. I hope she’s doing okay.”

“She’s a very bright young girl. She sees her grandparents often, but I was chosen to be her legal guardian. Still a little in shock I think, but she’s receiving some good counseling.”

As they walked, Quentin strolled alongside, “Hey Darius, weren’t those images astounding.”

“Totally, about as beautiful as my trip to Maputo,” he resounded, feeling a mix of emotions.

“Mozambique, right? I saw your 3-D video on the log. It looked like you were having a lot of fun. Maybe I’ll take Cindi there on our anniversary…Are you okay?”

“Yeah, fine…It’s such a redeemed place – such a devastated place has become a vacation and tourist destination around the solar system. I feel privileged to have been there. Lexi was just relating to me about someone affected by the Plutonian crash, that’s all.”

“Yes, yes — very tragic. My heart goes out to their families.”

“Thank you,” Lexi responded.

“We’ll check you later Darius, I’m meeting Cindi for lunch. I’ll see you after work.”

“K. See ya.”

“One of my partners from Macroscopic Information Lab.”

“I was just reading a briefing about him on the public log as you were chatting,” Lexi answered. “Nice guy.”

“He is. He’s one of the best researchers in the north wing.”

“I wonder why I’ve never met him before.”

“My bad. I’m sorry, I should have introduced you. He usually works with the night R&D.”

“That’s okay. There she is!”

“Hi Aunt Lexi!” coming and giving her a giant bear hug.

“Hi Stacey! How was Math today?”

“Math’s a piece of cake. So is Science. I just have a hard time in language acquisition.”

“Keep at it girl. I know they expect a lot out of you, but this is the best time for you to learn Chinese and Arabic and Esperanto.”

“I think you’re doing terrific. Your scores are still on track and your teacher still speaks well of you.” Darius added.

“That doesn’t mean it’s easy,” Stacey smiled smugly.

“Can you believe how amazing these kids are?” Lexi exclaimed. “I don’t remember even starting foreign language until secondary school.”

“And we can see how well that turned out for you.” Darius poked back. Darius ordered fresh Martian clam chowder and Venusian salad – both considered delicacies.

“What would you like honey?” Lexi asked Stacey.

“I want a grilled cheese and tomato soup.”

“Are you sure? You can have anything you like.”

“Yep. It’s my favorite.”

“I’ll have the same as him. Thank you.”

“She’s so simple.” Darius observed.

“Always has been – never picky, but knows what she likes; that’s a good trait for an explorer.” Lexi smiled and winked.

“Can you help me with this poem translation?”

“Sure. Here’s a nice table. Let me take a look.”

“It’s from some Science Fiction writer, published in 2010.”

We dreamed. We imagined.
We wanted to explore the depths and test the boundaries of the impossible.
The infinite seeming more finite;
The finite becoming more like eternity.
We wanted to be fruitful, so we formed a child.
We wanted to replenish, so we planted a tree.
We wanted to conquer, so we climbed, we explored, we discovered, we created.
We went out, but not as mere humans.
We had a vision — to overcome, to heal, and set free.
To rescue and lead, those lost out on dark seas of ignorance.
Ever learning, and finally able to know the Truth.

We wanted to see clearly. We wanted to know.
And the more we knew, the less we knew.
The artificial was still not real.
While we dreamed, we mourned.
The loss of those who had risked everything.
Our greatest sacrifice was from within.
Our greatest venture – the dark chasms of need, not of want or fame.
The adventure we hoped for, was one that few dared to begin, much less desired to finish;
The narrow rode seemed undesirable.
While we stared into the deepest of the universe, wishing,
The despised, the forgotten, the neglected became our vehicle for hope.
The ignorant became a vehicle for knowledge.
Miracles became Science.
The impossible was achieved by accident.
Like a light shining in a dark place,
Life became the heroic answer to lifelessness.

“I’m almost finished with it – I just wanted you to check over this Arabic for me.” Stacey stated.

“O Gee, Arabic? Hmmm…I guess I should have asked what language you were translating it into.” Stacey commented, feeling intimidated.

“Here, let me help. My roommate in academy was fluent in Arabic,” Darius offered.


“Okay…hmmm…riiiight…” Darius was analyzing aloud, “It looks good – I would double check your suffixes and endings, however on these words here. Make sure they’re in the right tense.”

“Right. I understand. Thanks Darius.”

“You’re such a brain,” Lexi commented.

“Well, they didn’t put me in R&D of the Bioexpansion Program for nothing,” he winked, tasting the soup.

“Boy, this is excellent. Maybe I’ll try to get the recipe out of the cook later.”

“I don’t know Darius – the Martians are very guarded about their clam chowder. That’ll be like pulling a fish from a crocodile’s mouth.”

“Wow, where has the time gone?”

“You’re right. We’d better get back. Stacey, honey, let me walk you back to class. I’ll see you later,

Darius,” she winked.

“Actually, I think I’m taking off after work for a hunting expedition to Jupiter.”

“That’s right – you’ve been training for weeks for that.”

“It should be a lot of fun; I’ll be gone for 2 weeks. I’ve heard those Jupiterian quail are big, but hard to snag. I look forward to meeting up with you when I get back, though. Maybe you could join me for dinner sometime?”

“It’s a date. Just ping me when you get back. Have a great time.”

“Yep! See ya!”

As they strolled on to class Stacey commented, “I think something’s happening between you two.”

“We’re just good friends,” Lexi defended herself a little. “Besides, we work together.”

“Then why are you smiling like that?” Stacey said, unfettered by Lexi’s defense.

“Come on, let’s get you to class. Not a word of this to your grandpa.”

* * *

“I thought I heard something over there,” Darius whispered to Quinten. Again, they heard rustling in the leaves and a head poked out from the brush. They waited as the bird peaked cautiously around, taking a step out. They both were amazed at the muscular stamina of the bird as well as its size for such a high-G environment. Darius, complete in his hydraulic suit, drew back his bow and waited until the bird took one more step and released the string.”

“Gotcha!” Darius exclaimed.

“Nice shot,” Quinten agreed. The bird quit beating its wings and kicking its feet and lay down in silence.

“That’s two today and five total. Maybe we’ll roast one up back at the camp for dinner.”

“Sounds great; just let me clean it out here first.” He stood on its wings and pulled its legs, gutting it and de-feathering it all at once.

“So what was Lexi relating to you about the Plutonian crash?” Quinten inquired.

“Well, her sister and brother-in-law were on the ship.”

“Did they…?”

Darius shook his head quietly. “They had a young girl who was visiting her grandpa on earth at the time. Lexi’s taken the role of raising her.”


“Yeah. I met the girl over lunch that one day we passed each other in the corridor. She seems to be adjusting well.”

“So what’s up with you and Lexi anyways?” Quinten pried.

“What do you mean?” Darius feigned.

“You know.”

“Well, we’ve been seeing each other for some time…”


“That’s all I’m gonna say for now.” Darius clammed up.

“Come on. We’re friends. Do you wanna marry this girl or what?”

“I really, really like her. She’s smart, funny, and full of life. And loves adventure and cooking.”

“Yeah, you need someone to help you there for sure!” Quinten poked.


“Just kidding.”

“I just have some things I need to sort through. I think I need some time.”

“Okay, back to camp.” Quinten picked up their packs and they trekked back, joking, laughing, and reminiscing about the hunt. “I really thought you’d missed that first one.”

“I know, it was tucked back in there, and it scurried just as I hit him.”

“But sure enough, you got ‘im. I’m really glad for these robotic suits. It’d be one thing if we were born and grew up here…”

“I know. It’s hard enough compensating for the shot with the extra gravity. I really should have worked out more before I came.”

“Me too.”

“Woohoo! Boy, you guys really snagged ‘em out of there today,” one of the other hunters celebrated as they approached camp.

“Roast quail tonight boys, and no skimming on the potatoes either.”

“Darius, I want you to meet Dr. Jim Goldstein. He’s one of the early explorers for life here on Jupiter and the lead engineer behind the first complete planetary ecosystemic models. He helped introduce the idea for gestation and germination for all life in the solar system to be housed here on Jupiter – to help tenacious development in early stages of life.”

“Of course I’ve heard of you; wow, it’s quite an honor.”

“The honor is mine as well. I heard of quite a few break-throughs in developmental models for exoplanetary ecosystems.”

“News travels fast I guess. Thanks – I appreciate the encouragement though. Hey, I didn’t think…”

“…that old scientists like me ever left the lab?” the doctor finished his thought for him.


“We need our breaks now and again too. Apart from developing sophisticated models for life and artificial selection I need to let my mind relax. Besides you weren’t the only successful hunter out there today,” the doctor held up a nice, plump bird.

“Wow! That’s impressive! The largest I’ve seen.” Darius congratulated.

“Thanks. What do you say we start up the fire?”

“Sounds great.” Quinten stood up, “I’ll get right on it.”

* * *

Dr. Goldstein looked out the window of the spaceship as it signaled its departure from Jupiter. This would probably be his last time visiting the planet. He thought about the good times he had a few months ago on the hunting expedition and the last couple weeks wrapping things up at the lab on Jupiter. He thought about how he would spend the remainder of his days teaching on earth. He didn’t believe in retirement or wasting time. Surely he wasn’t able to do what he had in his 70s, but even through the grueling years of research and ecological development, he still wanted to give back to the next generation.

Back on earth, he planned another outing with his granddaughter. This time they walked through the Asian botanical forest, smelling the fresh air, admiring the beautiful flowers, enjoying life at its best.

“How is everything going with your language acquisition?”

“Much better. Much better. I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. Sometimes its hard not to rely on the computer to think for me. I’m trying hard to remember that it doesn’t know everything.”

“We let them do their job and we do ours. They only do what we’ve told them to do, so we have to help them through our superior improvisation, creativity, and navigating.”

“Did you know that Aunt Lexi and Darius are engaged?”

“Are they now? That’s wonderful! He is such a striking young fellow. Very gifted.”

“I like him. They seem very happy together.” Stacey smiled.

“And you’ll have a nice man to help you grow up into a mature woman. You have such a wonderful future ahead of you – so full of hope. There is so much opportunity there for you on Mars, but I don’t want to hold you back.”

“I love you Sabba,” as she squeezed his arm and remembered.

“Someday I’m going to live on Alpha Centuri A.”

“I’m sure you will sweetie; I’m sure you will.”

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