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A Letter to Kate

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 came.

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 gone!

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 awful.

Jesus Christ.

Oh, my God. This awful place. Grey. Dark. Lonely. Lonely. Yuri never even said good-bye. Donít let Peter join NASA.

Itís lonely.

Itís lonely.

Oh, my God! Whoever finds this letter, donít let Kate see it. Please donít let Kate see it. Please donít le...

 
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