48 Hours a Day
Chapter 282 - Not Fifty
Chapter 282 Not Fifty
In the conference room of Kennedy Space Center’s building number 12, the seven trainees each received a thick training manual from NASA. It was met with varying degrees of reactions.
“This sixty-page stuff is just an index?”
Plump Anderson felt as if he was about to break down. “Learning basic physics of rockets, aerodynamics, orbital mechanics, jet propulsion, astronomy… I get all these, but why in the world are biology, geology, and material science even in here? And I don’t understand the title ‘electronic engineering.’ How can we cram so much in fifty-five days?”
“A gentle reminder – that’s just the theoretical part of it,” the high-school student said.
“What’s after that?” Anderson groaned.
“Physical training, extravehicular activity, space disorientation training, spacesuit training, familiarity training, flight training, and emergency escape training … anything and everything is possible. Apollo 11 is a fifty-year-old space project. To be honest, I cannot say for sure that these training regimes exist in this era,” repled the student, who wasn’t looking too happy himself either.
At first, he was the most excited amongst the players. For an aerospace enthusiast, there was nothing cooler than taking to the skies, and getting into space on a spacecraft was the holy grail of it all, not to mention participating in one of the most important events of human history. Although it would be a bit of a fly in the ointment to be planting the American flag on the moon, it was a game and would not affect reality or history. When the young man actually received the manual and saw how much an astronaut had to learn, he had a hard time smiling
“Battle royale?” The hunk named Anthony flashed the other guy a smile filled with sarcasm. “Then, you should go straight to heaven.”
“There’s actually no need to be so pessimistic,” Livingston the intellectual middle-aged man, pushed his glasses into place. “There are three spots available for Apollo 11, which means that in addition to the skills that each astronaut must master, each of us can forgo some of the training. We can perhaps, choose one particular aspect to focus on, and complement each other…”
However, he was interrupted before he finished speaking. The thin and tall young man who looked a little listless said, “Forget it, old man. Every one of us here plays solo except for that fat guy over there. Don’t treat the rest of us like we’re fools.” Yawning lazily, he continued, “Don’t tell me that you didn’t notice captain William Kenhaus holding a little pocketbook in his hand. Every time one of us got off the multi-axis trainer, he would jot something down on it. If I’m right, he’s probably scoring our performance. These scores will probably decide who gets to fly on Apollo 11, and who will become the substitutes. You tell us to forgo some of the training and specialize in certain aspects, but the total of three sixty-points added up is much higher than a single eighty-points.”
The middle-aged man adjusted his glasses again, looking unfazed. “I was just suggesting to increase our chances of survival after launching…”
“Only on the premise that we can get into Apollo 11’s command and service module,” the student chipped in.
“Actually… if you think about it, the chances of us getting selected are still very high,” Livingston answered calmly.
“A fifty-fifty chance. That’s standard, apparently,” Anthony frowned.
“Not fifty!” The student’s eyes lit up as if he suddenly thought of something.
The listless young man fiddled with the pen in his hand. After a short silence from the team, he lazily asked, “What?”
The student looked at the only girl among the seven. She raised an eyebrow in defiance, asking, “What?!”
“Unfortunately for your kind, you might have entered the wrong quest. If this quest’s level is difficult, then it could very well be hell for
“How can you tell?”
“You really don’t know much about 1960s America, do you?” the middle-aged man laughed. “Marilyn Monroe, the Beatles, Bob Dylan… what else is worth mentioning from this era?” the girl retorted.
“Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had come into effect, discrimination in society was unfortunately still rampant, not only toward people of color but also women. That was why the ’60s and ’70s saw the birth of many feminist movements. Very few women were allowed to join the jury; their bank loan approval rate was only half of that of men, and interest was fifty percent higher.”
The student took over the conversation. “Very few people know that in 1960, NASA implemented a project to determine whether women could become astronauts. Twenty-five female pilots were invited to undergo similar tests and assessment as Project Mercury’s male astronauts. Thirteen of them eventually qualified.”
“What happened to them?” “Although the 13 women received the same evaluation and training as the male astronauts, the officials never declared them as astronauts and didn’t arrange for them to enter the spaceflight training. It was said that NASA management believed that female astronauts would waste precious resources and distract the public from the male astronauts. In the event of an injury or death in the middle of a mission, it might give the public a negative perception of the program. So, in 1963, NASA fatefully terminated the training program for female astronauts.”
The student paused. “I must also mention that in that very same year, the Soviets sent Valentina Tereshkova, the first female astronaut into space. It’s all very ironic,” he added.
“So, for me to be selected for Apollo 11, not only do I have to perform a bunch of superhuman feats, but I also have to pray that Captain Kenhaus and NASA’s top-brass are forward-looking men, and have no prejudice toward women?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“That’s just too bloody bad, innit?”
The girl did her best to force a smile. She was sitting near Zhang Heng, but the moment she heard the unsavory prospects of being a woman, she adjusted herself, snuggling up so close to him they were practically touching.
“Three out of five. Looks like our chances are pretty good,” Anthony beamed.
“This time, since we don’t have much time, I propose we get along with each other. We each have our own specialty; our particular skillets. May whoever with the highest score earn the right to fly on the mission,” the middle-aged man declared as he looked at the only person in the room who hadn’t spoken from the start.
Anthony and the high schooler also turned to look at Zhang Heng. Although the listless young man did not look back, he had stopped playing with the pen in his hand.
Zhang Heng had been sitting in a corner, quietly flipping through the training manual. When he heard the statement, he looked up, shut the book, and said in a cavalier tone,