Splashdown in restricted waters


Although she triple checked her numbers before performing the deorbit burn, she managed to crash the ablated capsule exactly where she was told not to do so. There was a world-encompassing ocean in which to splashdown, and yet, the shallow waters of Pluma Blanca Reef welcomed her with a loud thud. Thankfully, the soft and loose sand served as a cushion.

Still with her helmet on, she opened the hatch and stepped outside. Used to the darkness of the capsule, the harsh, tropical sunlight blinded her. She took a deep breath from the oxygen tanks. Her flight was not bound for a different world, but the landscape said otherwise: Low tide, turquoise water, clear skies. It was a surreal view.

Maybe she messed her calculations on purpose. Purposely splashing down right on the middle of an environment so pristine and diverse that only the military and specialized researchers had permission to enter. It was her chance to walk on the low tide and dip her hands into the fine white sand. On the distance there were a few buildings built on stilts. Most likely the military base and a crew of scientists with what she believed was the most beautiful job in the world. A couple of boats were on her way. She was going to blame her unfortunate crash on the spacecraft anyway. That thing was so fragile and unreliable that Mission Control could believe anything from an experience pilot like here.

It was hard to believe that the corals and algae that gave and sustained life in the reef came from polyps and seeds carried by interstellar spaceships several orders of magnitude larger than the rocket that put her into orbit. It was hard to believe that many generations after bottling an entire biosphere in a spaceship and successfully terraformed a planet, humanity was again trying to venture outside of the planet’s atmosphere. But such was life in Lauz, a world both old and new.