Chapter 316 16th of July, The Day Finally Arrives

If Zhang Heng remembered correctly, Apple’s Bluetooth Wireless AirPods were released in 2016.

The Apollo quest was set in 1969. Seven years later, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne founded Apple Computer together. As for Bluetooth technology, it was created in 1994 by the famous telecommunications company, Ericsson. In other words, these AirPods were definitely not a product from this era. So, who in the world was the man calling himself Einstein?

Einstein didn’t come to see Zhang Heng because life in Area 51 was boring. He had his own agenda when he came to meet the astronauts preparing to set off for the moon. Other than Zhang Heng, he didn’t look for Jia Lai and Bruno. Zhang Heng didn’t even know if he was really one of the engineers in Area 51, let alone figuring out why he gave him the headset that way ahead of this time.

An important thing to note was that Einstein only gave him one earbud, the one for the left ear. Even so, Zhang Heng put it together with the other game items that he collected. The entire mission to the moon would last only eight days, and there would be little remaining time for Zhang Heng’s quest. This meant that when the quest ended, there was a good chance that he would still be at the moon. That could only mean that he had to pack in advance.

Fortunately, NASA allowed their astronauts to bring a small number of personal belongings to space, provided they were meticulously listed down. During the quarantine period, Zhang Heng had visitors. Four days after the sandstorm, the captain returned to the space center and brought back the results of the initial search and rescue. A joint effort between Area 51 and NASA saw them pull together their search assets, and after three days and three nights, Jia Lai’s body was found. He was confirmed to have died from suffocation. Bruno, on the other hand, was still missing.

The sudden sandstorm had blown millions of tons of sand hundreds of kilometers away, enough to bury all traces of anything living. Coupled with the high temperature and dryness of the desert, it was a dire task for the search to continue. However, the captain insisted that he would carry on until Bruno’s body was found.

In fact, no one thought that Bruno would survive. Public Relations also notified the media of the unfortunate news as soon as possible. Even President Nixon himself expressed his condolence for those who lost their lives during training. At the same time, the president had a brief conversation with the only survivor, Zhang Heng.

Due to the accident, Zhang Heng failed to attend the pre-launch press conference. However, this wasn’t bad news for him, and although it wasn’t his first time dealing with the media, he hated being bombarded by questions since he couldn’t provide information about his family and background. Moreover, unlike Armstrong and Collins, he was just a visitor that was passing by this world. All he cared about was whether he could complete the main quest or not. He didn’t need to become famous in this world.

After a six-day quarantine, Zhang Heng put on the right mental attitude and made the final preparations for the moon landing. He had done everything he could, for now, having already eliminated all threats and obstacles along his way. Even so, the mission was set to be a perilous voyage from the get-go, filled with unknowns and uncertainties.

It was July the 16th in no time.

Eight years of preparation (from the implementation of the Apollo Program), the effort of 400,000 individuals, tens of billions of dollars spent, and the nation’s top scientists and engineers working day and night to practically create a miracle. It had all led to this, a project that showcased a country’s ultimate capability during their most peaceful time with all the investment they could get on hand. All that blood and sweat, all that unimaginable risk, was to welcome the arrival of this day.

Today, the whole world had its attention focused on the Kennedy Space Center, waiting to witness humans’ historic voyage; leaving their home planet to explore another celestial object for the first time.

Armstrong, Collins, and Zhang Heng woke up at four in the morning. They dressed neatly, packed their personal belongings, and bid a final farewell to the crowd that had gathered outside the building. Then, with a wave, the three men entered a black Lincoln to Launchpad 39A at Cape Canaveral spaceport. There, they ate their last breakfast on planet Earth. The staff helped them into their A7L spacesuits, and when all the leak checks were complete, they put on their space helmets. Everyone in the area was dressed in their best outfits, and during this process, two photographers followed them around busy clicking away their cameras for whatever it was worth.

To be honest, Zhang Heng did not fancy this feeling at all, especially the annoying shutter clicks. It looked like some kind of weird ritual to him, the three of them being the sacrificial offerings. At the same time, more than half of NASA’s senior officers and representatives from the White House shook hands and hugged each one of the astronauts. The expressions on everyone’s faces grew solemn. It would indeed be a miracle when the three astronauts of Apollo 11 finally returned to Earth with the star-spangled banner wrapped around them.

Fortunately, the entire media snafu didn’t take too long. As everything was ready, ground control issued instructions to the spacecraft soon after.

Armstrong took the lead and pushed the door to the equipment room.

At this time, the spaceport’s engineers stood spontaneously in the corridor, applauding and nodding to the three, wishing them a smooth journey. Journalists were already crowding outside the gate with their cameras, and the moment the three astronauts showed up, the cameras immediately came to life. With flashes going off everywhere, it was as if supermodels had just lined up for a catwalk. Everyone was trying their hardest to capture this historic moment.

However, the three didn’t linger for too long as Hollywood stars on the red carpet did. They simply waved at the reporters who had been waiting for hours and got into the bus prepared by NASA. They then adjourned to the spaceport. Before this, Zhang Heng was lucky enough to see the assembled Saturn V launch vehicle, a behemoth that cost of 185 million (more than 1 billion US dollars today). Designed by rocket prodigy Werner von Braun, it maintained the record for over 50 years as the most powerful rocket ever launched my man.

It stood at a whopping 110.6 meters, a height surpassing the Statue of Liberty in New York. After being fueled up, the entire launch vehicle weighed an astonishing 2,883,900 kg. The building to assemble the launch vehicle and the Apollo module was completed in 1966. It remained as the building with the largest ground area in the world. The four gates that lead to each area were 139 meters high, each taking 45 minutes to open.

The Saturn V rocket moved to the spaceport a few days ago from the assembly building on a purpose-built Crawler-Transporter. At night, the Saturn V looked like a giant sword made by the gods as it stood majestically over the Cape. Looking up at the massive machine from below, it was hard not to be bewildered by this absolute marvel of human technology.