Pathfinder hung in space about a mile behind and below the Mission Assembly Habitat. From the vantage point of the MAH, the ship appeared small and was a shining, roughly cylindrical shape, the details of a complex array of tanks and machinery that occupied the rear half of the structure just barely discernable from this distance. In reality, Pathfinder was over two hundred feet in length and twenty five feet in diameter. Fuel tanks, machinery, and the combustion chambers of its engine occupied the rear half of the craft, while the cylinder containing the crew quarters and the stack of five Orion II landing craft occupied the front half. The blue expanse of the central Pacific shone brightly in the background. Suddenly the view of the Hawaiian Islands at the rear of Pathfinder blurred as the gasses from its engines exhausted, and the ship began to move, quickly appearing to catch up and pass the space station. Cameras on board the MAH captured the event, tracking the ship’s progress. Pathfinder disappeared within a minute.
“Well, they’re on their way, Helen.” Bill looked at the wall mounted LED screen in his Houston office while he spoke to Helen on his phone. The screen was empty now except for the image of a small section of Earth in the lower left corner and a portion of a solar panel that intruded in the camera’s field of view.
“They took off like a bat outta Hell,” Helen said, excitement in her voice. “Their burn will last for another three minutes.”
“Then it’s eight and a half months to Mars. Are you sad, Helen?” Bill asked.
“A little, but happy, too: happy to be a part of it.”
“That’s how I am looking at it, too. Hector and the others are doing this for us, all eight billion of us, really. God’s speed, Hector!”
“You don’t believe in God, Bill,” she chided.
“I know, dear, but Hector does,” he responded quietly.