Chapter 319 Moon Landing
“Err, have any of you seen my gloves?” Collins asked. He was hugging a bowl of pork and dehydrated baked potatoes when he popped out of nowhere like a specter.
“I don’t know. But I think it floated past my head a minute ago,” Zhang Heng replied.
“And you just watched it fly away like that?”
“It seems so.”
“You can go look in the Lunar Module. It probably went in that direction.”
“Collins, did you take the wrong toothbrush?” Armstrong poked his head out from the door, his expression grim.
“Did I? I remember putting my name on it.”
“Yes, and you put it on my toothbrush,” Armstrong grunted. “Also, remember to clean the fuel cell. Whose turn is it?”
Zhang Heng raised his hand, “It’s mine.” “I’ll do it,” Collins cut in. “Don’t the two of you have something really big to do today?” he chuckled and patted Zhang Heng on the shoulder. “You must return safely.”
“Don’t worry about me. Neil will return safely,” said Zhang Heng. Collins’ brows furrowed, unable to understand what Zhang Heng meant.
Right at that moment, mission control came over the radio, “Apollo 11, this is Houston. You will enter the moon’s orbit in fifteen minutes. Over.”
“Roger that, Houston. We’ll be ready. Over,” Armstrong answered. He turned to Zhang Heng, “You haven’t had breakfast, right. Eat more. We have lots of work waiting for us once we land on the moon. We won’t have much time then.”
Zhang Heng nodded, knowing anyhow that he wouldn’t be staying long on the moon. He looked at his Tissot watch and saw that only one minute was left before 5:55. According to his calculations based on the game’s time flow, he only had four hours left in this quest.
It was also why he told Collins that Neil would return safely. He himself, on the other hand, would leave the scene and never set foot inside the Command and Service Module again.
Twenty minutes later, the three stopped what they were doing and stood in front of the porthole. The view outside was much clearer, and they saw the surface of the moon in great detail. Right now, Apollo 11 was only a hundred kilometers away from the moon.
The moon itself didn’t emit its own light, but it could reflect approximately 7% of visible light. Through the porthole, they could see craters and ravines that pockmarked the surface of the moon-much like a honeycomb. Zhang Heng knew that it was plagioclase, a type of volcanic rock that resulted from the cooling and crystallization of magma which formed the lunar crust. The lunar mantle was of stronger basalt, containing more iron than the crust. As for the innermost core, molten iron with a small amount of sulfur and nickel made up most of it.
“Alright, looks like we’re at our destination,” said Collins. “We’ll have to separate soon. I hope you won’t miss me too much.”
“Thank you, Michael. When I’m not around, you can eat all the chicken salad you want,” said Zhang Heng.
“I won’t take that as a joke,” Collins pretended to look serious. Then two seconds later, he continued, “Take care, the both of you. I will be waiting here. Let’s return to earth together.”
Armstrong merely nodded, saying nothing.
Zhang Heng spent the remainder of his time preparing for the landing, omitting all the daily necessities, only carrying his game items. He put on his EVA spacesuit and entered the lunar module “Eagle” with Armstrong. Armstrong then closed the hatch behind them.
“Houston, this is Eagle. David and I have entered the Lunar Module. Landing legs are deployed. Everything’s in position. Over.”
“Eagle, this is Houston. Please confirm that you are using ethylene glycol line 1.” “This is Eagle. We are using line 1. Over.” Zhang Heng answered.
Then Collins’s voice came over the radio. “This is CSM Columbia. All twelve latches are fastened. Switching to manual mode. Eagle will separate at an estimated time of twenty minutes.”
“Wish you guys good luck.”
To reduce as much weight as possible, no seats were installed in the lunar module. Instead, Zhang Heng and Armstrong had to stand in front of the control panel. As the lunar module’s pilot, Zhang Heng would take on the task of flying it. He would need to gingerly maneuver the Eagle and land it at the designated coordinates.
This would be a massive challenge for him, but it was at times like this that Zhang Heng was at his calmest.
At first, Armstrong was worried that Zhang Heng wasn’t trained enough, but when he saw the look in his eyes, he knew that he was ready.
“OK, we are about to begin.” After counting down, Collins pushed the button to separate the CSM from the Lunar Module.
“This is Houston. Please remain in flight mode. Eagle, keep an eye on your fuel. Your maximum continuous ignition time is 910 seconds.”
“Roger that, Houston.” Zhang Heng became extra focussed, as he prepped the Lunar Module for landing.
However, it did not take long for them to run into trouble. The warning light on controls suddenly flashed.
“Executive overflow. We lost radar,” said Zhang Heng as he glanced at the warning indicator.
“Roger that, Eagle. Land at your discretion.”
“Roger that, Houston,” Armstrong answered.
But before the two of them could even breathe, the warning light started flashing again. “Program alarm,” Zhang Heng frowned, “Error code 1202. What is this, Houston?”
“Houston to Eagle, 1202, received. Please hold. We are checking.”
Zhang Heng turned off the alarm manually. Lo and behold, less than a minute later, the program alarm rang yet again. Then, one of the worst things that could happen, actually happened. The altimeter suddenly froze at 4000 feet. It meant Zhang Heng would have to land relying on his bare judgment and the naked eye. He was practically flying blind.
The situation was not looking optimistic, but the two had no other options. When they descended to about 2500 feet, Zhang Heng and Armstrong realized that they had overshot the predicted landing zone.
Now, as if to mock them in the face, the fuel gauge failed a short while later. Zhang Heng last confirmed that with the fuel left in the propulsion system, the engines could still ignite for about 30 seconds. A large, deep valley appeared in front of the Eagle. With the radar out of service, there was no way for Zhang Heng to gauge how deep or wide the valley was.
He had to make a split-second decision whether to risk a high-speed crash landing in the deep valley or find a way to fly past it.
At this critical juncture, the wireless AirPods that Zhang Heng put alongside the game items suddenly came on by itself. Then a familiar voice said, “Friendly reminder, you have only 23 seconds of fuel left!”