The First Expedition
Nina Benkowitz White stepped out into the bright Moon air. The Moon, the good old Moon! The journey had felt longer than she’d expected, but what had she expected, really, and why? They had made it through the nothingness and into now. The travelers had all been put into stasis, not that the moon flight took that long, but just, as the guide explained, so that they would arrive at Moon Colony EM1 well-rested and pre-equilibrated, their fluid levels and gravity adjustments taken care of mechanically. Now she felt fresh, better-rested than ever, as if her cells had each been individually massaged, plumped, given tiny face masks full of perfect dollops of snail mucin. Her limbs felt loose and free, her back released from its usual Earth-bound cramp. She stretched and laughed, that’s how good she felt, as if she didn’t have a body anymore at all.
Her fellow travelers followed her out onto the grass. They were scientists, astronauts, wealthy investors who had helped to bankroll the hugely expensive undertaking, along with a pair of determined retirees who had saved up for passage. Nina had been the only one — Nina, who had never won a thing in her life, not a dollar in the lottery or a gift basket in a raffle — had been the one ordinary civilian to win a spot on the expedition. She knew it was all PR for the Moon Shuttle Agency, but who cared. Here she was, the sweet Moon breeze flicking her hair.
They’d kept images of Moon Colony EM1 under wraps since announcing its construction five years earlier. She supposed it was to build the hype. There would be teasers now and then — an advertisement full of dreamy music and sexy Moon-from-Earth shots — but really, despite the feverish media attention to the project, no one knew what to expect. Earth hadn’t been in such hot shape since the Wars, and Nina was sure she wasn’t the only Earthling to have been living in her online world more often than venturing out lately. Anyway, whatever Nina had expected was now erased from her mind, leaving only the thought: It certainly hadn’t been this. This was no bubble full of trapped atmosphere, no sterile space station. It was more like, well, a beautiful sculpture park.