Lunar surface, early Seventies:
A blast of flame drove the lunar excursion module’s ascent stage up into the starry black sky and toward its rendezvous with the orbiting command module. The men of the last expedition—the last for a while—were heading home.
Here and there upon the surface, in sites separated by thousands of untouched square kilometers, lay the relics of the explorers. Over in Mare Tranquilitatis an American flag defied the dictates of gravity and vacuum with the aid of a crosspiece holding it outstretched. Nearby squatted the abandoned descent stage of the very first expedition's LEM. With a plaque on its side commemorating the achievement, the boxlike rocket made its own utilitarian memorial, unweathered astride the lunar pumice.
Even the boot-sole footprints of those first wayfarers, impressions so ephemeral if made back home, would survive as millennia-spanning monuments in this airless wasteland.
Back here at the site of the final expedition—the final one for now—stood another memorial.
This round of landings had been planned to continue beyond the one just finished. But the space agency had cut back in the face of growing public indifference and active opposition. It had other projects and a limited budget. The impetus behind that landing back in July of ’69 had been as much political as scientific, but what matter? It had accomplished its end. Sooner or later, more bootprints would dot the pumice.
So for now, the last expedition’s memorial plaque acknowledged an upcoming pause in the explorations. A few high-flown sentences to that effect were followed by a simple list of every human who'd walked Earth’s satellite:
|20 July 1969||Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin|
|5 February 1971||Al Shepard, Ed Mitchell|
|31 July 1971||Dave Scott, Jim Irwin|
|20 April 1972||John Young, Charley Duke|
|11 December 1972||Gene Cernan, Jack Schmitt|
|20 July 2469||Jane Vecchi, Mark McCue|
|12 January 2470||Anastasia Ostroff, Bet Goldman|
|2 February 2471||Jeph Magnuson, Hal Wong|
The bootprints around this base were crisp. The tracks over at Tranquility were blemished from centuries’ micrometeorite impacts. But all the prints would endure until the next expedition’s arrival.
Footprints last a long time on the Moon.