It was a day of celebration for the first human colony on the surface of the Moon. Graymalkin, also known as LRB-1 (Lunar Recon Base 1), was a sprawling complex built near Peary crater, an impact crater at the Moon’s north pole.
The base, 383,000 kilometers from the gorgeous blue Earth, was a multi-national effort involving exactly twenty-six countries. It took eight years to build this marvel of modern technology.
The special day was April 22, 2099, the official birthday of the colony. It was five years ago when construction was finally completed and the first inhabitants from Earth arrived to live permanently on the Moon. Like those who forged new ground before them, both on the Moon and Mars, the colonists approached each day from a spirit of gratitude.
It was also Earth Day, a day of festive observance, especially for the thirty colonists who called Graymalkin home. Earth Day was unique on the Moon because the much-celebrated occasion gave everyone the day off to reflect on
the immensity of his or her assigned tasks; and to commemorate the beauty of the Earth itself.
A buzz of excitement was building throughout the complex, mainly in the largest and most important building in the series of base structures: the glorious greenhouse. It was the location of the upcoming gala.
The greenhouse was the first structural assembly at Peary crater, the largest off-Earth construction project ever attempted. The construction of the massive building proved easier than it would have on Earth due to the low
gravity on the lunar surface. With gravity being 1/6th that of Earth, a 90-kilogram man would weigh about fifteen
kilograms on the Moon.
The greenhouse was built using fiberglass-reinforced concrete made essentially from Moondust and spanned 460
meters by 460 meters. It produced oxygen and approximately 60 percent of the food mass for the base.
To make up the rest of the food reserve, unmanned supply ships were launched regularly from Earth. A large underground chamber adjacent to the greenhouse served as a storage area.
The chamber also functioned as an emergency shelter should the colony receive life-threatening levels of radiation from the sun. Every structure in the complex was shielded in some way against deadly solar radiation.
The greenhouse had a clear composite fiberglass dome that was fashioned by processing lunar soil. The dome’s
massive lightweight covering could be opened and closed for micro-meteoroid protection and thermal control, creating conditions of both day and night. The technology behind it all was state-of-the-art and absolutely awe-inspiring.
Most of the construction materials used on the Moon were those made by implementing the principles of In-Situ
Resource Utilization (ISRU), or “living off the land.” It was a practice that harkened back to the 1800s when
pioneers expanded West across the broad frontier in the United States of America. The pioneers could not bring
everything they needed with them on their wagons, so they had to rely on the natural resources available around them.
One could manufacture a myriad of things from materials found on the Moon. From rocket propellant to helium-3 to oxygen to water to concrete to solar cells to minerals and metals; it all could be harvested from lunar regolith, the loose material found everywhere on the surface.
To manufacture such an enterprise, industry was required. A short distance from Graymalkin was the industrial complex, built literally into the rock. Small roads connected the two locales, with “rovers” traveling between. Cars on the moon.
The factories, ovens, and assembly lines were abandoned between projects, fired up when the need for new
construction was imminent. There was also a waste dump nearby, an area where broken equipment and the like were placed. Humans create a lot of waste.
Graymalkin was completely solar-powered. Vast solar arrays were placed upon four rugged mountains on the rim of Peary crater. These “mountains of eternal light” were sunlit during the whole Lunar day and the solar arrays
tracked the movement of the sun for maximum energy output. The electricity generated was stored in solar batteries located throughout the complex, a majority of them situated in and around the greenhouse.
Inside the greenhouse’s main office sat Laurell McGrew, the botanist in charge of the massive conservatory.
Shuffling papers until the festivities began, she and her staff of four had spent the last few days harvesting
vegetables for the upcoming feast. Vegetables were a staple in the colonists’ diet, primarily because meat and other
foods were in short supply.
Dressed in a standard-issue blue colonial jumpsuit, Laurell was thin and stood only 1.47 meters with shoulder-
length red hair and brown eyes. She was a plant jockey who incorporated biology into the life support system. Plus she was a darn fine cook. She wore thin black glasses.
Laurell came from Denver, Colorado, USA. At an early age, she discovered a love of growing plants and pursued it further with years of higher education. When selected to come to Graymalkin she put married life on hold.
It was a huge sacrifice but one of much importance and for a higher purpose. She wrestled with the dichotomy; the thought of growing plants on the Moon made her giddy but deeply missed her husband.
Humans and plants worked together hand-in-hand to form a life-giving circle, a wheel of survival. Humans used
oxygen, released carbon dioxide and ate edible parts of plants for nourishment while the plants consumed carbon
dioxide and released oxygen.
Hardly anything was squandered in Graymalkin, except for the discarded equipment in the waste dump. Human and plant wastes were broken down by microbes in large tanks called bioreactors which created the nutrients needed for plant growth. It was a marvelous cycle of life that required only light, water, and air circulation to blossom into fruition.
The greenhouse was packed with compost piles, storage areas, gardens, racks, and hanging containers, all filled
with a variety of crops: leafy plants like cabbage, spinach, and swiss chard; roots including potatoes, turnips,
carrots, radishes, and parsnips; plus other crops like pumpkins, broccoli, tomatoes, various beans, peppers, an assortment of nuts, citrus, fruits, corn, and wheat. Crops abound. There were even trees. The greenhouse smelled of earth and moisture.
A favorite amenity in the greenhouse was a large plot of Kentucky bluegrass, a common area where colonists could
go for rest and relaxation. Cropped short and somewhat trampled from constant use, it was a little bit of home, a
park of sorts with tables, benches and even a gazebo! These slices of Earth made living so far away tolerable.
There was a quick knock on the door and David Whitney strode into the office, the all-purpose engineer and handyman of Graymalkin. He was muscular and lean with brown hair and eyes and sported a scruffy beard.
“I’m here to fix the fan,” he said as Laurell looked up from her paperwork.
“Howdy David,” she said as she stood, “Happy Earth Day!”
“Happy Earth Day to you as well. And Happy Birthday Graymalkin,” he said with the utmost of pride.
David was one of the original six colonists who first established the Lunar Recon Base five years ago. He had been back three times, often staying for more than ten months at a time.
This was rare because colonists were usually rotated every seven or eight months to keep a dynamic colony and the colonists themselves physically fit. Without daily exercise, a lack of decent gravity on the human body caused bones and muscles to deteriorate.
David knew everything about each system in the colony; computers, environmental, heating and cooling, water
reclamation and carbon dioxide removal. David was well respected in the colony. The man was a legend. Graymalkin was his legacy.
Laurell smiled at David’s enthusiasm. “Shouldn’t you be getting ready for the party instead of fixing my balky
fan? This is an off-duty day and that means no repair,” she said rounding her desk as if floating, the 1/6th gravity
apparent with each step.
One just didn’t “walk” on the surface of the Moon. A person had to adjust their mobility due to the gravity. Movement was practically effortless and one could hop long distances or take extended strides with ease.
“I’m ready and rehearsed actually. And very excited. I thought I could ease the restlessness by getting my hands
dirty. To take my mind off things.”
“How was the traverse to Plaskett crater?” Laurell asked.
“It took four days all total, there and back, even with the rover. But we did good science.” David explained.
Plaskett crater was located on the northern far-side of the Moon, approximately 200 kilometers south of the north pole.
“Serena was like a kid in a candy store,” he continued as they began their walk to the area where the uncooperative
fan resided, “You know geologists and their love of rocks,” he said and laughed.
“Serena has worn out four geologist’s hammers in six months,” Laurell said jokingly.
“We confirmed what the orbiter data suspected. Plaskett would make a perfect site for an additional lunar base. I just need to finish my report.”
“Forget report writing; today is a celebration,” said Laurell.
“You’re right. There’s plenty of time to finish the paperwork. Show me this fan so we can get over there and light this candle,” he said, pointing out a nearby window to the grassy area being tended by a throng of colonists
preparing the “fairgrounds.”
In Habitat 3, Dr. Ping Yuan was busy putting the final touches on a scale model of the project Apollo LEM, the
Lunar Module lander from the pioneering days of the budding manned-space program in the 1960s. This particular LEM, the Eagle, represented the first manned spacecraft to land on the Moon.
Two days ago he finished the model of the second generation LSAM, the Lunar Surface Access Module from project Orion’s return to the Moon in the 2020s. Humanity had come a long way since then.
Ping was short and had a mustache and goatee. He was an accomplished physician and surgeon but his real passion was manned spaceflight and its history. He could talk for hours and hours on lunar exploration and the complex architecture involved in making a moon shot possible.
A native of China, Ping joined the program after the global call for lunar colonists was made. He followed the legacy of China’s famous taikonauts and their first Shenzhou spacecrafts. He was proud China had landed men on the Moon.
There were four habitat modules in the complex, with the capacity for expansion during future missions. Each habitat module accommodated twelve people comfortably, with private space for each colonist.
The modules were connected by a series of hatches and tunnels that could be opened and closed. Each module was pressurized and filled with furniture, exercise and health equipment, plumbing and lighting, solar panels, life
support systems, personal effects, spacesuit storage (for excursions outside; EVA – Extravehicular activity) and
There were windows throughout the habitat, providing spectacular views of the surrounding terrain, the grays and
subtle tans of the lunar surface. Colonists referred to the habitats as “The Homestead.”
Hans Diehl, an astronomer from Rheinland-Pfalz Germany with thinning, sandy blonde hair and blue eyes, watched Ping painstakingly apply the final decals to the model. Hans dealt in only the faintest of light in the universe.
Day after day, he peered at the light emanating from the stars and galaxies that formed in the universe billions of years ago. Moon-based telescopes provided superior astronomical observations compared to those on Earth. The Moon had very little atmosphere to distort the data and utilizing the far side meant there was no radio noise interference spewing from Earth.
There was a poster of Elvis Presley on the wall of Habitat 3. Music was a pleasurable way to spend free time. Hans was a guitar man and Ping played the harmonica. They both participated in quarterly concerts with other colonists.
“Hurry up Mein Freund,” said Hans in his thick accent, “We don’t want to be late for the party!”
“I’m hungry for steak,” said Ping as he softly blew on the decals to speed drying.
“There will be steak?” asked Hans, licking his lips.
“There will be steak,” Ping said matter-of-factly as he lifted the LEM model signaling its completion.
The green grass was meticulously groomed to perfection as the remaining colonists arrived in the greenhouse. A
furious flurry of activity permeated the impressive structure and one could feel the excitement and bliss in the air.
Everyone was dressed in their blue jumpsuits, the Graymalkin LRB-1 mission patch proudly displayed on their
The mission patch was a triangle edged in white with an image of a full Moon with a Habitat module in the center. The module gleamed brilliantly, the Earth a blue sphere in the heavens. The phrase “LRB-1 With All Mankind” was embroidered in gold script.
Decorations of green and blue balloons on tethers floated listlessly in the faint airflow. Helium came from those wacky techs in Atmospherics.
To accommodate the crowd, tables and chairs were nestled in neat rows. Each table had a vase with a bouquet of wildflowers. The greenhouse dome cover was closed but the entire area was lit by an impressive arrangement of Light Emitting Diodes.
The assembled colonists began the festivities, which included various fun activities. Adding to the excitement, a brief press conference had been scheduled during which the celebration would be broadcast to the entire planet
Earth. It was an incredible way to commemorate Earth Day coupled with Graymalkin’s birthday.
The colonists played games ranging from the old-fashioned egg toss (which was slightly more amusing in 1/6th
gravity) to three-legged and potato sack races to pin-the-tail on the donkey. Games like the Chinese pull bell, a
bamboo double-bell yo-yo that looked like two wheels on an axle, and various St. Petersburg pastimes were thoroughly enjoyed.
Each game provided raucous laughter due to the ease with which the competition was played. The colonists
were like children scurrying to-and-fro, enjoying the much-needed leisure time.
The food spread was the most impressive. Hungry, the colonists salivated as they prepared their plates, a look
of delight on each face. Heaped upon the long folding table were fresh vegetables from the greenhouse. Laurell
McGrew and her crew had outdone themselves this time.
Displayed lavishly were luxurious international flavors, many delivered from Earth, crafted with care by the finest chefs: thick Spätzle German noodles, Pelmeni, a traditional Eastern European dish with minced pork, beef, and lamb, pepper, onions and garlic wrapped in thin dough, a delicious Salade Olivier with boiled diced cucumbers,
onions, soybeans, sweetcorn, peas and potato bound with mayonnaise, fried pumpkin dumplings, a spicy Szechuan soup with lean pork, ham, mushrooms, red pepper, prawns and chicken stock.
The vast array of meats included chicken, salmon, steaks, beef franks, and hamburgers. There were also cheeses, corn chips, pasta, and potato salads. Desserts ranged from cheesecake to chocolate chip cookies to Neapolitan ice cream to Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, a German cake; it was a banquet to rival any feast on Earth!
And of course, there was coffee. Lots of strong, black coffee.
Supply ships routinely delivered small teases from Earth, missed pleasantries only terrestrial beings would cherish and miss. Along with the latest shipment of much needed medical supplies, spare parts and clothing were the green and blue balloons, the perishable foods, a new vegetable seed assortment, entertainment odds-and-ends, and emergency water supplies. A steady stream of colonists lined the buffet of goodness.
“We’re ‘go’ for steak,” Hans said as he loaded up his overflowing plate.
Ebenezer Culbertson was the only colonist not at the party. He was the lone staffer on duty in the Control Room and monitored all of Graymalkin’s systems.
Eben was one of the essential personnel who worked in twelve-hour shifts. He was part of the White Team, a three-member team that rotated with the Green Team and the Red Team to keep the Control Room manned at all times. There was a small potted bonsai tree on the desk.
Chubby and balding, Eben was a comedian at heart and also a writer who jotted down ideas for stories on any scrap of paper or surface he could find. He volunteered to stay behind while his White Team cohorts enjoyed the party.
He ate a mound of food delivered by Timmy Twardy, the 19-year-old rookie custodial engineer of the colony. Timmy was a genius who started at the low end, advancing by paying his dues and working hard in Graymalkin. He had a bright future. Timmy apprenticed himself in all aspects of colony life.
Even though Eben was cooped up in the Control Room, he still felt like he was enjoying the party. He monitored all of the cameras throughout the complex, paying particular attention to the merriment in the greenhouse, where he had a bird’s eye view. He also controlled the camera that would broadcast the signals back to the Earth.
The colony kept in constant contact with the Earth, which also monitored Graymalkin’s systems from a primary Mission Control Center located in Houston, Texas. All data was relayed from a series of Lunar orbiting satellites that utilized lasers to traverse the distance between the Earth and the Moon.
Eben did voice checks with David in the greenhouse via a radio link, to make sure communication was in order before the broadcast. David and the other colonists were waiting patiently, “We’re set here, David. We’re just waiting on Houston’s call.”
“Roger Eben, thanks,” David replied. He stood at a podium, the other colonists seated attentively.
“Houston/LRB-1 radio check,” the voice of CAPCOM Jay Charles came through the speakers. Jay Charles would have been a colonist but was reassigned as support staff due to a medical condition. How he wished he could be with the colonists on this day.
“We read you loud and clear Houston,” said David, “How’s the weather down there?”
“25 degrees Celsius and sunny,” Jay Charles replied merrily, “Wish y’all could see it.”
“So do we,” David said.
“We will go live to the world in one minute,” proclaimed Jay Charles, “I will count you down.”
There was a murmur in the crowd.
“Roger Houston,” said Eben as he spooned cake into his mouth. He alertly watched the video feed coming from the greenhouse.
“Roger Houston,” David replied and then said to the crowd, “Here we go!”
Jay Charles counted down the seconds from Houston, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1. We go now live to the Moon’s Lunar Recon Base Graymalkin, where David Whitney and the lunar colonists are assembled for a celebration. Take it away David!”
“Thanks, Houston! Hello, I’m David Whitney, and we here at Graymalkin are proud to have the chance to talk to everyone on Earth today. We are celebrating our fifth anniversary on this Earth Day. We send a message of good tidings to all of you watching.
“Living here on the Moon, so far away from home, makes one significantly appreciate what a precious gift the Earth is. The magnificent desolation of the lunar landscape is the most beautiful, pristine and untouched desert ever imagined, with the black sky a contrast to what is found when looking up at the heavens from Earth.
“That makes the Earth special. Cherish what you have there on the Earth, your home, the pale blue dot hanging in the heavens. Now is the perfect time to achieve peace with your enemies and enjoy all the wonders of Earth you can: the weather, the sunshine, the cool breezes, the moisture, the green and color, everything we take for granted.
“When we look at Earth from here, there are no borders, nothing to hold back the vastness of human potential. We are one.”
Cheers and claps echoed throughout the lush greenhouse.
Serena C. Armstrong, seated at a table with Timmy and three other colonists, watched proudly as David made his speech. Serena was the head geologist of the colony. She was not related to famous Neil Armstrong, the man who took humankind’s first bold steps on the surface of the Moon, but she made her own indelible contributions to science.
She had drive, determination, class, power, and knowledge. She was a free spirit, a risk-taker who went to the Moon against the wishes of her family and friends. She had a pet rock named Lowell who sat on the table next to the wildflowers.
Serena had been a busy woman lately, surveying sites that could be mined for natural resources in the future. She did what a robotic explorer could not: getting down-and-dirty with the rocks, the layers of geologic time, puzzling out the story of this wild place, and in turn, learning the story of humans, our Earth and its place in the universe.
A month ago she was lucky enough to go on a geologic field trip to Hadley Rille in the Apennine mountains, the landing site for Apollo 15. It was a rock hunters dream. She got to see the lower stage of the Lunar Module and the rover, which had a plaque that read: “Mans first wheels on the moon, delivered by Falcon, 1971-07-30.”
Each Apollo landing site had been designated a historical landmark and would become tourist attractions in the future. The footprints of astronauts Dave Scott and James Irwin dotted the landing site. The prints, along with the rover tracks, were still pristine and untouched even though they had been on the surface for 128 years.
Serena bit her lower lip, her gorgeous green eyes scanning the small crowd. Everyone had a smile on his or her face. Everyone was proud, beyond proud, honored really, to be a member of the first Lunar colony.
Each individual worked his or her specific jobs with purpose. They were doing valuable science on the Moon. It was a learning experience in the extreme, much like living in one of the many scientific bases in Antarctica or under the oceans on Mother Earth.
If humanity were to venture permanently beyond the Moon and Mars, it would be colonies like Graymalkin that would help pave the way. The colony added to the wealth of information gained about human space flight by space stations of old, like Skylab, the space station Mir and the International Space Stations Alpha and Beta.
David wrapped up his speech, “As we close our broadcast today, we have a special treat.”
In the Control Room, between gnawing on carrots and drinking coffee, Eben panned the camera up and away towards the sky as the greenhouse cover slowly retracted. The shadows crawled, spread and vanished to reveal the stark black sky with streams of sunlight beaming inside, illuminating everyone looking skyward. Colonists had broad smiles on their faces, some shading their eyes with their hands, in ecstasy.
Above, nestled in the blackness, a jewel, the Earth, with vivid color and an ethereal light all its own, hung almost magically in the sea of dark. No matter how many times one had seen “Earthrise,” the experience was still one of awe and wonder.
David concluded, “That’s all there is. It’s everything we know. Everything we love. Everything we hate.
“The diversity of life on Earth is a marvel and it all resides on the third dinky planet from Sol, minuscule compared to the infinite vastness of the cosmos. Cherish it. Happy Earth Day everyone! Graymalkin, LRB-1, out.”