Seize the Moment by Helen Sharman

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Seize the Moment by Helen Sharman

Postby Colin » Thu Jul 08, 2004 7:13 pm

Seize the Moment

In my earphones, a voice from the bunker said, 'five minutes to go. Please close the masks of your helmets.' The three of us obeyed, then confirmed. Our call-sign was OZONE, and we identified ourselves by crew number.

I was the last to confirm, and so I said, 'OZONE 3, OZONE 3, my helmet is shut. We are in the preparation regime, ready to go.' The bunker replied, 'Understood, OZONE 3. We are also in that regime. Everything on board is correct and we are now ready to launch.'

A little later, the voice said, 'Two minutes.' Then it said, 'One minute.' Now that we were not moving around or reaching for the controls above us, it was comfortable to be sitting there in the spacesuit. I glanced at the little talisman, swinging from the hatch above us. I felt the pressure of Tolya's elbow against mine. I cound hear the quiet hiss of static in the speaker against my ear. Sergei said nothing, Tolya said nothing; the voice from the bunker was silent.

It was a moment of stillness, of final waiting. My feet were still cold. Far away, deep below, there came a rumbling noise as the rocket engines ignited. On the control panel the on-board clock had stared automatically; we were nominally one second into the mission, then two, and the engines still rumbled far below.

Three seconds, and the rumbling vibration but no sense of acceleration. I knew we must have left the ground and were in that momentary limbo where the rocket seems to engines continued to roar beneath us and instruments confirmed that we were away from the tower, that acceleration was beginning to build. When I next looked at the clock we were twenty seconds into the fight and above us the talisman was taut on its string, no longer free to swing.

I could now sense the rocket's power not only from the vibrations coming through the seat but also from the increasing press of accelearation. The clock showed that forty seconds had elapsed. The voice from the bunker confirmed the successful lanuch and Sergei briefly responded. G-forces continued to grow; the rocket was getting lighter as the fuel burned away and we were picking up speed.

After 115 seconds came the first of several loud bumps and bangs: we were 46 kilometres from the ground, on the threshold of space. Three seconds later these was another jolt, this one bigger and from below, as the first-stage booster rockets separated from us. This was the moment we passed the 50 kilometres mark, the height the Russians usually designate as the beginning of space.

Our smooth acceleration continued as the rocket grew lighter; now we were using the second-stage engine. This was the centrally mounted main engine, used from the moment of lift-off. It was still burning steadily when, 165 seconds into the flight, the protective fairing that covered the windows was jettisoned, no longer needed to protect the spacecraft from the atmosphere as there was little atmosphere left outside!

Sunlight stremed in. I looked down at the Earth. We were already over the Pacific! Tolya said, 'What can you see?' He had no window, and was dazzled by the golden sunlight pouring in. I could see the curvature of the Earth! Speckly white clouds! A brilliant azure sea! The blackness of space!

Now I knew I was where the theory told me I should be - out from the world, above the blue skies and diamond-studded clouds. Dreams sometimes do come true and I felt so alive!

The craft was rotating and the view turned away from me. Then it was Sergei's turn to see. Poor Tolya could only glimpse it.
Sergei said, 'it's snowing up here! The ice is breaking off !'
In the sunlight, in the vacuum outside my window, I too could see that
chunks of ice were breaking away from the body of the rocket. If we had been in the atmosphere they would have been whipped out of our sight before we saw them, but here they spun away from the craft and we only left them behind because we were still accelerating.

The second stage separated after 288 seconds: another jolt, another bang sensed through the metal of the rocket, and for a brief moment our bodies felt lighter, almost as if they were about to drift out of our seats. I saw the talisman above me tremble, seeming to dither between floating and swinging, but then the third stage fired and tremendous acceleration immediately pressed us down again. The rocket had much less mass now and this final engine blast set about the last part of our launch in a fierce and energetic way. G-forces rose to a respectable 3g. The flight was at last thrilling me with the sensation of speed.

I glanced at the on-board clock. Five hundred seconds had elapsed since we lifted away from the pad. Just eight minutes ago I had been bound to the Earth's surface, now I was in space. Eight minutes ago my family had been less than a mile away from me; now we were not even on the same planet.

At 530 seconds the thrid stage cut out and was jettisoned. It did not happen gradually. One moment it was burning ferociously behind me, in the next it stopped completely. One moment I was being pressed hard into my seat and in the next I was not. I had been straining against the g-force without realizing I had been doing so; than I stopped straning. Quite involuntarily, I said, 'Uhh!'

Beside me, Sergei and Tolya said, 'Uhh!' The talisman was no longer tense against its string. It hovered by the hatch, the string snaking loosely towards it. It had suddenly become, as we had suddenly become, weightless.

Extract from Seize the Moment, the autobiography of Helen Sharman who was the first British women to take part in a space expedition.
Last edited by Colin on Wed Jul 28, 2004 11:38 pm, edited 8 times in total.
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A little editing

Postby John A Silkstone » Sat Jul 17, 2004 1:57 pm

Hi Colin. Is this the whole story or just the first chapter? The story theme is good, and can continue onto something more. There are a few what I call surplus words, but a little tight editing can sort that out. Should you wish some advice please ask? John

Though retired, I'm still working as an editor for a poetry/short story magazine.
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Postby Colin » Sun Jul 25, 2004 10:39 am

Thanks John. I am not finished the short story because I had to do something else at the time.

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Postby Adam » Wed Sep 29, 2004 4:50 pm

Well Colin that was so good that I think I will have to get the book !!
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