Hello, my Love,
Do you remember the old jokes
about good news and bad news? You always thought they were funny when
you were little. You and Mummy and I used to sit in the garden and
invent more and more outrageous pairings until it was your bedtime.
Well, the good news is that we have arrived on Gannymede and, as
always when NASA organises these things, we arrived just about
exactly on time.
And thatís the bad news
because just about exactly on time is not quite good enough. In fact
we arrived seventeen seconds early which means we landed at ten
metres per second instead of the intended two metres per second. And
that, I am afraid, was just too much for the landing gear and the
poor old Marco Polo is now lying on her side on the edge of
the, so-called, ďGrand CanyonĒ. She looks as good as new and, one
day, when the relief ship comes, it will not be too difficult to haul
her upright (gravity here is rather slight) and home she will go
bringing this letter with her. I hope they let you have it straight
away so that you will know direct from me that all of us are glad we
Of course, you already know that
I will not be coming back with the old Polo Ė marvellous
thing radio, just sorry the television transmitter is broken.
Unfortunately, when the landing gear collapsed, the oxygen tanks were
ruptured and in only about an hour from now the air in our suits will
be exhausted and Gannymede will be as lifeless as it was an hour ago.
Itís amazing that the 500 billion dollars this expedition has cost
could manage to sustain life on Gannymede for only two hours Ė four
billion dollars a minute! Wow! That should make a subject for your
column in the The Chronicle You could call it The Shortest
Day. I hope you will make it a funny article Ė you always were
best at those Ė and I want you to know that I am OK Ė and I am
still glad we came.
Gannymede is magnificent. The
people who did the survey from space were quite right. The ďGrand
CanyonĒ is well named. It truly is grand Ė incomparably more so
than the tiddler with the same name in Arizona. The sun seems
brighter than they said it would be Ė but it looks tiny, of course,
compared with the view from Earth. It emphasises how far we are from
home. The rocks are a rich red and have that eerie beauty that one
only sees on uninhabited worlds without atmosphere. Sorry there is no
atmosphere of course Ė but it really is beautiful. The photographs
we have taken donít begin to do it justice. You must make them let
you have an enlargement for the dining room. Better still, one day
you must come and see for yourself. It really is marvellous. I am
just sad that Peter (are you still going to call him Peter?) will
never see his grandfather. Please tell him the good news bad news
jokes. Iíd like that.
I donít think it will be an
hour. Greg has just died. And Yuri is not coping too well. Frank is
trying to look after him. Funny, itís supposed to be the Russians
who can cope with tragedy. Have to let Tolstoy know. Only a joke my
dear. Even I know heís dead. Hmm! Not a good word under the
circumstances. Sorry, just another joke.
The rocks near here donít have
quite the warm, red colour of Arizona. There is an unhealthy, livid
greyness about them, probably because the sun is so faint and far
away. Itís still high in the sky but it isnít really what you
would call sunny.
Iím sorry I wont see Peter.
You mustnít let him join NASA. Too much time away from the family.
Frank has just died. It was
quite sudden. I think, perhaps, he punctured his suit deliberately. I
wish I was brave enough for that. Yuri is crying. Hell, this is an
awful place Ė just a desert of lifeless, grey rock with this
enormous great canyon stretching to the distance. You canít even
see the bottom because the sun is so far away that what little light
reaches us canít penetrate that far. It must be very deep.
Oh, my God! Whereís Yuri? Heís
I donít know where. Thereís
no-one here. He didnít say anything.
Itís too dark to see much, the
sun is so far away. It canít be long now.
You must never come here. Itís
Oh, my God. This awful place.
Grey. Dark. Lonely. Lonely. Yuri never even said good-bye. Donít
let Peter join NASA.
Oh, my God! Whoever finds this
letter, donít let Kate see it. Please donít let Kate see it.
Please donít le...