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  • Mars Date/Time:  Year 1, Sur One, Monday, Sol 51 (1.1.51)  22:18 NST
  • Earth Date/Time:  Wednesday, 24 February 2016  2:00 PM PST

It was now after 8:30. A voice said…..


Ken looked to the woman standing across the room seemingly oblivious to what was going on around her. He walked toward her and stopped a respectful distance from her. She felt his presence. “It looks like rain,” she said as she stared at the monitor. “We won’t need our umbrellas,” he replied.

They both looked at the video image of Earth. She calmly turned and faced him and smiled. Both knew that this would be the last time for at least two years they would be this close to Earth. 

Jenna then looked over his shoulder at two women at the Communications Post. She made eye contact with the younger woman sitting at console and said, “Ms. Flores, ESEP Center, please.” Almost instantly the image of a Nick Castillo appeared on a monitor.

“Any words of wisdom, Mr. Castillo,” she asked? The man on the monitor smiled and said, “Try not to hit any of the big round things as you leave.” The crew all smiled, except for Keira Choi. As the new pilot of the ship, she wasn’t amused by navigation jokes.

Jenna sensed the unintended insult to her pilot and shot back, “Just keep the Earth and Moon out of our way and we’ll be fine.” Keira smiled. Nick smiled and then became more somber as he said, “Good luck and God’s speed.” Jenna replied, “Thank you,” then she looked at Ken and said, “The ship is yours, Commodore Hart. Take us to Mars, please.”

Ken nodded and looked at Anna, his First Officer. She understood what he wanted and she touched an icon and said, “All hands, all stations, CODE ALERT!” Ken then touched and an icon on his pad and said, “All hands, this is the Capt…..Commodore, secure for ICP.” He then looked at Keira and said, “Ms. Choi, you have a go.” Keira replied, “Aye, Commodore. ICP firing in sixteen minutes and thirteen seconds.” Ken remarked, “Aye, Commodore?” Keira smiled and said, “I’ve watched a lot of Star Trek.”

Everyone on the Command Deck moved to their stations and strapped into their seats. The ICP firing would not be exceptionally violent, nor would it be heard in space, but the QE II would begin to move and that movement would be perpendicular to the rotating Quills of the ship. Standard procedures required that everyone and everything be secured.

Now they had a long sixteen minute wait while everything was checked and double checked. Hundreds of steps would have to happen perfectly over the next sixteen minutes before the first of six explosive pellets would be pushed out of the aft section of the ship one by one. With each pellet there would be an explosion that would push the ship forward. If all went well, ten larger pellets would fire four minutes later, followed another twelve pellets four minutes after that.

The speed produced by the explosions will push the ship to 45,000 km/hr, enough to send the ESS Queen Elizabeth II out of Earth’s orbit….and towards a rendezvous with Mars.