|The training gave Ralph and Chuck all
the skills and knowledge they would need to successfully
reach Venus. Of course, whether or not they retained it
all was down to the qualities of their minds, but they
both seemed hopeful.
Some of the training was theoretical - such as the theoretical response when a theoretical Venusian duststorm ripped their theoretical vehicle into half a million theoretical pieces and theoretically distributed them into the theoretically poisoned atmosphere. Some of it was designed to physically and mentally prepare the men for life in deep space. And some of it was just thrown in by the more sadistic NASA scientists as a bit of a joke.
Ralph and Chuck, being almost complete opposites - a boring weed of a man and an extremely stupid muscular giant - hit it off very well from the outset. And amazingly, they made it through the intensive training, by using their mental and physical powers to the limit, and by helping each other, though it was technically cheating.
Ralph was definitely the brains of the outfit. The problem-solving and mathematical skills for ensuring the correct operation of the rocket's hybrid hydro-solar-nuclear-powered engines, complex trajectory mechanisms and in-built soft-drink machine were no match to a man who had spent most of his life wrestling with fringe benefits tax, depreciation calculations and equitable restaurant bill splitting.
Chuck, on the other hand, was a human powerhouse, no stranger to being stretched to the very limits of a human's physical strength. Surviving the rigours of deep space would be no problem to a man who had hoisted sumo wrestlers off the ground with his bare hands (hey, what he does in his private life is his business), had won tug-of-wars with semi-trailers, and who had lifted a whole Saturday newspaper with all the supplements with one hand.
While the training continued, the rocket itself was being assembled and tested. Years of research had lead to exciting new developments in lightweight, yet tough materials. Well, exciting if youre into that kind of thing. These materials would be used for the outer shell of the rocket, which would face the perils of the surface of Venus. The best material, for some unknown reason dubbed "Corduroy" by its creator, had shown itself to be impervious to every small missile they'd been able to throw at it. It looked absolutely hideous, but that was a minor consideration in the circumstances.
Other technology going into the vehicle included the latest FlingFast booster rockets, the RocketSoft vehicle control system running under Windows 29, a 100,000,000 Km/h speed limiter, and the latest in Earth to deep-space communications multi-frequency telephony, complete with an answering machine and Caller ID.
For the crew there would be one-piece MegaDuffel space suits, Space Food Sticks (of course), a gravity-free-ready version of a Portaloo, and for entertainment, a Sony Spacewalkman and magnetic chess.
NASA's Mission Control complex was fitted out with the latest and hugest computer systems to support the mission. All sorts of sensors and instruments fitted to the rocket would transmit the most detailed of diagnostic statistics during the mission, to ensure the integrity of the space vehicle.
And so, after many months of preparation, of the most intensive equipment testing and astronaut training, the day for lift-off finally came.
- The Year 2031
Copyrightę1998 Daniel Bowen