Men and women may eventually establish a base on Earth’s moon, Luna, where they can live and work for months (or even years.) They will have to build an airtight dome and have some way to maintain an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere. Outside the dome, they will have to wear EVA suits with air tanks, and probably use vehicles with tracks on some of the wheels to climb the uneven terrain. Life will depend on the air dome, literally. Its failure will mean death, within minutes if a suit or tank is not near; within hours even if they are. (A second or emergency dome will be necessary for survival in such a case until a rescue mission can arrive.)
This poem is my attempt to imagine being a member of such a team, living and working on Luna.
The View from the Moon
There shines Earth. It’s full tonight.
And I am full of grief for her, my home.
Earth at Springtime, the swelling of life from life:
From generation to generation the struggle
To be–to know–to achieve–to master–to be gods.
We came to the moon on an Olympian thunderbolt,
Pressure-sealed in a can of air and recycling machines.
We built the air dome sealed in plastic bags,
With our lives strapped to our backs.
Tonight as my half-track crawls back to the dome,
My brain benumbed in the alien sterility all around me,
I behold the black sky in which the rainbow cannot arch,
In which no thunderstorm crackling with the spark of creation
Can fill the vacuum of life unlived, reality unrealized,
And the pain descends like a shroud over my being.
Here in this world of stark relief,
There is no perhaps, no median, no mercy.
There is life or death, death or life:
Life is the air dome, death is its failure.
The awful absoluteness takes and takes of me,
Until I seem merely an hypothesis.
Perhaps, after all, man is not fitted
For challenging the stars,
Whose cold points of light grip their unseen worlds
In the uncaring eternity of space.
But then I close my eyes and see a remembered Earth,
Where my mind reached out to touch the galaxies.
Some of us have taken that giant step
On the path to the stars.
Yes, we are real, the vanguard of men and women
Who expand humanity’s concept of reality.
We shall go on because we must.
And more will follow.
I open my eyes, behold the full, shining sphere of Earth,
And I straighten my back, sucking deeply from my air tank.
I have won my fight with pain.