The First Man On Mars
“It ain’t workin’, Chief,” came the voice over the party line. I shook my head, slowly.
You can’t shake your head fast in a helmet anyways, but I wanted to show some respect, even if he’d never know it.
It wasn’t working because we had the wrong tools to solve a problem the brains back home had just hoped wouldn’t happen because the solution would’ve cost half what the whole mission cost. We all knew it, even the guy who was on the one-way trip down.
I mean, we had all wanted to be the first one down, but not like that.
We had to try – even after a year out here, he was the only one nobody hated, and he was the cook anyway. It was a kindness for him to admit it now, so we could get back to work instead of risking losing someone else or some equipment worth more than any of us.
“We’ll name the landing spot after you, Joe.”
“You see that you do. If you all don’t mind, can you folks take a message for the wife?”
“I’d say save the air, but … you do what you need to. Standing by to record.”
The rest of the shift, we watched for an invisible speck moving across the red plains hanging overhead, listening quietly, talking only when we had to. Eventually he talked himself out … or out of air, no way to tell.
Two weeks later, we had the platform up and the shuttle ready to go. I made them draw lots to see who would step out first, after every last one of them refused. In the end, the history books will list Teddy as the first man on Mars, but we all know in our hearts that Joe had him beat.