For ten years I have waited for TUESDAY.
A decade ago, I read about New Horizons, a planned space probe launch to the strange dwarf-planet with an erratic 248-year orbit that defines the edge of our solar system and the beginning of the vast and lonely reaches of interstellar space. A probe to Pluto!
Ten years was a long time to wait, so I didn’t. Calling on the power of the pen, I wrote a short story about a woman, a survivor of a crash of the first manned mission to Pluto. In a bold moment, I sent the manuscript to Marc Buie, one of the mission’s experts, and he was gracious enough to take the time to edit it for accuracy.
Although I have now published historical novels and non-fiction, this story became my first published piece, finding a home in Aeoff’s Kiss, a small magazine (and netting me $8.97 and much pride over my long-sought elevation to “professional” writer). Accompanying my check was the editor’s kind note that this was “one of the best stories his magazine had ever accepted” –words that kept the spark of my writer’s soul alive through many dark nights.
Over the years, I followed the scientific discoveries and mysteries about Pluto, updating my story with new information. Strangely, some of the inventions I employed to make the story work are now on the table as bon fide scientific theories! I also never dreamed I would have a personal connection, but my brother, Dan Katz, (an Alabama boy) has just joined the Space Exploration Sector of the Applied Physics Lab at John Hopkins. That’s the group (with Southwest Research Institute) that originally put together the probe for NASA and has been shepherding it on its long journey. I’m sure he was sweating along with the team on July 4th when the probe “got too excited and passed out.”
It will take 16 months for all the data to get in, but Tuesday (7/14/15) New Horizons is scheduled to start sending the closest-ever photos and data about this mysterious planet, named after the mythological Greek god of the underworld who stole the maiden Persephone from her mother, dragging her to his kingdom beneath the earth and bringing winter to the world.
To celebrate, I’d like to share my story with you.
by T.K. Thorne
Eternity is subjective. I’m spending mine clawing into nitrogen-methane snow and dragging my body by painful centimeters from the ship’s wreckage. My helmet monitor lists internal bleeding, spinal injury, and two fractured ribs. Legs don’t work. Breathing hurts. Easier to just let the cold take me or for a piece of the ship to fall on my head and end it, but I’m a stubborn woman, as my father would attest, were he not three billion miles away.
T.K. Thorne is a retired police captain (Birmingham, Alabama), director of City Action Partnership, and an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction.