The Desk Fiction Collection

The Original Mission of the Argo Epic!
Argo Two (the two planet mission)
Argo Three: The Rescue of the Terra Maru.

The Argo Epic Four

©2021 Levite

The Final Mission of the Argo Epic

NOTE: All Mission Logs Have Been Translated To English For This Edition.
As with all official records from the missions of the ship, the initial report is being released in English by the International Consortium for the Deep Space Mission.
This section has some observations from the editor as to the content of the video in the archive on the ship:

      There is a moment of silence with the gentleman making the recording facing the camera with a neutral expression on his face. Then he speaks.
      "My name is Ken. I'm the European project coordinator for the deep space transit mission of the Argo Epic. If you are watching this, it worked. And there is no need to search for crew, this ship left with no living crew, other than a few old tardigrades and other things in the labs and outside on a rack. You're welcome to them if you want to study life from Earth. We have also included audio files and text transcripts from various individuals, some of which were members of the previous missions, and the mission data recorder has been set to make an entry every so often to provide a log of the ship's trip out from our planet in the direction of what we call the Centauri Trinary Star System, and the closest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri. We expect the Argo to arrive in the Centauri System in one thousand seven hundred Earth Years if there are no problems with the ship. You can check the navigational system for the current elapsed time."
      The recording paused and changed from an image of the speaker, the ESA's Project Coordinator Ken, to a view of Command as various systems were modified to run completely autonomously.
      "The Argo Epic is the most successful manned spacecraft every built by humans from Earth. It had served long and well and covered more of our own space than it was designed or expected to. It was so successful that when it returned to Earth with its third crew that it was decided that it would not be decommissioned and dismantled, but sent out as the most complicated deep space probe ever proposed. And, if everything is still working, it will tell us that somebody has boarded the ship and is viewing our records, even though it may be hundreds of years, or more, after we sent it out, and I don't know if anybody here will still be listening for updates from the Argo three hundred years from now. I hope so. I plan to monitor the data stream as long as I am able, and I will encourage whoever replaces me to keep it up as well. But I'm not sure we'll be able to do that for the total duration of the mission."
      The image changed to the work being done on the Navigation Console when the recording was made.
      "The ship was originally built so well, and given such a capable command and control system that only minor alterations were needed to enable the Argo to operate autonomously for the vast majority of its journey. When the on board power systems are nearly exhausted, the ship will perform one last coordinate check and course correction, then everything will go into deep hibernation mode with whatever maintenance needs done by whatever power the low light solar panels can supply. This recording is set to auto play once the system is powered back up by an outside entity. Which, you have evidently now done. Thank you."
      Ken's expression was one of amusement, "That is something I never thought about until just now. That I am making a recording that may never be played is something I did a lot when I was first on the Argo. Making those recordings for schools, some of them weren't played until just recently. Some may have never been seen again. But that this recording may be played by somebody who doesn't even know that Earth exists, maybe thousands of years from now, is just, ... it's just totally amazing to me. But," he paused, then nodded, "that is the essence of this mission."

Editor's Note: Journal entries and personal logs of former crews regarding the newest and final mission follow, the order is, more or less, as they were submitted to the Consortium:

Dr. Candice Anderson, Second Officer (First Mission)
      The Consortium told me that as the original mission's First Contact Officer I had a special insight into how any space going alien peoples would view the Argo Epic when and if they came across it on its final voyage to whichever star they said it was going to.
      I did not mention my first reaction to them, but I will state it here, "we didn't come across any aliens on our trip," or maybe I should say, "they didn't come across us."
      If we had, they may have not thought so highly of a bunch of hooligans blasting dried poop into space while swilling homemade liquor and running naked laps around the ring to full volume Korean boy band music. Or maybe that was just me. At least part of the time.
      Maybe they would have felt sorry for us, or maybe they'd just take all of our water or whatever else we had that they needed, and tell us to go back home and stay there. I thought about it a lot then, and I've thought about it now, and I still don't know what to think of it.

      In any case, all three missions have had designated First Contact Officers, and Procedures, and as far as anybody has told me, and I've been in contact with most of the members of the other crews, nobody has ever even had to call up the file to review the notes because an alien star cruiser just turned up on radar.
      I still smile when I think about the Captain's standing order to me that IF it did happen, I had to get dressed before opening 'hailing frequencies' to our visitors. And I did seriously think about complying with the order, if only to avoid nonsense later from Mission Control. But it never came up.

      But now, First Contact is the entire purpose of the new mission. And they are all admitting that given the time and distance the ship will cover, without any of us on board, it is likely that some-body, some where, some time, Will find the ship and see what we had to say.
      I've also found out that at least some of Captain Merrick's original 'extra water' was still on board. There was a lot less of it, and I heard from some of those on the third crew that said they'd rather have drank their own recycled pee than go through the hassle of getting the stale plastic taste out of the old water. But then one of them said they'd found a way to make it drinkable. They poured it down the drain in the shower, and ran it through the waste processor, and when it came out the other end a couple of days later, after mixing with everything else in the processor, and then 'bubbled', it tasted a lot better.

      But now, here I am, again, doing my log for the archive.
      We just finished another panel discussion on what general impression we want the Argo and all that is on it, and our messages from Earth, to make on whoever finds it and checks it out. Even if that is in three or four hundred, or even a thousand, years. Or longer. From now.
      They didn't like my side comment that it was just as likely that some alien battle cruiser would use a drifting piece of space junk for a weapons test. In the video conference there was ten minutes of, well, bad noise, after I said that. The moderator finally got control of the room and asked me what I meant, and I simply said it was a possibility. She said it was a remote possibility and I stayed quiet.

      I really hope they don't shoot it, and that somebody plays our messages. But you never know.

Engineering Log for Deep Space Probe.
      We were the Chief Engineers for the three missions of the Argo Epic.

      Baxter was on the Original Mission, Smitty (Ernst Smithson) was on the two planet mission, and Gomez was on the extended asteroid and Mars mission. And we're writing this as one. ... Mostly.

      We all agreed that the Agro was the best spaceship ever built. Period. Some would wax poetic about the longevity of the basic design of the Soyuz and how long it served. Other would talk about the LEM from the Apollo days. And they were all good. But compared to the Argo, they were all about equal to a Checker Cab. Yes, they were durable, and served long and well, but, overall years of service for a single ship, or, really, Millions of Kilometers Traveled with Crew On Board, there is nothing to compare to the Argo Epic. And there never will be until humans build something with Warp Drive and fly off to another star system for the weekend.
      The Argo had a mobile astronomical observatory that rivaled the best ever placed in orbit or on the ground. It had various science labs that did everything from test for life on other planets to measure the distortion of time itself as it traveled through space. It had sensors and measuring instruments and other equipment that detected wobbles in the orbits of the moons of Mars caused by the passage of the ship itself. All of that, and more. We didn't even mention a medical bay that served well enough that a successful surgical procedure was completed in less than ideal circumstances on a crew member's back that, if not done or botched, would have resulted in her either being paralyzed or dead. Not only did the physicians on board do the operation, later, back on Earth, all she needed was some physical therapy and she made a full recovery.
      The Argo, to quote a young crew member, was Epic.

      But it was also aging.

      We were all involved in some way with the debate over the next mission of the Argo when the Extended Mars Mission was winding down. There was a noisy group that wanted the ship decommissioned, broken up for scrap, with some parts of it being brought back down to be in various museums, and the rest of it recycled either on the surface or repurposed in orbit. But they were the minority.
      For a time it looked as if the Argo would be refitted, again, and sent back out on another mission.
      But then things began to go south.
      There was no denying that the core superstructure of ship was now pushing thirty years old. There were known problems with metal fatigue in some of the primary structural members, such as the supports for the connections to the lab ring. The seals on the docking ring had become an endless source of drama on the third mission. The waste system that had been such a point of interest when the ship was new was now something of a sore spot. The engines were another question simply because of age and use resulting in advanced corrosion of several components. And so on.
      The command systems were several generations out of date. But they were so integral to the overall ship that to replace them meant you had to replace other systems, which meant something else had to be replaced, and so on. And then the on board central computer system had to be looked at, it too was aging out, and had been upgraded as far as it could be without causing more problems than you were fixing with another update.
      And then there were issues with the scientific equipment. It was all out of date. Some of it could be considered antique when compared to the state of the art stuff on Earth, the only reason it was still in service was that it was on the Argo, while its great grand-children were serving in a University somewhere. But, when whatever it was, let's say an electron microscope, when it was installed in the lab ring on the Argo, it was the best and most reliable unit available anywhere, period, end of story. Which is why now, after all these years, and all that distance traveled, and all it had done, including peering at dust from an asteroid from beyond the orbit of Mars, it was still in use. When at most academic labs on Earth, it would have already been rotated out having come to the end of its serviceable life.
      To send the Argo back out, it would have to be rebuilt from the frame up. Just like restoring a classic roadster. But while taking an old car off its frame and basically rebuilding a it into a new car is a giant, expensive, fussy, pain in the butt in a garage on Earth, what would it be to do that to a giant space ship in orbit?

      They discussed doing what could be done, repairing what had to be repaired, and sending it out to do, something. But, then we asked them: "Is good enough, good enough?" Do you really want to send a crew out to, say, observe some Near Earth Asteroids, or watch for comets, or try to make contact with UFOs on a ship that is just "good enough", and, while you're at it, older than most of the crew?
      The International Space Administration batted it back and forth like kids playing with a beach ball. But then they finally came back and said that the Argo was done. It would be decommissioned and retired with honor.
      And then somebody, Ken keeps saying it wasn't him, but we think it was, somebody, anyway, came up with the idea for the mission to the Centauri System. The Argo would get the upgrades it needed to give it a reasonable expectation to make it. Including an ungodly amount of fuel that was supposed to last until it was out of our solar system, three more reactors that would be in cold standby until the primaries died in just over two hundred years...
      Yes, that was the life expectancy of the reactors.
      And think about this, the mains will die and the backups will kick in in two centuries, and then the backups will run the ship for another two to three hundred years. By which time the Argo Epic will just be leaving the main body of the Oort Cloud around our Solar System and truly entering Deep Space between star systems.
      But in any case, the ship would arrive at Proxima Centauri, coasting, cold and dark, almost two thousand years from now. And who, or what, ever was there could do whatever they wanted to do with it.

      Engineer Gomez called the rest of us and we discussed it.
      Instead of seeing it busted up and then somebody wanting one of us to come and talk at a dedication of the main engineering console being on display at the children's museum, with the 'Starshine' still upstairs in the 'Oddly Noted' section of 'adult interest' items from the history of space exploration, we decided to come out and support the idea of sending the Argo out into the Void with our best wishes and fond memories.
      And with the still about half full of booze and instructions for the aliens so they could fire it up and have a round on us.
      Which, all things considered, is probably the best way to remember the old ship.

Second Mission Medical Team:
Doctor Shinno Akari, JAXA
CMO, Doctor Ranya Aziz, ESA

      Doctor Aziz agrees with me that it is for the best that the Argo Epic be sent out into the Universe.
      After all, that is what the ship was originally designed to do. Much as what was said on the original Star Trek TV series. To explore and go where no one had gone before. Except now there won't be any people on it.
      We were asked, and we both stated that it would be wrong to even ask for volunteers to go out on it. We both know that if the Consortium asked for people to agree to do what had been implied on the first mission, go out and maybe never come back, some would. But it turned out that most of the first crew returned to Earth after years in space, and have done quite well since then. There simply are people, and probably a lot of people, who are qualified for the mission that would agree to leave Earth on the ship knowing that it that wouldn't make another stop for a millennium, and that they will eventually die on board. But it would be wrong to do that. For one, it would turn all of us on Earth into vultures watching the medical feed from the ship to see who died when. There would even be betting lines as to who would 'croak' first and who would be the 'last human standing'.
      And thusly, we wanted no part of that idea. At all.

      But when the concept was changed to be a robotic ship with nothing on board except some microbes and a few odd plants that nobody on Earth wanted, we agreed to advise the committee on the various experiments on various samples of organic compounds and things like that.
      We strongly recommended a continuing study of some of DNA samples that had been on the ship since the first mission. Even though they had been inside a fairly shielded area in the lab ring, there had been some changes noticed in the samples when compared to identical samples kept in a vault on Earth over the last twenty years. Now with the ship going on a much longer journey, an automated unit would scan another sample ten years from now and beam the results to Earth.
      Then we were assured that there would be adequate power to do the same thing ten years later, and then ten years after that and so on. Then they asked us how many samples were on board.
      We had to check our own logs, but we were able to tell them that if they only tested one each of the plant and animal samples already on board every decade, there were enough to do at least a dozen tests.
      We just had to hope there was somebody here to run the comparison against the preserved samples in the lab in Switzerland.

Captain Sir F. Gerald Merrick, GCVO, Retired, Commander of the First Mission of the Argo Epic.
      They asked me what I thought of sending the Argo Epic out to another star that would take a thousand years to reach. I'm OK with that. I told them that "that's better than just junking it."
      Something else. Given that the Centaurus stars are below the equator of our solar system the automated ship won't have to go through the worst part of the asteroid belt. And on the whole, that's a good thing based on my experience.

      One of the things I love is that both the ESA and NASA came to me about Ken when he was first discovered on the Argo on the second mission. They wanted to know if I thought he could be a danger to the ship and crew, then they asked what I would have done with him if he'd gotten on during my mission.
      One of the things I said was that if he had figured out how to get on board and stay hidden as long as he had, he was probably reasonably well qualified to be there. Then I asked them how they were going to bring him back to the surface since the ship had left orbit and was already out beyond the moon when he turned up. They said they weren't bringing the ship back, he was there, and he was going to stay there until they swapped the crew out after Venus.
      I asked them if there would be room on the personnel transfer ship to bring him back with everybody else.
      They didn't answer.
      It turned out later that the reason they didn't answer was that the entire plan to do the crew exchange was still running as a computer simulation, and that was it.

      Then, later, Ken became a part of the crew, and then, even later, he ended up being the third officer on the third mission. And then, not all that long ago, after his return to Earth with the rest of the crew, he worked for the International Consortium that was now in charge of the Argo, to be named the Project Coordinator for the final disposition of the ship, which has now turned into a planned journey to another star.
      The stowaway is now the boss. And he was now the most traveled and longest served human in space: Ever. Period.
      Like I said, I love it.

      I did not mention that I was very grateful that when my mission left Earth with me in command of the Argo, Ken was in primary school and couldn't have put his plan into action if he had wanted to.

Mister Carmelo Bianchi, Second Mission, Dedicated Photographer and Optics Specialist
      Of course they sent for my recommendations for photographic equipment that would be best suited to automated imaging of targets from here to the Kuiper Belt and beyond. They wanted equipment that could take long exposure high resolution images to capture as much detail as possible, and do so without intervention from Mission Control, and then send those images back here with no loss of data.
      "That's simple, send me," I answered.
      They told me that that was not an option. So I began evaluating the newest editions of some of the best equipment that had been on my mission, and some of those that were well meaning but needed improvement in some way, and most had been upgraded, as well as brand new, cutting edge equipment, one of which was a working prototype with 'patent pending' hand written on it. Finally, I came up with a list of candidates and sent it off.
      Then they wanted something of the the same general idea, but that was able to record a series of images that could be knitted together to produce a video of a single target, to capture things like the rotation of planets and their moons and anything else out there that might be moving in a shorter time scale. So I did that.
      Then they volunteered me to be the co-chair of the working group that tested the equipment from the short list.

      I didn't want to do it because, well, I was having a wonderful time directing and shooting contestant videos for a beauty pageant in the Austrian Alps with some extraordinary young women. But then when it was over, I asked them how the working group was progressing, and, as it turned out, the first meeting was going to be the following week in Zurich, and they still needed me. So I went.

      My co-chair was the Optical Specialist from the Third Mission, and together, we reported to the Consortium as we narrowed the field to two or three excellent choices for each device category of still and pseudo-video.
      And then we got the biggest shock ever. They took each and every one of our recommendations and approved them. So where we had selected two motion capturing cameras that would each be suitable for the mission, they sent both. We had picked three high resolution telescopic cameras and lenses, all three went. There were also three wide field units, they all went. And we had evaluated various forward facing 'navigation cams'. Each set was mounted on a different equipment array, each was controlled by its own master, and each relayed its data to Earth on a different channel, giving the Argo a redundancy of instrumentation that it had never had before.
      Where they had limited the instruments I had to work with on board, now that I wasn't on board, everything I had ever even imagined was going. The irony was delicious.

Space Communication Specialist Lily Lo Zhao, PhD, CNSA, Argo Epic: Third Crew
      The communications working group from the International Commission contacted me as the last expert on the Argo Epic's ability to transmit data to Earth in a constant stream. They had a mind to maximize the existing data transfer equipment to enable the new on board experiments to relay their information to Earth to minimize what had to be stored on board.
      I let them finish their speech about data compression and transfer rates, then I told them that their plan wouldn't work unless the Argo was going to stay in Earth orbit.
      They asked me to explain, and I did.

      I had spent over three years running the system when the ship was everywhere from just on the other side of Mars out to the Asteroid Belt. It could take anywhere from six minutes to over half an hour just to confirm you had a good data link from the ship out there back to Earth because you had to send "Ni hao" to Earth, and then get Earth to send "Bonjour" back, then you could send your data. If you started sending before you confirmed that the antenna on the ship was actually pointing at Earth instead of Asteroid Apophis, you have just wasted your time.
      Not only that, there were times when we had a data loss of almost twenty percent, which was one out of five bits of information. Sometimes it was even more. On a good day we re-transmitted everything at least once. I remember getting the fifth "we're sorry but could you" message from Earth. On that occasion I gave up and took a break and then put it all back through the next day when the channel was clear.
      Something like that would put the working group's plan into total data limbo, and it simply would never get caught up as the experiments would keep accumulating data while the transmission equipment was trying to send everything again for the third or fourth time.

      They discussed it between themselves then they told me they needed to call somebody else and they would be back in touch with me.

      It wasn't an hour and I got a video call from Paris.
      "Doctor Lily, it is really good to see you."
      "Mister Ken, what a surprise. What can I do for you?"
      "Can you bail the communications working group out? They have no idea what they're dealing with out there."

      I closed the call and laughed. Ken was now one of the Directors organizing the final mission of the Argo, but he was still Ken.

Doctor Kristoffersen, ESA, Second Mission, Planetary Science
      Me and my associates worked for months on a laser sampling device to directly scan and test the atmospheres and surfaces of everything between here and the Termination Shock. And if there was anything the long range radar picked up after that, there was a good chance it would be able to sample it as well.
      Our intent was simple. If there was any sign of water on anything else in the solar system, we wanted the Argo to be able to detect it, at range and at speed, and to do so with as high a factor of reliability as possible.
      After a great deal of work, and, to be honest, several somewhat interesting failures, including one that set our test apparatus aflame, we developed a multi-spectra laser sensor that compared the returns across four different wavelengths to judge whether or not over twenty different chemicals and compounds were present. Including water in all three forms, liquid, solid, and gaseous, as well as several water-based compounds.
      We verified it worked in the lab. In the field on board an unmanned aircraft flying over everything from a Hawaiian lava field to the Antarctic ice sheet. The prototype was approved, so we could test it on a small probe that was flown out to the moon. It worked as designed with a good reliability rate.
      After the test in space, the entire project was approved to be installed on the Argo Epic for the mission.

      Then we built four identical instruments and tested them, then we calibrated them so they all returned identical results on the test beds in the lab and when attached to different mobile platforms. Including one that was affixed to the bed of a pickup truck and driven along a freeway. Not only did it detect minuscule amounts of water on the tarmac, but it identified hydrocarbon compounds and a few other chemical traces, and did so at over a hundred kilometers per hour.

      All four would be sent out to the Argo. One would be installed on the central scanning platform on the very bow of the ship where one of the old navigational radars had been removed and was being replaced with a much smaller and more effective unit. Another would be on the scanning platform on the lab ring, while one other would be installed on a platform on the opposite side of the ring.
      If all went well and all three of those worked as designed after they were mounted in place, the fourth unit would be installed in the equipment bay of one of the lab pods.

      One of the problems was that each of our modules would return a lot of information when there was a target in range. Each would independently acquire and target a separate area of whatever body was in range. Even though the Argo would be rotating more slowly than it had when a crew was on board, it would still be rotating to provide stability, so each unit would only have a minute or so of prime angle on the target. But that would be enough for each module to return a great deal of data. All of which had to be recorded and correlated and then transmitted to Earth.

      While the Argo was in orbit we ran multiple tests of the detectors using the Moon and even a small asteroid that flew by just outside of lunar orbit. But it was more than a test. Using all four of the sensors on the Argo we were able to survey over eighty percent of the Moon in the course of a matter of a few days, including the majority of the northern polar region. It was the first time most of the Moon had been surveyed at one time with a single instrument.
      Then all of that information was transmitted back to Earth as if the ship was out beyond Neptune using various relays.
      Of course, there was only a few seconds of delay between the Earth and the Moon, instead of nearly twenty minutes for a radio message to get back from Out There, even at the speed of light.
      Then we went through the data, and made several interesting discoveries, and confirmed others. And so, even when it was just preparing for a mission, the Argo Epic continued to make scientific headlines and adding to its own legacy.
      Which made me as proud as I was when I was on board.

Brigadegeneral Madelyn Pedersen, OMSD, Danish Royal Air Force, Third Mission Commander.
      When I was asked about the fate of the Argo Epic, I was torn. I knew the ship itself was not in any condition to sent back out on another lengthy voyage. But I also hated to see it either taken apart, or just set adrift.
      Then the proposal was floated that it could be sent on a mission out beyond our system as a robotic ship. I immediately threw whatever support I could toward that goal, and rallied such allies as I could find in our Royal Family, and other notables here and elsewhere in Europe and in other countries to make it happen.
      And when my second Third Officer, Ken, was proposed as the Project Coordinator, I asked an old friend of the mission, Princess Ingrid, to release a statement if she thought that would be a good idea.
      Her Highness was ecstatic and after asking a whole range of questions about him and what I thought of the new mission, she then signed on as a Royal Sponsor of the mission and even went to both the ESA's and the USA's Mission Control Centers to see the preparations and add her support. And she asked me to accompany her on those visits as her personal subject matter expert. Which I was delighted to do.

      Let me add one thing, when you travel with an actual titled Princess, you get a lot better tables at dinner and service on airplanes than you usually do.
      The only down side was that as an Official Member in the entourage with Her Royal Highness, I had to wear a dress uniform, with honors and shiny shoes, and behave within the bounds of royal decorum. At least on duty.
      Off duty, I will just say that Her Highness is an excellent dancer.

      Overall, her support was most welcome, and it brought in extra media and popular attention, and maybe tipped overall support in all quarters to being in favor of the new mission.
      With Ken in charge.

      I'm going to say that again. The 'young man' who concocted the most perfect escapade in history, and managed to stow away on a spacecraft, then became a valuable crew member of that spacecraft, and Then became the Third Officer on another mission on the same spacecraft, is now in charge of Europe's part of the refit and recommissioning for the longest planned deep space mission in Human History.
      Think about that one for a minute. I did. And now I'm going to go have a drink and laugh at some memories of my own that I haven't shared with anybody.

Professor Emeritus, Doctor Narda Papachristodoulopoulos, Solar Dynamics (First Mission of the Argo Epic)
      As with many others from all three of the Argo's missions I was consulted during the planning for the new mission.
      With my "Space Science" being what it is, I had a number of suggestions for automated research instruments that could be deployed on the ship. And, as there would be no crew on board, there was plenty of room and power for the equipment.

      I remember when we were in training for the first mission and they kept coming in and saying that this experiment or that measuring device had to be changed, or scaled back, or only used on Tuesday and Thursday because of power restraints. But once we were actually in space, Mister Baxter came around and told us that if we wanted to run something that needed extra juice just to let him know ahead of time and he'd take care of it. Then we could tell him when we were done and he'd turn it back down. We did, and it worked out fine.

      On this mission, they told me that anything I could think of that needed to run for an extended period to measure solar output or residual magnetic differential was OK. So I called a couple of colleagues that were still doing active research, then I flew up to Stockholm and we put together a multiphase experiment to gauge the dispersion of solar energy as the ship left the system. It would compare over a dozen information points at predetermined coordinates all the way from Earth Orbit out to the Heliopause, and then, after discussing it, we decided to just leave it running and thereby sample interstellar space as well.
      The Commission green lighted it without hesitation, so I came out of retirement to oversee the assembly and calibration of the instruments.

      It was great fun as I got to travel and spend other people's money, and listen to all sorts of plans and schemes to test everything and anything, and, in the end, we added a handful of other experiments to the package we had originally proposed and built it almost as we had talked about around a table at the bar at the Teatern that first weekend.
      Then a year later I flew with it to Florida and oversaw them loading it onto one of the cargo rockets that took it out to the Argo.
      When it came time for me to go back to Athens and resume my being an independent researcher and writer, I decided that perhaps I wasn't so retired after all. I asked NASA, since I was already in America, who was going to monitor the various experiments for them as the ship got going, when the agency's Director hesitated to answer I volunteered to oversee the overseers. To which he immediately agreed and told me where there were nice apartments for rent in Houston.

Engineering Log for Deep Space Probe.
      They kept adding stuff to the ship. We don't think the Commission said 'no' to anything anybody proposed.
      And then, after you have scientists and professors and Nobel Winning researchers putting together the actual hardware that was going to be installed on the ship, a couple of white coats from the ESA got the three of us into a conference call and started telling us about the power requirements for all of it.
      They understood that no amount of solar panels were going to supply the power needed for most of the systems once the ship was outside the orbit of Saturn. But what they didn't realize was that you had to keep the interior of the ship above freezing or some of the components may be damaged unless they were going to go in and retrofit everything.
      The added demand required almost every amp hour the existing reactors could produce, never mind what was needed to actually run the ship and keep it on course.
      So the expected useful life of the three old but totally refitted reactors went from two hundred years down to about seventy because instead of having two online and one in a powered down 'resting' state for a time and then rotating one of the others into rest, you had all three producing very nearly full power, constantly, substantially reducing their service life.
      Then they installed three more, on new masts, just forward of the original set. Now the ship was back to where it could have one of each set powered down while the others ran the ship and its experiments. We were back where we started, the ship had power for about two hundred years. Less than half of what was projected for the mission.

      Then the Commission did something none of us expected. Instead of trimming the technology down, they put out bids for SIX more reactors. Putting a new high efficiency reactor on each of the booms, old and new. So besides the three original, and now rebuilt, reactors on their masts, and the three that had just been installed, they were going to hang six more reactors off of them. And, for reasons that only made sense to people who didn't think about these things too much, there was another set of Solar Panels on their way out to the ship.
      As the reactors on the old booms were from one firm, and the ones on the new ones were from another manufacturer, both of them won bids to put three more of what they already had out there on the ship, and, before we even had time to ask if any of the booms were rated for the additional mass of an additional reactor, they were being loaded onto transports and launched out to the space station to be installed.

      The only thing that didn't surprise us was that the new solar panels would not be anywhere near ready to go before the scheduled departure, so they were taking the ones off the Tara Maru which was still in Lunar Orbit and putting them on the Argo, the new ones, if they were ever built, would go out to be installed on the Maru to keep it operating because there was supposed to be a mission for it coming up although nobody, including Captain Dromgoole, and, Mister Ken, and we believed them, had any idea when or if that mission would occur and what it would entail.

      But that is indeed another story. Back to the power issues....
      We sat in the briefing with Ken and just listened as some high level boffin from Germany backed herself into a corner when Ken asked about the data transfer bandwidth for all of the new projects on the ship.
      That's when two more high gain antennas and all the associated hardware to back them up were ordered.
      It would seem that you can gather all sorts of information on an automated ship, but if the ship can't send the data back home, you've just wasted a lot of time and money, because the information doesn't mean anything while it's still sitting in the server on the Argo which was on its way out of the solar system.

Professor Kimoni Adebayo, PhD, Second Mission Biologic Studies Specialist
      I was in favor of having a long term deep space project with a selection of the plants that had done the best during the mission. I think the reason there was hesitation from Mission Control was that most of them weren't pretty. When I talked with my staff about it they said nobody would do a TV special about salad greens.
      They were probably right.

      Then there was the practical side of things. Plants in space need a gardener, and sometimes, an actual babysitter. They need carbon dioxide, and water, but not too much water, and they need light, and some dark, and then some fertilizer, and then you have to adjust the fertilizer, and increase the light, and so on.
      If I had trouble keeping everything except the kale alive when I was on the ship, how could an automated system keep anything else alive? By the time the ship was out beyond Saturn it would take at least an hour and a half for a message from the monitoring unit to get to Earth to see if we thought one of the hothouses needed more or less water, then it would be another hour and a half back. So, realistically, if you were looking at a dying plant, it had another four hours to finish dying before whatever remedy was ordered got back to the ship and was implemented. When we were on the Argo, I watched a couple of lilies go from a flower almost ready to bloom to little more than a browning stem overnight. It was frustrating to say the least. And they were going to automate That?

      I never even proposed sending any animals out on the voyage to the other star. Even though they would all be expressly bred as laboratory specimens, there was no way I was going to send anything out there to be kept by robots.

      Then the committee called me back and said they had had another proposal for a long term botanical study, and they wanted me and my students to work out the particulars.
      My students were quite enthusiastic and we worked out ways to modify the racks on the Argo to take an array of mosses and lichen and other hardy low maintenance plant life. The other advantage was that they didn't need a highly sophisticated system to supply air and water. Essentially, they would take care of themselves, and then, once the power on the ship ran out, if any of them were still alive, they'd go into survival mode, some as spores, and, theoretically, whoever found it might be able to revive them.

Felix Lamm, ESA, Terra Maru, Second Officer
      I wasn't on anybody's radar screen to consult on the final mission of the Argo.
      Until, that is, they needed somebody to run simulations where the auto-navigation program on the ship had to make unexpected course corrections because of things that might come across its path and be a bit too close for comfort.
      Somebody remembered that that had been my specialty on the Maru, monitoring and adjusting the autopilot as it constantly asked us to confirm that it should correct the last course correction as we limped through space after the engine failure.

      Then I was on a plane to America to represent the ESA in the trials of the new system as it was run through some initial trials.
      The problem was that unlike on the Argo or the Maru, there was no human for it to check with. When it is in the outer reaches of the solar system, it could take eight hours for the message to get from the ship to Earth and back about a possible obstacle in its path and what it should do about it. By then, at the speed the ship was expected to be traveling, some seventy-five thousand kilometers an hour, if the object was close and moving at a similar speed, it might be, in a word, a disaster. And the only way we'd know about it was when the data stream from the ship stopped several hours after the fact.

      The various programmers had developed a series of checks and if/then algorithms, but they were all predicated on the ship reacting as advertised. The Argo had always been relatively stable in flight. The Maru famously had not been, so they called me. And I was happy to participate in the program.

      It took months of work, and simulations, and make believe failures of everything and anything, always with one final object as a bull's eye, what can we do to get the ship back on course if (whatever) happens.
      Finally, we believed we had suitable safeguards in place that the Argo would continue its mission unless there was some sort of major catastrophic failure of the main engines, or the superstructure of the ship itself. And even then, there was a 'deep solution' that was a last ditch effort to get it pointed toward Centauri and it would drift that way, although that would add several millennia to its trip.
      But, the Argo Epic would stay on course even if the unthinkable happened, such as a major impact to the Lab Ring that totally disrupted its balance and knocked it off course. Eventually, the ship would compensate, correct it, and continue.
      And that was what we wanted it to do.

Sir Aeron O'Driscoll, Wales, Second Officer of the Third Mission of the Argo Epic
      I was consulted by the Command Systems working group with a question of how we used the various systems, how often did we have to reset different systems and all that.
      I had to call the ESA and have my logs sent to me. They evidently misunderstood and sent me all of the logs from the Argo. All three missions. So I called my son and we made a weekend of it. Searching through the logs on computers looking for different keywords like 'reset' and 'reboot', things like that. It was fun at times. And I think it gave him a unique perspective on the mission.
      Of course somebody at HQ got all bent out of shape that he had read the logs, but I reminded them that when I was on the ship he was one of those allowed direct contact with the ship on private "person to person" video calls with me and several others on the crew, and he regularly got written messages from me on the cargo pods. So, they said it was OK, just this once.

      We did find when some of the systems were power cycled to clear errors, especially the system that maintained the rotational rate, the backup for the autopilot, and the power usage overseer. The errors began as minor glitches, but they built up and eventually the system was busier reporting errors that caused other errors than it was doing whatever it was supposed to be doing.
      "I remember that one," I said as he tallied up the resets of the power overseer, "every time somebody ran an experiment that wasn't scheduled with the power system, it saw the spike in usage, and it'd flag it as an error, but it also created a new baseline, so when they shut it down, there'd be a drop, another flag, and another baseline."
      "But only with unscheduled use," he said. "How often did somebody do something that wasn't on the schedule?"
      "Some of them never went by the schedule. And if it was something like an x-ray spectrum for the materials testing, it would be a big spike."
      "Wasn't that being done by the second officer on the first TWO missions?" He said looking at me.
      "Yeah...." I shrugged, "Sometimes I put it in the schedule." I saw his face as he tried not to laugh at me. "Usually I'd just reset the overseer to clear the error."

      We put together a report, we both sat in the meeting where they discussed it, my son got to go with me to a dinner in London to meet with some of the working group, which included a couple of others from the Argo, and then we faded into the background. Which was OK with both of us.

General Stanley Smith, USAF Liaison to US Space Force, Assistant Engineer/Third Officer, Argo Epic Second Mission.
      I went from the Air Force, to NASA, then back to the USAF, then to the Space Force, then back to NASA. One of the jokes I told people was that not only were there mornings when I wasn't sure which uniform I was supposed to take out of my closet, there were times I couldn't even find the closet because I'd forgotten where I was when I went to bed.

      But I enjoyed collaborating with the various outfits that were in charge of putting together the various plans for the Argo Epic's final voyage. Fortunately, I wasn't assigned to any particular one of them, but I got to work with almost all of them. Everything from the total decommissioning and removal of the bathing cubicles because without a crew, they were redundant and just something else that could break and cause damage to the ship if there was a water leak, all the way back to the refit of the main engines to run for a longer period of time to slowly accelerate the ship for longer to the target speed of two and a half million kilometers a day, and then hold it, forever.
      One of my concerns was that it would be harder for the guidance system to keep the ship on course with the slower rotation that they were talking about this time. When we were out, the rotation of the ship not only generated artificial gravity, it turned the rings into a gyroscope to keep the Argo running straight. It also made turning the ship in anything other than something like a great circle almost impossible, and if you tried you could damage the thrusters or even the ship itself by creating too much torque between the lab ring and the rest of the ship.

      I got with the guys who were working with the guidance systems and we ran several simulations based on the telemetry from when the Argo had stopped its rotation to dock with the Terra Maru. We programmed the simulator with that information, and as it ran we could see when the wobble began while under thrust.
      There was a problem with our simulation, and we all knew it. Our data and the simulation we ran, were all based on the old specifications for the ship. We had some of the new numbers for the Argo, but no sooner than we got the Absolutely Final Mass Distribution, than we'd get a phone call from somebody else saying that it was missing the refitted sampling assembly that was supposed to pick up interstellar dust. Then it happened again, we were promised that the weight map we had of the ring was the way it would go, then Ken sent me a message saying that those numbers had to be reworked because they were going to remove some of the medical equipment and put it on the Maru.

      We had a long meeting with everybody there was to have a meeting with, and NASA's FIDO went back through their projection of the course and speed and the decision was made to up the revolutions slightly.
      Then they revised it back down, and then up. And, finally, they decided the best thing to do was to get the ship out of lunar orbit and send it on its way and see how it behaved once it was up to speed.

      Which was what most of us from the ship told them to do to begin with.

Doctor Melrita Turnbul, Interplanetary Dynamics (Third Mission of the Argo Epic)
      I was asked by Mission Control to advise the international committee that was updating the long range sensing systems on the Argo Epic for its extended mission out of our Solar System.
      One of the things they asked me was how useful the original systems that had been installed on the Argo Epic for its first mission were when I was on board using them, nearly twenty five years after the ship had been commissioned.
      My answer was that the majority of the systems themselves were still very serviceable. Most of the software had been upgraded several times, which extended the life of the various external devices that hadn't themselves been updated. Others had been replaced or augmented in some way. And, of course, the various monitors and displays had been replaced over the years. So, while much of the ship was still as built, enough of it was new, or at least new-er, that it had been very capable of the missions it had been on.
      They wanted specifics, so I gave them specifics. And in doing so I found out that there is no point discussing sub 700 nanometer infrared detectors built into a multi-spectrum narrow field optical telescope with the members of the committee. Then I checked into their backgrounds. Of the nine members of the committee I had spoke to, exactly TWO of them had reasonable scientific credentials, and they had asked some relevant questions during our meeting. But three of the others were purely political appointees, one of them being the youngest brother of a member country's deputy prime minister. That appointee's sole claim to scientific or space expertise was that his wife was a science teacher.
      I did not make that up, it was on his biographical statement included with the briefing material.
      A few of the others had been involved with the previous mission either on the International Committee or on their national committee in their country. But they did not pretend to have more scientific expertise than they really had.

      I quickly learned to begin my in person or video briefings, and all written statements for the committee, with a very general statement and then have all specific information if one of the others asked for it about, say, electromagnetic field disturbance detectors.
      Most of my reports went right through the committee and then on to the scientific project managers. But they already had several advisors, some of which were from one of the other crews. I quickly found out that they were talking to Doctor Papachristodoulopoulos about the various aspects of the research to be conducted on the next mission, so I called her and we had a very pleasant time complaining about the various political angles we had to deal with.
      One of the things she confided to me was that she occasionally had to be somewhat forceful with some of the higher ups in the political organization of the EU, to the point where she had found out that one of them had begun to refer to her as "la chienne Grecque".
      I laughed out loud, "I think I've talked to that member of the Committee. She wasn't very pleasant herself. She would mutter 'conne' a lot."
      "She's never pleasant, and I heard that one a lot as well. But I can give as good as I get. She heard 'couillonne cul' from me several times."

      In the final approval phase for the new experiments to be installed, many of the advisors to the committee gathered in London to compare notes and make adjustments to the recommendations. We spent as much time reminiscing and telling mission stories as we did reviewing technical specifications, perhaps even more, but we got it done and sent our report to the Consortium.

      Then I went back to my university classroom with a vengeance.

Combined Engineering Log

      The chair of the Engineering Working Group called us all for a meeting about the new masts for the reactors.
      They finally paid attention to our question about the stability of the masts, the old ones as well as the new ones, all with the second reactors on them.

      The original masts had two wires running forward from about three-quarters of the way out to the reactor end up to the supports that held the lab pods. Making a nice triangular anchor for the masts. They did the same thing with the new masts. But it wasn't enough to hold them stable with the added mass of the second reactors mounted just below the others.
      From the data we had, the old masts were over built just enough to support both reactors, as long as that's all they had to do. Add the rotation of the ship to the mix, and things were more interesting.

      The team overseeing the refit finally agreed with our worry that the additional mass out there would stress the base of the masts and possibly break the couplings where the guy wires attached to the lab pod supports, or worse, rupture the hull of the ship. So they called us and we had a long conference.
      They had all sorts of computer modeling, they'd even done something that Ken had done when we were out by Mars, they took a scale model of the ship and made the modifications to it, and then, after all that, the working group called us.
      The original masts had to be able to retract during the passage through the Asteroid Belt, but on this mission, the Argo would miss most of the Belt, and be able to run with the masts out. So the new ones weren't hinged, but with the new reactors, the bases on the new masts, which didn't have the extra bracing to account for the movement, were showing signs of strain. And if one broke loose, it could swing through the others and break a couple of the others off. Or even worse, it could wrap the guy wires around the ship and damage it.

      After their meeting we got together with Stanley (assistant engineer, Second Mission), and smoked over the specs for everything real good. Finally we made a recommendation to the working group.
      They listened.
      Then three massive brackets several meters long were cast to fit over the core of the ship with extra mounts for the old and new masts to mitigate the stress on them, and a similar ring was mounted further forward for the guy wires.

      While that was being installed everybody ran new simulations and projections, and at least to those of us that had been out on the ship, it looked like it would hold. Or, at least, by the time it failed the Argo would be so far away we would never know it.

Second Mission Medical Team:
Doctor Shinno Akari, JAXA
CMO, Doctor Ranya Aziz, ESA

      One of the things we agreed with was the sending out on the Argo was the personal logs of the former crew members who wished to include them in addition to the official recordings from various dignitaries and officials from Earth.
      As such, we have included joint statements, and individual messages as part of the archive.

CMO, Doctor Ranya Aziz, ESA
      When the Director asked me if I wanted to participate, my first thought was of who I would be speaking to in my recording. They most certainly would not be humans from Earth, at least not humans from Earth that I would ever know, or that would ever know of me.
      Which meant that I would be recording it for somebody else to view hundreds of years after I am no more.

      Back when we were training for the mission there was a session on what they called "First Contact" with an alien species. During some time off when I visited home I asked my own Imam about that, and he could not answer me, but he said he would call a mentor of his and have him contact me.
      A few days later a very wise old man in regular clothes visited me in the restaurant at my hotel. He said he had talked to my Imam and had decided that is was worth his time to come meet me and answer my questions.
      "My dear Doctor," he had said with a very quiet voice, "I cannot say if there are other races in the Universe or not. For me to do either, to claim there are or to say there is not, is for me to be telling Almighty Allah, Who is worthy of all praise and honor, what He either has done, or should do, and that is not for me. And, Doctor, it is not for you. If they are out there, they are, and if not, so what?" Then he smiled, "Now, we have a whole pot of tea to drink. Please tell me about your training and the mission."
      I stayed in touch with him while I was on the Argo, and then back on Earth for the rest of his life.

      And so now, as I make the recording. And all I can think to say is, "Please, enjoy our messages, and remember us."

Doctor Shinno Akari, JAXA
      My time on the Argo changed me. It changed me as a physician, and as a woman, and even moreso, as a person.
      It enabled me to do things when we got home that no other Japanese woman has ever done. And I have an example. A few years ago the Prime Minister of Japan was considering cutting a program that helped funnel young people, and especially women, from smaller rural schools into programs in the major universities. His rationale was that the overall expense of the program was not cost effective given the participation from those areas. In many cases, because of pressure from their elders to stay in their family's traditional occupation and roles, the young women, and even some of the men, stayed home.
      Once I calmed down I picked up my phone and called his office, and within ten minutes of his assistant answering I was speaking to the Prime Minister. I explained my concerns to him, and he said he would reconsider the program if I agreed to go on a tour of the country promoting it in those same small schools. I agreed, and spent the next two years doing just that, and then the program began to have a waiting list of young people from those communities, including a lot of young women who were willing to go into the various fields. Including medicine.
      Not only did my being on the Argo open doors like that to me, it made me self-confident, and some would say bold enough, to walk through those doors. Something which, even today, many Japanese women are not encouraged to do.
      Through my other work, I am attempting to do the same for women everywhere, although I'm not as gratified with the results in some other countries, I believe I have made a difference in Japan.

      And that is the message I want to send out on the Argo to the stars. Not only did it further our study of our Solar System, and the sciences, and all of those things. It furthered us as people. It made us better. And that is important.

Joint statement from the Second Mission Medical Team:
      The Argo Epic was proof that humanity can, and with the ship as evidence, has, come together, across all possible differences, to do something magnificent.
      And now we are sending it out into the void with the history of the best we have achieved on board.

Doctor Lynn Szymanski, ESA, Stellar Cartography, First Mission
      One of the things I reminded Ken and the others on the committees that were putting together the mission to the Centauri System was something that happened on our mission.
      One of the times of greatest stress on our mission was when the main computer system shut down because it had not received an annual update. When we restarted the system we programmed it to not look for another update for fifty nine years. Which meant that if they didn't change that now during the refit for the final mission, the entire ship would shut down and go into survival mode while the main computer waited for one of us to hit it with a hammer. Except, nobody would be on board to do it.
      They batted the idea around, then got deep into the main computer, and found that subroutine, then when it wouldn't let them change it again, they convinced it that fifty years had passed and it was time to update. Then, with the new programming, they told it the next update wouldn't happen for nine hundred and ninety nine years. Which means it would be long out of power and then the main computer would get all upset when the aliens got it running again.
      My comment was that we could only hope the aliens understood computers better than we did.

      I was asked several times to be on one of the advisory committees full time, but I declined, I was working with the Deep Space Center at my University, and had been since the year after my trip on the Argo Epic.
      Politechnika Warszawska hadn't been known for a lot of cutting edge cosmology, until we put together a program to test a theory I had been toying with on the movement of rogue stars since I had come home from the Argo mission. And since I had an 'in' to get more data from the following missions of the ship we could continue to work on it as well as expand the research to other lines of inquiry. Which we did as the missions continued.
      One of the advantages we had was that I could make a call to the ESA and set up a conference with Doctor Kristoffersen out on the ship and discuss adjustments to the equipment or the duration of a particular measurement cycle, and then be on the followup call to discuss the results.
      Now don't get me wrong, Kris, or especially Doctor Turnbul on the last mission, would tell me quick whether or not whatever I was suggesting was even possible given the other projects that were running at the time. Or even that they just didn't want to do it. But, usually, we could work something out.
      Which put a small technical university in a forgotten corner of Europe on the map of Space Science.

      The analysis of the data that we had on suspected rogue stars did everything but confirm or deny my theory, some of the tracks of the stars were right in line with my projections, while others stated in no uncertain terms that I had no idea what I was talking about. But it did prove one thing, we needed a lot more information because there were factors involved that we didn't have data on.
      One way we planned to get that information was to continue the inflow of data from the ship on the new mission. Fortunately, stellar cartography was one of the areas of research that was proposed to be expanded on the mission, and I made sure that our lab in Warsaw was one of the direct feeds that got the raw data as it came in from the Argo.

Doctor Lorraine Latour from the Second Mission
      I was asked to be part of the overall final review committee that considered all of the scientific instruments, the experiments being run, the information systems that processed the data and then the communications array that was going to return that data to Earth. And I even suggested that we review the downlinks to Earth to see how that information was going to be received, processed, and then stored and dispersed.

      The first thing we noticed that there were several bottlenecks on the ship as diverse experiments tried to use the same throughput devices and channels. As soon as we confirmed the problem the technicians responsible for the instrument reviewed our findings, then they changed whatever needed to be changed to correct the problem. Then we reviewed it again and searched for another problem, and the process began again.

      There had been squawking and complaining about the cost of the new mission. There was even a movement within the United Nations to demand the mission be scrubbed and the money re-routed to humanitarian causes.
      That demand evaporated when somebody pointed out how many millions of Euros and Dollars and Yen and every other currency that the UN spent on those projects had vanished into outer space without the benefit of a spacecraft. One of their examples was a program to buy grain on the spot market and ship it to food programs in profoundly poor areas. Somebody had done the math based on the program's own fiscal reports and made the results of the glaring discrepancies in the flow of money public. There were, of course, objections, but they were somewhat muted, and then they faded away.
      And the Argo Epic was prepared for its final mission.

The European Project Coordinator

      One of the things that came up during our review of the equipment on the ship was how much backup gear was on board. I knew from my time on board that there were spare monitors that had been in storage since the original mission. There was also high capacity data storage units that were dedicated to projects and experiments from every mission, they had been sent to the ship and installed, then used, then the data was transmitted to Earth, and the storage units were still there. There was also a complete set of three brand new electron microscopes that were held in reserve if either the scanning, transmission, or static field units failed.
      That and more was still in the storage bays.
      All together it added tons of mass to the Argo. Tons of mass that was no longer needed or useful.

      So we dispatched salvage teams to go through every section and storage unit and remove everything possible. With the exception of the still in engineering and some odds and ends, like a collection of small figurines in one of the labs.
      Enough spare hardware was left on board to show what they began referring to as "the ship's new owners" the work we did and how we lived while on board.
      Any permanently mounted equipment was left in place. Such as the MRI in medical. The only way to remove it was to remove the entire medical pod it was built into, which would throw off the balance of the ring. So it was left in place, but totally powered down. As were several of the outside robots and the arms used to dock the supply pods.

      During the crews work they found the box of western books from the first mission that we had put away on the second mission, there was a huge set of videos that nobody watched, and two cargo pods full of other personal items from all three crews that should have been removed when the crews left.
      They didn't totally strip the ship of the all of evidence that we had been there. There was still bedding and photos and some uniforms and other everyday items right where they'd been left. Including some of the things I'd left in my old equipment bay that had become my bedroom.
      They even left a thermal mug that used to have coffee in it that was in the holder on the Commander's chair right where it had been left by the last Commander of the Argo.

      The effort to remove redundant and unneeded 'stuff' from the ship reduced the overall mass of the ship enough that its range was extended by scores of million kilometers and added at least three years to the projection for powered flight.
      A most worthwhile effort.
      It also brought back home an almost endless collection of items for displays and shows, and a few for various charity auctions as well.

The Committee that complied the files asked each contributing member of all three crews of the Argo Epic, and that of the Terra Maru, to describe their favorite or most pleasant memory of their time on board the ships. This record is being included with the archive just to present a fair overview of the service life of the ship.

Mister Carmelo Bianchi, Second Mission, Dedicated Photographer and Optics Specialist
      There were two that stand out. One was professionally, and one was somewhat personal. I'll begin with the professional one.
      We had discovered the small asteroid that we called Knobby. I shot it with every camera we had for the entire duration of our closest approach. The others used every other sensor we had on it as well. Then later, I got to work with the majority of the crew and we were able to overlay our data with each other and we produced a quite remarkable four-D simulation of it showing the most minute details of the surface of the asteroid for its entire fifty hour rotation. With the combination of radar, and other sensors, and my highest resolution photos, we were able to work out features down to about one meter on it, and then present the asteroid in a virtual reality mode where you could experience walking around and seeing the various cracks and small craters.
      When we sent the final product to Earth, the others insisted my name be first on the list of contributors because, as they put it, it was my photos that made the VR program come to life. I thanked them for the honor.

      As for the personal high point, it was artistic. I know that it is a sore spot with some that I spent time on the ship pursuing my work as an art photographer to give me something to fall back on when we got home. But I did, and it worked out well, and I am very happy with the results.
      I took high quality portrait images of everything from the Nebula in Orion to members of the crew with Mars or the stars in the background. And yes, in some of those portraits the other crew member or members would be, shall we say, in less than full uniform, and even sometimes be somewhat provocatively posed. And it was all intentional, and fun. And those images have served me, and them, well over the years since we returned to Earth. If nothing else, they remind us that we did go and we were out there, and, overall, it was fun.
      And, yes, some of the non-crew centered artsy images have earned me some money. Which, to me, is validation that I did produce work of more than solely scientific interest while on the ship.

Doctor Em Chow, China National Space Administration, Third Mission Physician.
      I will say this was the best for me on the mission: I was not on Earth for all that time. I got to be my own person, I was able to practice medicine as I saw fit with only Doctor Smith overseeing what I did, and Doctor Smith only offered a differing opinion on, I believe, two occasions, during the entire mission. And his opinion was not based on the fact that I was a woman, or Chinese, or anything else, he had seen something medical in the case that led him to draw a different conclusion. That was all. Then we discussed it, and in one case, we tried both options in turn, and, as it turned out, neither worked. Then we took the matter to an orthopedist on Earth and waited for the reply. It was they who stated quite clearly that once we got to the Argo, that we do an MRI of Officer Bakker's back, and if the results were as they expected them to be, make arrangements for surgery on the ship. Or we might lose the patient.
      I am truly sorry, but in my home country, a female doctor is still looked down upon, even though I am a very good doctor. I was consistently at the top of my classes in medical school, always within the top five students. I did very well in residency, and was offered a position at a good hospital. But then I found out that I was there so they could say they had a woman doctor.
      That's when I turned to the space program. And because I had been a good student and was now a good doctor, I was accepted.
      That's how I got to be the assistant on the Argo. The only reason I was the assistant was because Doctor Smith had been a physician for ten years more than I had, and I would not hear of having a senior physician under me. Besides, he said that if the two doctors on the mission we were relieving had come to be Co-CMOs, so could we, and we had the advantage of having seen their reports as to how to make it work. And we did.

Felix Lamm, ESA, Terra Maru, Second Officer
      That epic, massive, almost endless, party in space when we were about two weeks out from the space station on our way back. I mean, we made it. We really made it.
      When we turned the ship around and began to slow down, I mean, really, we burned the engines at two to five percent power for the first three days just to make sure they wouldn't explode. But then we pushed it up and it was true, we'd made it. We could coast in from where we were. And then it just broke loose.
      One of them, or maybe all of them, brought some of that moonshine vodka from the Argo, and they had stolen junk food from the gedunk, and Stan hotwired the comm to play music, and there was no stopping it.
      I'd read about some of the blowouts they'd had on the first mission, and I'd been to the big party with the three combined crews on the Argo's command deck. But this was something special because the Maru was so much smaller. The only place drinking and dancing wasn't allowed was on the main command deck, per the Captain, that is, it wasn't allowed unless you brought the Captain a drink.
      I still smile thinking about that time on the voyage.

      When we finally docked at the space station the Maru was mostly put back in order, as the Captain had required. But there was no hiding the strong smell of booze, and other things, that permeated every centimeter of the ship.
      When they asked Captain Dromgoole about the smell, he said he didn't smell anything unusual. I do know for a fact that he had his fair share of the Engineering Rotgut and was still able to perform his duties during the deceleration into orbit and docking. As any good Irish Captain would.

Doctor Lorraine Latour from the Second Mission
      My favorite is my favorite, and I certain I am the only one to say anything like this.
      It happened early on the mission, and then became something of my trademark for the duration.
      One of the television networks had requested and was granted an exclusive interview with me, and I dressed for it.
      I could see their faces in the monitor and when they saw me, they couldn't believe it. They told me I looked fabulous and they almost couldn't believe I was on the ship. I was wearing a very nice ensemble, I had done my hair and makeup, and, yes, I looked fabulous.
      Everybody else they had interviewed since we had left Earth was always in uniform or an ESA T-shirt or something. I was not going to be on TV, and with the chance that it would be shown in France or Switzerland or anywhere else for that matter, with me with my hair in a bun and wearing one of those hideous jumpsuits.
      After that, every time I was on video to Earth for more than a status check of one of the experiments, I took the time to at least do my hair and face.
      And I was told several times by interviewers and science editors of newspapers that they appreciated it.

Professor Emeritus, Doctor Narda Papachristodoulopoulos, Solar Dynamics (First Mission of the Argo Epic)
      My best memory was how close we all got. Yes we did hard science, and there were bad times, and all that. But in the end, I remember us as at least all very good friends and in some ways a family. And some of us are still very close.

Chief Engineer Gomez, Third Mission.
      My favorite memory was right after the Terra Maru undocked and we'd just gotten the Argo rotating and were maneuvering to head out to the Asteroid Field.
      Commander Pedersen came back to Engineering and told me to make sure Third Officer Ken remembered he was the Third Officer, and not the Commander or the Chief Engineer.
      "You're my Chief, and I trust your judgment. He has a lot of experience on this ship, but he was an Engineer's Mate."
      It made my mission. Ken was a valuable resource, and had a special understanding of the ship, but the job was mine.

Sir Aeron O'Driscoll, Wales, Second Officer of the Third Mission of the Argo Epic
      My favorite memory was working the command shift while major experiments were running. Very nearly everybody else on the ship would be working on something to do with the science project, meanwhile, I had to run the ship. I always went through the full ship's status checklist before the experiment started, even if it was a shift or two before my own shift, just to make sure the Argo was ready. I checked everything, from the rotational rate to the power levels from the reactors, whether or not the air flow was at optimum, and more. I always checked the automatic and manually activated fire and air leak containment systems. As well as full crew status, was anybody feeling sick, or had already worked a double shift and might be tired. Then there was outside, I went over the tracking systems if there were comets in the neighborhood or things like small asteroids that might get too close while we were otherwise occupied. It took three hours to go through everything and for me to tell the Commander that we were 'good to go' for whatever it was.
      And it paid off several times as well. There were several times when my run through showed anomalies in things like the CO2 scrubber, or revealed a small meteor that was on an intercept course that wouldn't have shown up on routine tracking for several hours. Most of those we could put right with little effort, the rogue meteor we had to make a course adjustment to avoid, but as it had been spotted while it was still way out, the adjustment was minor.
      I wasn't much interested in most of the experiments. But there were some that I found absolutely fascinating and managed, at least I think I managed, to make a small contribution to the research conducted.

      We collected small asteroids, we did long period studies of exposure to space on several compounds including organic tissue from lab animals... and some of the crew, sometimes under protest..., and then there were reactions between various substances including some that were caustic, or radioactive, or heinously toxic, or all of the above.
      At first I thought that whatever we put outside would either dissipate, or would instantly freeze solid, and not do anything. The first time I watched a caustic mixture that was very nearly frozen solid come to life as it merged with another chemical compound, and then, for a few seconds erupt in a volcano of light and smoke that consumed the mixture and the container it had been in, I was hooked. I spent the next several months working with various ones on the reactions of materials, and the lack of reactions of substances, in space. Especially when electricity passed through them, or there was a sudden change of temperature, or an impact, or constant and increasing pressure , or any number of forces and combinations of forces.
      Theories in the labs on Earth were one thing, but in space, sometimes those theories fell apart. As did some of their products. We watched a polymer plastic de-evolve into its components and drift away in odd colored clouds of debris. It was supposed to be able to withstand space as a possible coating for lightweight tools and equipment to use on space walks. At least it had passed that test on Earth, as soon as we put some torque to the test bar, it developed cracks in its outer layer, then came apart.
      The resulting labwork showed that the molecular bonds between the compounds it was made of failed unless they were held under pressure from the casing. And the casing didn't like being stressed after it had been sitting in space at about minus three hundred Celsius for several hours.
      As it turned out, the Earth based lab had tested their tool material at that temperature, but only for an hour or so at a time. It took us longer than that to get the material out of the ship and to the test bed with the cameras and grids for measurements as it was being flexed and pulled. The longer it was cold, and then the greater the stress, the more dramatic, and entertaining, the failure.
      And as the member of the Argo Command Crew observing the test, I got to write up my professional opinion about what said failure could mean to a crewmember who was outside doing something that relied on a component made with their polymer.
      That was enjoyable.

Captain Uilliam Dromgoole, Ireland, The Terra Maru
      Overall, I enjoyed everything I did with the program and on the mission more than I disliked it.
      It took me some time to get over the idea that my ship had suffered catastrophic engine failure, and the suicide of a crewman. I even needed some professional assistance before I accepted the fact that nobody could have anticipated that crewman Stoticzynski had worked for three years to be on the mission on the Maru to afford him the opportunity to die in space in a way that no other human ever had. The fact that I had been the captain of the ship was incidental, truly, if it had not been me, it would have been somebody else, and he would have gone through with it just the same.
      As for the engine failure, that had more to do with the engineering oversight committee than it did with the command crew.
      But I was still the Captain. And in the end, everything that happened on the ship was my responsibility.

      Like I said, it took some time for me to accept that neither of the two events that the Terra Maru's mission is remembered for, and what is most usually mentioned when it is discussed or presented to a class on the history of human space flight were, to put it bluntly, directly my fault.
      But, I have also been reminded that the mission was a success in spite of them. We DID take the third crew and the replacement parts and equipment to the Argo Epic. My crew DID assist with the refit of the Argo, and the repair of the Terra Maru. And we made it back to Earth with the second crew. We docked at the space station and we transferred them and their goods to the station and then to Earth. I was the last crewman to leave the Maru, and until the refit team for the Argo went to my ship to remove equipment to use on the Argo, nobody else had been on it.

      Overall, the mission was a success. There were even good things about the voyage out to the Argo, even after the engine failures. The scientists on the mission did hard science observing how bulk liquid fuel froze in space. They photographed the crystals it formed, and did spectral analysis of them to determine which component of the mixture froze first and how the compounds that took longer to freeze reacted with those that had solidified earlier, and so on.
      I remember reviewing their report. It was fascinating, and one of them even thanked me for allowing them to use 'my misfortune' to further their study. It was something that hadn't been done before. Well, now it had been.

      The entire crew got to be very close, by the time we reached the Argo we knew very nearly everything about each other and could answer questions for each other. Except, of course for Jannon Stoticzynski, who, as it turned out, was a consummate actor both on stage and in real life.

From an interview with the ESA's Oral History Project
Professor Elias Berthold Wagner, DLR / ESA, Germany, Educational Specialist, Third Mission.

      I hadn't been back on Earth for all that long when I was called as a consultant by the consortium with the idea of keeping students in both the lower and upper grades, as well as those at university, interested in the mission, and in the sciences and other subjects represented on the mission.
      Which was why I had been on the Third Mission in the first place.

      It was a pleasant and totally unexpected outcome from Ken's... (I've heard it described as an 'unofficial cosmonaut voyage' and as the 'most traveled stowaway criminal in history')... from Ken's mission on the Argo Epic, that interest in all aspects related to the mission in schools all over the world.
      I followed the early chatter between various directors of instruction for primary and secondary schools. The interest included both those in university preparatory 'gymnasium' secondary school and those they still call the 'lower tracks'. Which I was in favor of. In today's world, even those in hourly wage and working class jobs need technical skills and basic scientific knowledge. I reminded everybody of the central idea that a young man from a working family, who was in the early days of his university classes, had the knowledge and skills to get to the Argo in the first place, then to become a valuable member of the crew of that mission, and then, later, become the Third Officer on the next mission, the mission I was on. While we were not in favor of them doing it the way he did it, they could go on and do something just as marvelous.

      I was on the Argo Epic to be what the Americans called a "teacher in space". The reason I was chosen by the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt as their candidate to the ESA for the position was because early in my work to become a teacher, I wasn't sure what I wanted to teach. I began studying to teach music, to that end I spent two years at university working through music theory and composition and reading the biographies of every composer from Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) to Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. (John Denver) to qualify for my abitur in that field.
      And then during a summer internship I ended up working with a group doing work on increasing the efficiency of a Direct Current system, and so became interested in electrical engineering. Because there is a great deal of mathematical calculation in music, and in engineering, I had something of a natural talent for it.
      By the time I was applying to the teacher institute, I wasn't sure which subject I should apply for. But as I had the most qualifications for music, I went to graduate training in music. Then I did something almost unheard of in Germany, I took a minor in mathematics to demonstrate to students the connections between the two.
      Then during another practicum I worked with the electrical engineering project again. Then at the request of the industry representative, I was given an extended term to continue the work. Then something else most unusual occurred, I was allowed to continue my studies part time while I continued to work with the DC group. Which was not the usual Preparatory Service for graduate work toward teaching as a profession.

      All in all, where most teachers are sitting for their secondary exam after about six years of formal training and schooling, I was still in between three different instructional fields while studying part time, and I working in a laboratory complex in Braunschweig with heavyweight researchers from DLR.
      In the end, after over three years of work, we patented the system that maximized the efficiency of systems that ran on all levels of Direct Current by lowering the amount of heat produced from components and excess wiring and connections, and by changing the makeup of those connections. We had even 'tinkered' with the makeup of the solder used to maximize its connectivity.
      But then I was back to not being a teacher and not having a position at DLR.
      Six months later, I was in training to be on the Third Mission of the Argo as Germany's 'teacher in space', even though, officially, I wasn't a teacher.

      On the mission I spent part of almost every day engaged in presenting a lesson on some subject for schools on Earth. Most of my lessons were conducted in German or English, but I was proud of how much Spanish I could speak on topic, and get through a lesson on the theory of musical rhythms in the language.
      With Ken part of the command crew, he wasn't as involved as he had been with the schools, but he was still part of the picture. And his participation was part of the success. I presented the lessons after he explained to the students why whatever it was, was important to the mission.
      It worked.
      Our lessons were better received than those of the previous missions, and enrollment in courses related to those fields increased world wide. Which we were both quite proud of.

      One of my favorite lessons, and one of the most requested for update and re-presentation since then was one I did after the Life Support Crisis where the circulation system failed and we very nearly ran out of breathable air.
      I wrote a lesson about how redundant systems can let you down and the 'worst possible scenario' will eventually occur, and when those two things happen at the same time you end up in serious trouble. I entitled it: "Real Life in Space to the tune of 'Failure in D Minor'"

      Not long ago now I was also asked to keep the next generation of students interested in those same fields, but without us being on the ship. Somehow I was to make it as fascinating to receive automated reports from a ship that was moving almost two million kilometers further from Earth every day, and that no human will ever see again.
      So I spent a great deal of time in Bonn, and Paris, and even in Houston in America with two other education specialists. For a time I was certain I had spent as much time on aircraft as I did in meetings with Very Important Persons.
      But, eventually, we put together a report, and made recommendations, and finally did a high level presentation, and then sat back and waited to see how much, if any, of our proposal was enacted.

      I was pleased to see that the majority of our ground based ideas were taken either in whole or in part, and a good number of those that involved some sort of activity or installation on the spacecraft, including special external items that might be of interest to primary aged children, such as a certain plastic figure from a popular movie who was famous for 'falling with style'. We thought that seeing him in space would be of interest to the children. And there was some scientific interest in learning what the unmitigated exposure to the void would do to a mass produced toy over a period of years.

      That about covers my tenure on and involvement with the Argo Epic.

Captain Uilliam Dromgoole, Ireland, The Terra Maru
      Can I add one other thing? (of course we agreed. ed.)

      My family have been associated with this county, and especially what we call The Castle, which is a traditional large farm house with several additions to where it does look like a small castle, for several hundred years.
      In that time, they traveled all over the world. Some were in the military, some in business, and some just traveled for its own sake. Throughout my life, at every gathering for a holiday, or a family event like a wedding or funeral, that would be the talk, who had been where.
      I remember when I was a child that there was an aunt and uncle of ours who had spent months working in Mexico, and they had pictures and clothing and stories about the food and even spoke some Spanish to us. To a schoolboy in Ireland, Mexico was so far away it might as have been on another planet. We were all totally mesmerized by them and their story.

      Things have not changed with my family since then.

      A couple of years after I got back there was a holiday gathering, one of my wife's cousins had just come back from a business trip to Brazil and was telling another relative who had vacationed in New Zealand about it. They were debating about which had traveled further over their lives and how many thousands of kilometers of airline miles each had accumulated when another relative chimed in about how they had made three trips to India for business in the last two years. Then another one told them about his trip to New York, then LA, then Japan, and finally back to London via Egypt.
      Then during a bit of silence I looked at the cousin with the around the world trip and just laughed.
      One of them said they don't count my trip as world travel because I'd left the world!
      But they quit bragging about their trips, at least when I was around.

      The other side of it was that all of our extended family had kids, and they all gathered around me at every event, many of them didn't believe that I had actually left the Earth on a spaceship, and then came back. They wanted to see my uniforms, and some of the memorabilia that I had brought back, including a chunk of the engine that had exploded.
      The good outcome of that was that several of them had applied to various technical programs at various universities in Ireland and elsewhere, and one had an internship with the ESA.
      Which made me just as proud of them as I hoped at least some of the family was of me.

Finally, after years of preparation, the Argo Epic was due to be sent off on its mission.
The Committee that complied the files asked all available members of the previous missions to send any final thoughts they'd like to include with the archive.

Doctor Melrita Turnbul, Interplanetary Dynamics (Third Mission of the Argo Epic)
      I thought about it. And, yes. I would like whoever finds the ship after its journey to treat it and our records with respect and learn who and what we were, and what we tried to do.

Professor Emeritus, Doctor Narda Papachristodoulopoulos, Solar Dynamics (First Mission of the Argo Epic)
      I just hope that when somebody finds it, that they investigate it, and they they learn about us. But unless they find it soon, none of us that were on any of the missions will ever know about it.

Chief Engineer Baxter, First Mission.
      I want them to do something with the ship. Maybe put it in their museum of primitive space vessels.

Chief Engineer Smithson, Second Mission.
      It'll surprise me if the Argo makes it to Centauri. It's forty trillion kilometers. That's forty followed by twelve zeros. I have no idea how that compares to the distance between Venus and Mars, but, I'm glad I'm not on the ship for it.
      But I do hope it makes it. I really do. It should. I hope it does.

Chief Engineer Gomez, Third Mission.
      I think it'd be great if whoever finds it stops by Earth to tell our, great great-whatever grandchildren that they got it. Maybe they'll bring it back home.

Doctor Lorraine Latour from the Second Mission
      Sending the Argo Epic to another star is Humanities ultimate statement that we are ready to move out from our home planet. If just in proxy for right now.

Felix Lamm, ESA, Terra Maru, Second Officer
      I don't know, I just hope it makes it. I don't know how we, I mean, Humanity 'we', will ever find out if it does unless somebody is out there and comes here to tell us it did. I guess that'll be something.

Space Communication Specialist Lily Lo Zhao, PhD, CNSA, Argo Epic: Third Crew
      I'm not thinking about whether or not some alien cruiser intercepts the Argo Epic, I'm hoping that the ship will be able to continue to run all of the instruments we've put on it for years and years. Until it is way out in the void, and that it is able to keep sending all that information back to us. AND that we, I mean people on this planet, keep receiving and learning from it.
      Maybe my great-great-grandchildren will get to see the incoming data in science class in school and see my name in the history of the mission and say "That's my Nie Nie!"

Dr. Candice Anderson, Second Officer (First Mission)
      I would love to be on the ship whenever somebody does find it. Just to see their reaction to us.

Further Comment from Captain Sir F. Gerald Merrick, GCVO, Retired, Commander of the First Mission of the Argo Epic.
      "You know, it wouldn't surprise me that much that if a few years after it leaves our solar system that later some Interplanetary Shipping Lanes Police Cruiser drags it back here and gives a fine to the Consortium for creating a navigational hazard and abandoning a vehicle in International Space."

The Following is presented in the Archive, as transcribed, for its historic value:
Navigational Specialist for the Terra Maru, ESA Crewman First Class, Jannon Stoticzynski, Poland

      I am leaving this in both my private log and in the official log of the Maru to make it clear that I knew what I'm doing and I did it as I have been planning to do it since we left Earth.
      I spent some time verifying that while we are docked that I can override the safety lockouts and use the main egress portal to leave the ship without a command code. And I'm going to do it.
      I want to die in space. It is that simple. I don't want to get old and sick with cancer or something, or crippled in an accident. I do not want my body to be buried or cremated. I do not want to be an organ donor, or have a medical student cut me up. And I do not want to be eaten by fish and crabs in the ocean. So this is what I want to do, and how I want to die. - - ( time passes on his recording with no audio. -editor)

      There. I'm on an EVA work crew tomorrow. I've made all the preparations. It will work, and nobody will know about it until it is over.

- -       I'm sending a copy of this log entry to Earth, and then I'm going. By the time they get it, I'll be outside. In space. - -
      Save. Transmit. (recording ends)

may he find peace
End Section

The Committee that complied the files asked each contributing member of all three crews of the Argo Epic, and that of the Terra Maru, what the worst element of their time on board the ships was. This record is being included with the archive just to present a fair overview of the service life of the ship.

Doctor Lorraine Latour from the Second Mission
      The worst for me wasn't on the ship. It was before and after, and it was something personal, and I know some people told me that it was stupid of me to have worried about it. But I did worry about it, and it took several months after we got home for it to be finished.
      When we prepared for launch from Kourou in South America, I had my handbag with me. I had wanted to leave it at home and only travel with absolute essentials to the final rendezvous where we all got together to head for the spaceport in French Guiana. But I had the habit of always having it with me, and so I had it when I boarded the flight, and it was too late to leave it somewhere
      My handbag ended up in a locker with some of my other personals and the clothes I'd worn down there. Everybody else had been wearing mission jumpsuits day and night. I didn't. I remember what I wore on the flight from Paris to Cayenne, and then for the trip to the base from there. It was a traveling ensemble with a matching skirt and vest with a that I had had made earlier in the year. It was stylish, and fit me well, and it had the mission patch on the vest to make it official, and almost as importantly, it cleaned easily and could hang dry on a hanger in the bath at a hotel. But then I had to leave it in a locker at the spaceport.
      I asked about my things a couple of times, but we had no direct contact with anybody at Kourou, so it took ages to even find out the message hadn't gotten through.
      Then I got a message when we were at Mars that somebody had gotten my things from the locker and had sent them to headquarters. Except I found out later that they'd sent it to Houston in America instead of to Europe.
      We were on our way to rescue the Terra Maru and then to head home when they said that not only had my possessions been sent to Paris, they had cleaned my outfit and had had my shoes professionally restored where the side of one had been badly scuffed.
      But we had landed at the White Sand in America. My custom traveling outfit was in Paris. And I refused to be seen any more than necessary in a crew jumpsuit, so I got a driver take me to a shopping center and I found a couple of acceptable outfits. ...
      Think about it, I had just spent years with the same people, day in and day out, and everybody else wore the same uniform all the time, and even I only had a few non-uniform outfits to wear, and that was all God knows where on a cargo pod. Now that we were home, and I had other options, I wanted to dress properly.
      ... Then the next day when everybody else at the press event was in an Argo Epic jumpsuit, I was dressed up, including a very tasteful matching set of freshwater pearl earrings and necklace.
      A few days later we had to go to Houston for a debriefing, then there was an event in Washington DC where I attended an event with the French Ambassador and a university president who had been a sponsor of one of our experiments when she had been a professor. Do you think I would wear a crew jumpsuit to something like that?
      Eventually, when we landed in London, I was reunited with my package from South America. And I could still wear my traveling outfit, and I was still happy with the way I looked in it, So I wore it on the final leg of our trip from London to Paris, and then on to Tokyo for the final press event as a group.

Professor Emeritus, Doctor Narda Papachristodoulopoulos, Solar Dynamics (First Mission of the Argo Epic)
      The worst? Being SO FAR AWAY from everything and everybody else. Other then the people on the ship with us, we didn't see anybody new for years. Most of us got almost daily messages from somebody on Earth. I know my mother made a point of sending a message every Tuesday and Friday and I think she only missed a couple of those days over the whole mission. And she would tell me about her trip to the shops, or what somebody at Orthros had said on Sunday Morning. But, it was what she told me, I didn't get to go to the service.
      And I was in touch weekly, or at least monthly, with the support team for my research. Most of them were all business, but occasionally somebody would tell me about their adventure trying to buy a used car or something. Which was nice to hear about, but again, I only got to see a picture and hear about it instead of going for a ride in it.
      And in return I'd tell them about something that happened on the ship, but I had to be careful. Sometimes something we said would end up on the evening news. And we didn't want that.
      But that's what I think about when somebody asks me about that. I mean, besides the obvious bad stuff. Personally, to me, it was that separation from the entire world and everybody on it that we couldn't change. Or maybe I'll change that, it was knowing that there was nothing we could do to end it anytime soon.

Captain Uilliam Dromgoole, Ireland, The Terra Maru
      You know the worst. But there was something else that wasn't quick and over. It was that trip home.
      I was on edge for months, until I got myself sick from it. I would hang there in command and stare at the readouts from the engines. Either that or lock myself into one of the ports where I could watch the new engine or one of the others, waiting for something to go wrong. I just knew one or the other of them was going to blow itself into right and proper bits. Either that or when we powered them down for a cooling cycle, they wouldn't relight and then we'd be stuck drifting in space until we figured something out.
      I had all of those other people counting on me, on me, to get them home alive. Officer Bakker had survived major surgery and was expecting me to deliver her in one piece. It was my ship that had failed and we had to be rescued by the ship we were going out to resupply, that's every Navy man's worst nightmare.
      Even after the doctors on board told me to turn my own anxiety down or I wouldn't survive the trip even if the ship did, I would still wake up early in my bunk and go check the readings. The others were right on top of it, every fluctuation was noted and accounted for, every variance in operating temperature was checked, they were watching the thrust outputs by the minute on the Maru, and the telemetry was being sent to the Argo so their engineers could watch it and offer advice, and to Earth as well. But I had to check them myself because I was the Captain.
      And let me tell you something, being restrained and medicated in the sick bay because your blood pressure is off the scale only makes it worse.
      But they kept me alive, and the engineers kept the ship in one piece, and we made it home.

Space Communication Specialist Lily Lo Zhao, PhD, CNSA, Argo Epic: Third Crew
      The air scare. Yes. That's it. When the main air filtration system failed and they couldn't get it working for days. The air in the ship was beyond stale, it was getting bad to breathe in the front half of the ship, and not much better in the back because the secondary system couldn't keep up. The last few days we were fighting to stay focused and working. I went to sleep in my bunk and was convinced that I wouldn't wake up.

      The life support system had been designed to be essentially self maintaining. With minimal wearable parts and very few things that could go wrong. But, something did. And it wasn't easy to fix.
      There had been indications that something in the distribution system was going bad. And they had ordered the replacement part, and it was on its way. But we were a long way out, and even on one of the newest and fastest cargo missiles, and that was exactly what the thing was, it was still a long trip. The distributor suffered a total and complete failure that overtaxed its backup, then the entire system crashed.
      But, Gomez and the others got it working enough to keep us alive. I asked Ken what they did and he said they used parts out of robots and a spare pump from one of the descent rockets and, as he said "a lot of duct tape" and they just made it work. Then later, when the spare parts arrived, they fixed it right, and it was fine.
      Part of the problem with the life support system was that it was built to never fail. And it had worked ever since the ship had been rebuilt for the second mission and there hadn't been any major problems with it. But, everything can break. And because it had been built to be so solid, when whatever had gone wrong did so, it was very difficult to repair.
      Yes. That's what I'm going to say. We'd all done our wills and stuff before we left. But on, I guess it was day four or five, when the air was too bad to work in the ring, I sat in Command and updated my will and sent it to Earth.

Chief Engineer Baxter, Argo Epic, First Crew
      Having something go wrong that you can't do anything about. I'm an engineer. Engineers on spaceships are supposed to prevent disasters. We fix stuff before it breaks. Or if it does break, we can correct the problem, or at least have a plan to do it when the Commander calls and says, "oh, by the way....".
      Like the part failure that killed Doctor Rob. There was no way we could have known those clamps were junk. They looked fine, we'd used them before, I'm still pretty sure that that very one had been used on another space walk. But it picked then to break. And to break at the worst possible moment. But I still blame myself for it having happened.
      Then I spent the rest of the mission waiting for the next one to happen. And when it did... I don't want to talk about it.

Mister Carmelo Bianchi, Second Mission, Dedicated Photographer and Optics Specialist
      Other than routine, and the occasional run of boredom, and that incident on the Maru, I don't think there was a 'worst'.
      Early on the food would have qualified. And until we got into a routine with things like bathing and laundry, that was unpleasant at times, but I've been on camping trips before and since that were worse. Like that time in Spain when somebody packed the off road truck with a case of soft drinks on top of all of our clean clothes, and the temperature got below freezing as we climbed into the Pyrenees, and several of the cans broke open, and most of us spent the rest of the trip either being sticky and smelling like a fast food lunch or wearing what we'd been climbing in the day before.
      So, I don't know what to say other than, yeah, OK, the original menu as planned was the worst.

Doctor Melrita Turnbul, ESA, Third Mission
      I have a very good example of this one. When all my data from a long running experiment vanished and I spent half a shift in a total panic.
      I had woken up at my usual time and grabbed a shower and a quick breakfast and went to my lab to find that everything was gone. Even the outline I had been working on and had left open on one of the screens was gone.
      I checked the main science server, and its mirror in engineering. My project wasn't there. Nothing, not even the folder. Then I checked the secondary server, some of the folders that received the incoming data, were there, and the time stamp on them indicated that they had received the last update to their information about three hours ago, but the others were gone or empty. And when I went back, some of the empty ones were now gone.
      I had everything backed upon a portable memory, but now it was missing as well. I spent a frantic hour searching for it, but all I managed to do was to tear up my lab and pull everything out of my bunk.
      Then I had to go around and check with everybody on the ship if they'd moved my project, or deleted anything on the server. It was over six months of data, and counting, weeks of compiling the information and testing theories, then days and days of reworking the theory, and modifying the equations, then checking that against the data, and so on.
      I spent several hours recreating the folders for new data to dump into until it could be analyzed.
      I was telling one of the external sensors where to send its data when it asked me to confirm the change from its existing output target to the new one. I backtracked where it said its data was going and found everything. All of my data and the research document were there. On one of the other servers.

      Then I came across a message from the automatic update program. My servers had been part of the scheduled and routine server migration. Its former server was now in the middle of a deep cleaning, which is why some of my folders were missing and others were empty.
      Eventually, everything on the old server was erased and the data storage system refreshed.
      It was done to every system on the ship sooner or later. Which was why there were spare servers in the main computer core and in engineering.
      I had just not read the message that it was due to happen to mine. I vowed to myself that I would read every automated notice from then on. And I did, and I usually read them the same day they were sent!

      All I had to do was to tell my workstation to link to the new server. It did, and it was all fine. Even my outline, complete with a typo in the last sentence I had written, which had convinced me to call it a night and go get some sleep was still there.

      Finally, I calmed down enough to remember where I had put the portable backup. It was in the storage cabinet under my bunk in the pocket of the shirt I had been wearing. The only place I didn't look.

Chief Engineer Smithson, Argo Epic, Second Crew
      For me the worst was having people on the ground second guessing everything that happened on the ship, no matter what it was. They nitpicked about the settings on the water reclamation system, they said the lab pods were too hot or too cold, or that we had the air circulation system set to move too much air per hour. And they didn't stop with that. Somebody even had circulated a petition stating that we should send our dried waste material back to Earth to be disposed of properly instead of sending it into deep space. They thought it was better for the Universe if we used extra fuel on a cargo pod to send our poop back home to be... dealt with.
      The problem was that certain political types in the US, and France, and to some extent Japan and elsewhere listened to them, then they would contact one of the Space Administrations, and they'd send a message to us that we should investigate whatever their gripe was this week.
      Most of their suggestions, like the idea that we should dim the running lights so as not to add to the stellar light pollution that ground based optical telescopes were seeing when they just happened to look our way, were read, and laughed at, and ignored. Others had to be at least talked about and then responded to in some way. Very precious damned few of them were even considered.
      I don't want to think about the time we wasted evaluating total nonsense that was based on some crackpot theory about how the ship should run, or even worse, a politically based crackpot idea. I had my hands full keeping the ship running, that other crap should have just been run through the waste processor and then ejected into space with the rest of the crap. But, we had to deal with it, and then respond with a reason why we couldn't do it.

      Let me add this. Not every idea was crap. Most of them were, yes, but, OK, I'll go maybe one in ten was worth considering or giving a trial run, we might actually DO one in twenty or twenty five.

CMO, Doctor Ranya Aziz, ESA, Second Mission
      I will answer "routine that strayed into boredom at times". The absolutely endless routine. I had to force myself to break the routine, and then work to get back into it. I did have a checklist that would appear on screens all through medical and in my bunk to make sure that I did everything that needed to be done as scheduled. But there were times when I'd go through and do it all, and not remember doing it. It was like I had done the samples and measurements in my sleep. I'd go back and check, and they had been done, and they were correct, but it was like somebody else had done them in spite of my initials being on the datapad, or even a video of me saying something about the process.
      I'd believe I had worked in my sleep, but to record a video in my sleep?
      That is when "routine has strayed into boredom".

Doctor Svetlana Kambov, ESA, Venus and Mars Mission.
      The worst part for me wasn't anything that happened on the ship.
      It was when I returned to Earth and had to sit and explain to the ESA why I was going to go work and live in Korea when Europe was my sponsor for the mission. They expected me to be delighted with the offer to sit in an office in Noordwijk and work with new technologies that were being deployed on the next generation of manned and unmanned missions.
      My answer was, "That's what I will be doing for KARI in Naro, and I'll be working for one of your major contractors, so I'll see the equipment and its software before you do."
      They were still disappointed, but they didn't argue with me much more.

      I went back to my "home country" for three days. I even attended a parade and festival in my honor in my home town, which was still my Home Town. But my country is not there any more. I had to bite my tongue when I was introduced to what is little more than the head of the criminal gang that runs the new country. But I did my duty.
      It was a joy to me to speak to the children at the school. I even showed them the photos that Mr. Bianchi took that I could see the school in from almost to Venus. I explained to them that to do what I did, you did not have to have any special athletic skills, like the football players, and you don't have to have a wonderful singing voice, or be exceptionally pretty, you just have to get the training and experience to be very good at working with data and the information systems that use it.
      And then, after a morning with what was left of my extended family, most of whom I'd never seen before that I know of... I left.
      I drove my rental car to the airport in Zagreb, where I boarded my flight to Dubai, where I would catch a flight to Seoul. I would miss my home town, but that was it.

      It is hard to explain the relief I felt as I caught the people mover to the concourse where my actual Korean Airlines flight waited. I was done with Europe. Again, I would miss some aspects of my home town, and I had been assured that if I wanted to visit I was welcome and I wouldn't have to do anything else besides be a guest of high honor in town and have dinner with the Mayor. Which I told them I appreciated. But I needed some time to relax and focus on my new job, then I might be in touch.
      If I could have, I might have stayed in my town, but I know that Europe would find its way into town, and I didn't want to do that to them.

      As I watched the endlessly cheerful cabin crew go through their preflight routine I thought that if I did come back, I would make sure they booked me on this same flight instead of a partner airline. Yes, it was nine hours or so in the air, but this cabin crew made sure you didn't mind.
      I had more room on the plane than I did on the Terra Maru, the food was better than some of the meals on the Argo, and I could walk around the cabin without somebody asking me if I would mind stopping by medical so they could check the peptides in my blood.

      I just checked. I've been living in Korea for almost six years now. I've been back to my home town once, and that is the only time I've set foot in Europe. And I'm OK with that.
      Oh, why I went back? Yes. It was to attend a party for one of the girls I had spoke to at the school because she was accepted into an advanced science program at a major university. I got to shake her hand and give her the letter of acceptance and cheer with her and her family at her accomplishment. That was worth the plane flight there and back.
      And since then, she has excelled in the program and is in the graduate program and we are in regular contact. She's not going to go into space, but she has already spent a couple of weeks on the bottom of the North Sea, which is good as well.

Felix Lamm, ESA, Terra Maru, Second Officer
      The worst? Do I really have to tell you. I guess. OK. I'll go on the record with it.
      The worst was watching a friend's body drift away from the ship and knowing there wasn't a damned thing I could do about it. I had no idea he was going to do that. Nobody did. And to find out later that he'd been planning it since he had applied to be on the crew. That was awful. He even had a Plan B to do it during a space walk while we were servicing the Argo. There was nothing else to compare with that.
      There hasn't been anything to compare to that in my entire life. I know I was on the Maru for the whole mission, but that's still the first thing I think about. I can still see him right now just like I did looking out the portal on the ship. I can see him right there. And he still looks like he's twitching.

      Am I done?

Doctor Em Chow, China National Space Administration, Third Mission Physician.
      The worst was when we landed in California.
      I went through the post-flight rituals, and our trip to different countries, then, when I had an opportunity and my official Chinese 'assistant' who was actually my 'minder', whose sole job was to make sure that that I returned to China once my mission duties were concluded, when she was otherwise occupied, I stole off to the nearest Embassy, it turned out to be the German Embassy in London, and I immediately requested Asylum.
      It was instantly granted in spite of pronounced objections from Beijing, but then it was done. And I had a new home, and a position in one of the best hospitals in Berlin.
      I could not face going back to China and being put on display as a Hero of the People. I just could not do it.
      I later heard that my 'assistant' also ended up seeking asylum in London because had she returned home without me she would have gone to prison, or worse.
      That was the worst. Being told that I betrayed my country and my family. It made me glad that most of my immediate family had moved to America or Australia, and that my parents were dead, they couldn't use them to hurt me.
      There are times I still feel some regret, but, over the years, it has faded.

Professor Kimoni Adebayo, PhD, Second Mission Biologic Studies Specialist
      We were on the relief ship on our way back to Earth, but after about six months, we were getting close to Earth when I was forced to accept everything that had happened, and that I really needed to get off the ship and go home.
      I had been OK with being in space on the Argo. It was huge and you could move around and see or do something different, or talk to one of the others of the crew that you don't deal with all the time. But since we had been on the Terra Maru, we were limited to just a few rooms and even had to share sleeping quarters. And the absence of the crewman still hung in the ship. And that we were coming to the end of our mission. And all of it.
      I may have even begun to get a bit of claustrophobia.
      I just needed to get off the ship.

      I have an example.
      When we were on our way back to Earth on the Maru I got a request to review a proposed article about human evolution. Several of us that had been on the Argo got requests to do this now and then. To read through an article or some research notes and offer comments and insights into the topic.
      Those who sent the articles would often send gifts on a cargo pod while we were on the mission, or give them to our families, or even contribute cash to our accounts back home. It had been a nice perk of the job.
      So I read the article and thought about it.
      The paper was entertaining, and well written. The group of authors were tracking aspects of human evolution through the development of the eye and ear and discussed the refinements that led to the optimization of those senses as suited to our lifestyle.

      But I wasn't in a good mood, nobody on board was, and I couldn't concentrate. And I didn't do the review.
      Then the administrator in charge of the publication had Mission Control nag me about my review of the article.

      Finally, I sent them an absolutely barbaric reply. I cited evidence of similar evolution across completely divergent species, such as the eyes in cephalopods who do not have a blind spot, and even the common duck with a very interesting structure as compared to primates, and that if they wanted to trace optimization of physical attributes for our use why didn't they compare our hands to those on the ubiquitous Procyon Lotor and then wax poetic about how we may be descended from the raccoon because of the way they can use their fingers and even use tools to the point of some animals having a favorite rock or stick that they use repeatedly over a period of months or even years, and some would hide a favorite tool so other animals couldn't steal it. And then I mentioned how the one in the swamp I had camped in with the research group before the mission had learned how to open our ice chest and loot it. That was a learned manipulation of an unnatural object in a short period of time, in some ways, I had said, they were more advanced than some humans.

      After three days of my going back and forth with myself about what I said, I finally repented and had a call put through to them through mission command.
      I was in the middle of apologizing for my tone and choice of words and explaining why I had gone that way when they began shaking their heads and waving their hands.
      "No, no, no..." The two researchers said before I could finish my absolution.
      "You were right," the one said.
      "We got so wrapped up in our own conclusions we got the worst case of tunnel vision ever," the other added.
      The first one was nodding, "I never even thought about it. Of course our ears are great for us because they're our ears. We had the right idea, but we went about it the wrong way. We want to rewrite our paper, and include your idea about the raccoons and other animals with similar features and look at the maximum development of the features and usages in modern animals."
      "And people."
      "And people." The one said and nodded to their co-researcher.

      My exchange with them had drawn the attention of Officer Pelletier who had put the call through for me. She had taken a perch just to one side to listen and I had no objection. Now she leaned into the picture so they could see her. "If you are going to use Addy's idea, you should give him credit for it."
      It took a couple of minutes for her remark made it to Earth, and them to get it, then we heard their answer.
      "Oh, yes, ma'am. We'll give him full credit for redirecting our research," the first one said.
      The the other one chimed in, "And, Mademoiselle Pelletier, I will propose that we have him write an overview of the concept to include with it."
      The first one nodded, "Yes. Indeed. For the introduction and summary. That would be wonderful."
      They were now both smiling broadly and nodding at the camera.
      Officer Pelletier was nodding as well, "Very cool, I like that. What do you think Addy?"

      I had to compose myself. I really didn't want any part of their paper, but, I felt that I owed it to them, and to the others on the ship to put it in the best light I could after my initial infernally negative outburst.
      "Yes ma'am, thank you. I would be honored. When you get your next draft done send it to me and I'll read it and put something together and send it to you if we're not on Earth before then."

      There was a few more minutes of discussion. And it was agreed as they were already working on the revision.
      Finally, Officer Pelletier closed the connection and looked at me, "Just how bad was what you sent to them?"
      "Bad enough," I paused, "it's still in the outbound file server if you want to read it."
      "I don't think I do," she said.

      A few days later, I agreed to take a very small dose of one of the anti-anxiety medications. And I stayed on it. As soon as we were back to the space station, I was able to stop it. And I've been fine ever since.
      But you asked what was the worst time on the ship, and that was it. And it was self-inflicted.

Brigadegeneral Madelyn Pedersen, OMSD (Danish Royal Air Force, Third Mission Commander).
      Considering that our mission started with the death of that poor man on the Terra Maru, I'm sorry, but I cannot remember his name at the moment (Lieutenant Jannon Stoticzynski, from Poland. The editor.) things went remarkably well.
      There was that mess with the air, but I had a survival plan until the emergency pod with new oxygen supplies and the parts for the system. It required sealing off two thirds of the ship and everybody moving into engineering and all but hibernating, but we would still be able to breathe.
      To me, the worst part of the mission was what happened when we got back to Earth. Or rather, their trying to get us back to Earth.
      We spent months on the Argo in Lunar Orbit waiting on the pods that could transfer us to the Space Station. They were supposed to be there waiting on us, but they thought we had been delayed, and then there was another delay and so on.

      The original plan was that we were supposed to dock at the station, but with the problems we'd been having with the seals on the main airlock we didn't want to take the chance and neither did they. Mission Control said they were busy refitting several pods for personnel use, but there was all sorts of delays and design failures.
      When we saw the video of one of the pods erupting in an explosive decompression after it was launched from Guiana in a test. It had just left orbit when it suddenly began spiraling wildly, then it turned into several large pieces of drifting garbage, while two of the engines kept firing for a few more seconds adding rings of exhaust the the picture.
      So we sat in lunar orbit. We debated taking a couple of the pressurized cargo pods we had on board and using them to transfer to the station. Except they weren't really meant to be piloted from inside, and even Ken was stumped when he tried to rewrite their command systems accept manual input for close quarters maneuvering.
      So we sat in lunar orbit, talking to our friends and families on Earth. And we ran some more experiments, and we did interviews and all that.
      It was almost four months before the first transfer pod docked with the Argo and the first five of us left for the Station. Four days later they were on the station and it was being refueled to come back and pick up five more of us. It took three trips until the last of us, me and Ken, left the Argo for the final time.

      When we were on the space station awaiting our transfer to Earth Ken confided to me that in spite of years of promises and assurances that his original crime of stowing away on the cargo pod and then hiding on the Argo had been long forgiven, he was still nervous about returning to Earth and, as he put it, 'facing the music'.
      But, the only music he had to face was in a parade they had for him in Darnestown, Maryland, in the USA. And there were other celebrations as well, but eventually he told me that once he'd accepted the position at the ESA he finally believed they weren't going to send him to prison. Then later he said that if he had been locked up: "I wouldn't have to work this hard, or go to so many meetings."

addendum to the archive

The Argo Epic was sent on its final mission with great fanfare and proclamations from the heads of the participating countries and dignitaries associated with the various space administrations. Of all of those, only one is of importance to this archive, recorded and uploaded after the ship was on its way.

From the European Project Coordinator
      My job as ESA coordinator officially ended last week. The ship was on its way, the downlinks are working and data is coming in and the research teams are already evaluating the information, and the first high definition photo of Earth and its Moon, with Jupiter in the background, has already been published. Now all that is left is for me to finish cleaning out my office and look for another job, which begins next week.
      This morning I came into the office and checked the progress of the Argo. It was on course and accelerating. And during the night it had made a minor course correction. Everything was operating as prescribed.
      I just finished the conference call with the remaining mission coordinators. We had officially handed everything off to Mission Control before the Argo left orbit, but there were odds and ends to finish up. Those are all now done.
      The Argo will continue its mission, even though I will not.
      During the call I checked the projected time of arrival in the area of Proxima Centauri at the projected speed on the programmed course. The number on the screen is one thousand nine hundred fifty seven years to closest approach to the star, at which time, if the ship wasn't intercepted, the Argo would continue on to pass between Centauri A and B, and then eventually out of that star system and into space beyond.

      I've thought about what I want my final words to be in my entry into the archive on the Argo. I can only think of one thing:
      "Godspeed, Argo Epic."

End of Official Archive as preserved on the Argo Epic


Statement From the United Space Cruiser 283

      The sensors detected a large metallic mass some distance away and our officer elected to investigate.
      Thereby we discovered the ancient vessel. There was no living crew on board. All of the power generating systems were inoperable, including the light gathering and converting systems which had been damaged.
      We determined what the energy requirements of the command systems were, then we were able to engage the crew recordings through our translation medium, which, after only a short time, was able to render their messages into our language. Several of our crew then spent some time listening to them and viewing the images.

      We also determined the original start point of the ship, and how long it had been on its journey. The original estimations by the builders of the time the passage would take had been optimistic by approximately half. However, it did reach the star system they had programmed it for. After that entire journey the ship arrived only a nineteen kara from the target on their charts. That error factor over that time and distance would still give their plotter a qualifying score on our fleet officer skill evaluation.

      Our researchers found the tools and living facility of the crew, as well as their research equipment. Some time later the power unit salvage crew located a intoxicant producing mechanism that had been installed in the power room of the ship. One of the more enterprising members of our crew decided it was of historical import to revive the unit, with supplies from our own ship, and within a short time they had produced sufficient quantity to evaluate. They pronounced it crude, but effective.
      It is also worth recording that the restoration crew then left the production apparatus active the entire time they were working on the ship, and began offering samples to whoever visited that section. Something the original crew of the section would approve of.

      Others investigated the life assistance unit and found evidence of significant procedures that had been performed on the ship, including some of the procedural imagery they had produced before they did it. It was an impressive collection and spoke well of their commitment to the well being of the crew.
      One of our officers noticed a significant difference between the originating species and our own, as well as certain similarities. The first and most obvious was that there was a significant difference between their self described males and females of their species. Their males were usually somewhat larger in stature, but it was also noted that, as chosen by those who decided the crews of the vessel, there was little difference in the overall qualifications for their selection for the crews. One of our researchers deemed this matter important enough to recommend the matter for further investigation, it was so noted.
      There were also private images and notations in some of the berths which were of note to our researchers. One of those that evoked some excited banter from our crew was a token from one of the former occupants of a berth. They had the engraving on it translated and it was an "Official North Carolina Pickle Dish" that had been presented to the crew member. The object was well documented by our crew, then returned to its place of honor in the berth.
      Some of our own crew worked and got some of their technological beings operational and we were able to observe them recommencing their duties on the ship. Which was amazing to see given their age. Other units had not fared as well over their time on the ship.

      We were just informed that the ship had begun transmitting stored information back to its point of origin when the system had been energized, but the transmission was not of a type our equipment routinely read.
      That indicated to us that the vessel had been well engineered, and that our work did not disrupt the systems.
      Given the time since the vessel departed its point of origin, it would be of interest to our researchers who is there to receive the information that we had reactivated their vessel.
      We have since begun to scan the area of the vessel's point of origin for messages sent by them since then. The initial results are inconclusive, but the capability on our ship's is somewhat limited. Others on our science bases will continue the search for them of the same types as the ship had transmitted. Our own authorities are considering a mission of our own to this ship's home world, however, even at our best transit speed, it would be a very significant voyage.

      We are attaching this entry of our discovery of this vessel, the ancient ship Argo Epic, and allowing it to continue its journey beyond our system. Perhaps, in time, somebody else will discover it, and play their messages, and then ours. And we will be remembered with it, and them.

      Until then, good travels, Argo Epic.

End Argo 4
End Argo Epic

The Desk Fiction Collection

[Note: All rights reserved, including the right to further publication. Distributed copies to proofreaders and editors remain property of the author. No infringement of copyright is intended. All persons are fictitious, all other planets and similar bodies are actually there or may be presumed from available data.
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