H4

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H4 - CROWDED MOON

NASA rolls out the Nova expendable booster for the much larger payload of the Apollo 18 mission.

At the invitation of President Ford, Senator John Glenn (D-Ohio) took a hiatus from Washington to return to flight status with NASA. He flew on the Apollo 18 mission in a special non-partisan observer role for the United States government. Glenn had authority to make deals with the people already on the Moon who apparently were represented by Robyn Lokken. This was not public knowledge at the time. Glenn was not assigned a role as Command Module pilot or Lunar Module pilot, but he checked out on both.

It was Richard Gordon who actually commanded the mission. He had already attained lunar orbit as the Command Module pilot for Apollo 12 but never walked on the moon. He landed on the surface with Glenn and Fred Haise, who had almost walked on the Moon once before for Apollo 13 but had to turn back around following an explosion. Vance Brand and William Pogue were space virgins. They stood port and starboard watch aboard the Command Module in lunar orbit for the three weeks the teams were separated.

The Soviet Union transmitted to NASA the orbital elements for their Lunniy Orbitalny Korabl which parked over the Moon about a week before Apollo 18 arrived. They said the craft was currently unmanned and didn't want the risk of a collision, no matter how remote. The part about the LOK being "currently" unmanned was strange, but the Soviets refused to elaborate.

Soon after Glenn, Gordon, and Haise landed, an electric truck identical to the one photographed by Harrison Schmitt arrived at the landing site and stopped. After that, the truck driver found the frequency the astronauts were using to talk to Mission Control and suggested, in English but with a Russian accent, that they follow him in their rover. Glenn and Gordon agreed to go, and Haise was left behind to watch the Lunar Module.

The route they took was like a long dirt ramp up the North Massif, but all the up-climbing took a toll on the battery of the Lunar Rover. At about the eight mile mark, Gordon got on the radio and said they'd have to turn around to recharge, or the rover would run out of juice. The Russian voice suggested it wouldn't be a problem and they should keep going.

After thirteen miles, with many switchbacks, they rounded a hillock and saw something like a wide garage door, which opened at the command of the lead truck. Both vehicles entered, and the garage door shut behind them. It took about an hour to fill the space with oxygen, then two men got out of the truck wearing jumpsuits and boots, nothing more.

Aleksei Leonov and Oleg Makarov! Richard Gordon said. I recognize both of you from photographs in our briefing. I knew you were out here but I didn't know you were landing. Where's your LK?

No LK, Commander, Leonov said. Astrodyne. We hitch ride down here.

There were brief introductions all the way around, then Makarov attached a power cable to the truck. He brought another power cable over to the Lunar Rover, and offered to plug it in, but first he had to convince Gordon it was safe. What sold Gordon was how the cable fitting was exactly tailored to fit the rover. Someone up here had done their research.

The next space after the garage was literally a locker room, with large lockers for the NASA crew to stow their pressure suits and keep the keys on their person. Makarov said, This key for peace of mind, no?

And the space after that opened on a balcony looking down upon the vast green interior of Taurus City, lit by clever sun reflectors in the ceiling.

Damn that air smells good, said Senator Glenn, taking a big breath.

It better smell good, Leonov said. We pay for each lungful. They say, go fetch Americans, reduce line item on expense account.

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