Saturday, March 04, 2006

A Page from History

[My journal of alien contact]

Before I tell you more of the present, it might be helpful to view a page from the past. My grandparents were quite young when Earth sent its first humanned spacecraft to Pluto. They were in their teens when the SHS Kookaburra landed, and in their mid-twenties when the ship returned. Although the article has been reproduced everywhere, my grandmother, Marisol Yoderkulp-Speyer,* kept the original printout of the news-story documenting the historic landing and our first indication that there was at least one other sentient species in the universe. Here is the copy of my grandmother's printout:

If it's too hard to read the copy of my grandmother's printout, you may read the text here:

Southern Hemisphere Nations land humans on Pluto

Siriana “Dogstar” Janiewski has become the first person to walk on Pluto. The celestronaut stepped onto Pluto’s surface, in the Sunshine Plateau, at 0256 GMT, nearly 20 hours after waking from hibernation-travel. Dogstar had earlier reported the spacecraft’s safe landing with the words, “Melbourne, Sunshine Base here. The Kookaburra has landed.”

As she put her right foot down first, Dogstar’s first words were, “It’s cold! It’s really, really cold.” Dogstar quickly followed up with, “Humanity, welcome to the rest of the universe.”

She described the surface of Pluto as being unremarkably like the surface of Luna, Earth’s only natural moon: powdered charcoal, with the spacecraft leaving a crater about a foot deep.

Dogstar spent her first minutes on Pluto taking photographs and soil samples in case they had to leave suddenly. “This first visit is just a social call,” she joked, ironically referring to the 8 year long voyage of the Kookaburra.

Dogstar was joined by fellow celestronaut, McKinley “Summit” Smith, at 0315 GMT, and the two collected data and performed various exercises to warm up their muscles before planting the Southern Hemisphere Nations flag at 0341 GMT. They also unveiled a plaque bearing President Zindel’s signature and an inscription reading, “Here humans from the planet Earth first set foot upon Pluto at the turn of the century in March --01. We came in peace for all humankind."

Soon after, Dogstar said suddenly, “What’s this?”

“It’s a probe,” Summit said.

“One of ours?” Dogstar asked.

“No,” Summit said.

“Oh. I thought Northern Hemisphere Nations' probe crashed somewhere on Charon.”

“It's not the NHN's,” Summit said. “It’s someone else’s.”

Nothing else came over the system until Dogstar announced that take-off was on schedule for 1750 GMT. Dogstar and Summit will reenter hibernation after the successful launching of the Kookaburra from Pluto. If all goes according to plan, the return to Earth will take less than 8 years due to fortuitous differences in the planetary orbits.

As you can tell, the reports indicate that the voyage wasn't too different from humans' first trip to Luna. You can read that legendary story here: 1969: America lands man on the Moon.

* You may remember that my username for the Transgalactic Instantaneous Communicator is "Marisol," after my grandmother. My grandmother was the one who encouraged me to study linguistics in addition to cosmology and World Literature. "Read Out of the Silent Planet if you don't believe me," she said.

"But Oma, that's science-fiction," I protested.

"That's what they once said about Jules Verne's novels," she scoffed.