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  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 1, Sur One, Sunday, Sol 29 (1.1.29)  9:04 AM NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Monday, 1 February 2016  10:00 AM PST

There was no doubt this was the Auxiliary Command Deck or ACD, but it was odd. It was designed to be functional in a weightless or gravity environment. It was a ten meter diameter section with multiple layers of control stations down its thirty meter length. It looked like a nine-story silo with partial decks reaching out to the center. On each deck there were chairs facing the outside wall.

The walls had video displays that extended up to the ceiling and on each screen were live images of inside sections of the ship, the view around it, data or information vital to ship operations, or personnel on the QE II, Earth Spaceport Prime, or at one of the ESEP Earth-based Centers.

Each deck hung in space. They extended toward the center, but stopped leaving a two meter circular corridor the length of the Command section. In addition, each floor had three gaps with ladder-like rungs protruding out of the wall to allow crew members to easily move between floors.

Only six mission members were in the ACD of the Earth Space Ship (ESS) Carl Sagan, named for the famous scientist who rebooted science in the minds of millions of people.

Eight more managers and directors of Earth Spaceport Prime were also loitering in the ACD. They needed no tour because most of them had been intimately involved with configuring both ships in advance of this first human mission to Mars.

The rest of the crew was on board their sister ship, the ESS Queen Elizabeth II or QE II. In three weeks all 28 crew members would leave Earth orbit for Mars. This ship would be piloted by remote control to meet up with the QE II a few days after it left Earth orbit.

Carl Sagan, 1934-96, Scientist, Author, Educator, Visionary

Carl Sagan, 1934-96, Scientist, Author, Educator, Visionary

Ann Flores, the First Officer, kept checking her monitor. She was following the progress of the VIP tours being conducted by Captain Ken Hart and Commander Jenna Wade. They were leading six Earth Space Exploration Program (ESEP) executives around the ship in two groups. The ESEP Center Director, Nick Castillo, was with Captain Hart’s group and they were returning down the Quill to the ACD.

Captain Hart and his tour slowly descended down the guide pole in the central corridor into the ACD. Flores quickly turned from her monitor and stood at attention and announced, “CAPTAIN ON DECK!” Immediately the crew moved to the edge of each of their floors and stood at attention.

The Captain said, “At ease.” and then he looked at Flores and frowned. “We’re not going to do that all the way to Mars are we?,” he asked. “It is protocol, sir,” she replied.

The Captain moved his VIP’s to the Command Floor. Just as they settled in on the Captain’s section Flores announced, “COMMANDER ON DECK!” Again, the crew stood at attention as Commander Wade and her tour descended to the Commander’s section across from the Captain.

Wade looked at the Captain and said, “That’s going to get old, quick.” Hart replied, “She’s enthusiastic,” and then added, “Today is a day for formality. I’m sure we won’t be ‘announced’ once were underway.” “Good.” Wade said, “This isn’t the Enterprise.”

Castillo interrupted, “I believe it’s time.” Wade looked at Castillo and nodded, then turned back to Hart and said, “Captain.” At that the Captain pulled out his tablet and hit the COMM icon and said, “All hands, all ships, this is the Captain, CODE ALERT!” At that all the crew members on both ships stood at attention their stations watching the screen in front of them. Around the Command Deck life-sized screens showed astronauts at attention on both ships ready for what was to come.

Hart then announced, “Crew of the Carl Sagan and Queen Elizabeth II, standby for an announcement by ESEP Director Nick Castillo.”