Chapter 251: Final Epilogue
Translator: CKtalon Editor: CKtalon
Two years later.
Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
New Main Building meeting room.
“Eh, Mr. Tang Yue… We all know that you were an engineer for the thirteenth landing mission. You and Miss Mai Dong are to date, the youngest payload specialists to land on Mars. Now that the first stage of the Mars Landing Project has come to an end, Orion I and II have been decommissioned.” A female host sat there interviewing. “Orion III and IV have already been put into use. In the future, there will be younger people landing on Mars. Perhaps at this moment, in this very meeting room, the students sitting below us might have someone who might land on that planet in the future. To this student, do you have any word of advice?”
Tang Yue sat on a chair, looking down at the swath of youths. He held a microphone in his hand and thought for a few seconds.
“All of you wish to go to Mars as well?”
“Then, let me tell you a secret.”
The bright meeting room instantly fell silent. The twittering of the birds outside was crisp and clear.
“Study well and train your body.” Tang Yue smiled.
“There will be more people, much younger people to land on Mars in the future. The second stage has just drawn its curtains, and Kunlun Station will be expanded. They have already begun building vegetable plantation tents on Mars… In the next ten to twenty years, Mars will need more talents. It will be the golden heyday for biology, chemistry, environmental science, and material science.” Tang Yue continued. “And relevant institutes of higher learning will be preparing to jointly nurture talents to promote excellent graduates to head to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center for training. The first batch of people in this plan includes some from Beihang University and Harbin Institute of Technology. So if you wish to land on Mars, study hard.”
The meeting room instantly became rowdy. The youths began whispering amongst themselves. Tang Yue sat behind the podium and saw hope in these vibrant youths’ eyes. The youngest among them had just started schooling, and the oldest was about to graduate with a Master’s degree. It could be foreseen that among these youths, it was inevitable that someone would step onto that land a hundred million kilometers away in the next ten to twenty years.
“Next up, we will open the floor. If you have any questions, please raise them.”
The female host requested silence.
“Teacher Tang, I have a question!”
“I have a question!”
“I have a question too!”
The students eagerly raised their hands.
“There’s no need to call me teacher. Do I look that old? I’m not that much older than you guys. Just call me Brother.” Tang Yue smiled as he waved his hand.
“Brother Tang! I have a question…” The person stood up and received a microphone. “I study psychology at Beijing Normal University. I came here especially to attend your lecture. I wish to ask your views on the question of the psychological effects of being in a sealed and isolated environment for extended periods of time. We all know that it takes months to go from Earth to Mars at the very least. If we were to head for further planets in the future, such as Jupiter or Saturn, the return trip will undoubtedly be longer. How are astronauts to endure such prolonged bouts of loneliness? Will he change because of the environment? Or to relax the scope of the question… Are humans who have left Earth for too long still considered human?”
“Hmm…” Tang Yue pondered for a moment. “Your question is not only a psychological problem. It’s also an engineering problem. It takes months to go from Earth to Mars, so we need to enhance our spacecraft and rockets. We need to shorten the time taken as much as possible. As for your final question, I believe humans who have left Earth for long periods of time are still human. Do they become monkeys as a result?”
There was an uproar of laughter.
“I personally take an optimistic view. I believe that only humans who really leave Earth will become a complete species. They will recognize themselves better and be considered true humans,” Tang Yue said. “One day in the future, when you are aboard a manned spacecraft and you fly out into space, allowing you to take in Earth in its entirety, you will realize… how all the conflicts that humanity have embroiled themselves in are all so puny, trivial, and not worth mentioning. The ancients shed blood to occupy a piece of land, but in your eyes out in space, that piece of land isn’t even bigger than your fingernail.”
“Brother Tang, I would like to know what sort of hardship you encountered during your Mars mission. How did you overcome them?”
Tang Yue turned to look out the window. The sunlight was penetrating the lush green leaves, leaving mottled shadows on the window ledge. A sparrow perched on a branch flew down as it hopped around.
“Hardship…” Tang Yue suddenly laughed. “Of course I did. There were many that no one knew about. I had once even fallen into despair, believing that I couldn’t continue.”
“Then what drove you to continue on?”
“It’s this world and the beautiful things that make us human,” Tang Yue replied. “In your heart, there will always be something or people who are worth carrying on for regardless of what you’re facing.”
“Brother Tang, can you tell me how you got that scar?”
“Uh… I accidentally fell down.”
“Based on our present level of technology, heading to Mars is a very dangerous mission. Mr. Tang Yue, have you ever thought of the possibility of an accident happening?”
“Of course.” Tang Yue shrugged. “If we unfortunately die, I hope that people can accept it. If something unexpected happens to us, I hope it doesn’t delay the continuation of the project. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.”
“Brother Tang… Do you believe in extraterrestrials?”
Tang Yue held the microphone and smiled.
Tang Yue hurriedly passed through the corridors as he brushed past the shoulders of passersby and ran down the stairs. He had lost track of time. There had been too many questions during the lecture and the event had overrun by half an hour. Only when the bell rang did he realize that he was late.
Tang Yue rushed out of the building’s foyer and in the distance, he saw a slender lady standing under a tree by the road. Dressed in a white blouse and blue jeans, she was wearing a thin hoodie. Her hair was tied into a ponytail and her hands were behind her back. Her eyes were looking at the distant building as she hummed a tune. Her soft ponytail shook along with the rhythm.
Tang Yue’s heart skipped a beat as he silently covered his face.
The girl turned her head over and noticed Tang Yue at the bottom of the steps. Her eyes lit up before her brows pricked up.
They had arranged to meet at half-past ten in the morning at the metro entrance, but she had waited all the way to eleven with no sight of him. He didn’t pick up her phone calls; hence, the girl had come to find him. She went around Beihang University’s campus and asked around before finally seeing the poster pasted to the wall and knew where Tang Yue was.
When it came to being late and standing her up, this wasn’t Tang Yue’s first time. Mai Dong knew this better than anyone.
“I was wrong. I admit my fault. It’s my bad. I’ve let down the People for being late again…”
Tang Yue believed that admitting to his mistake first was the best choice.
“Too many questions again?”
Tang Yue nodded.
“The event dragged out again?”
Tang Yue nodded.
“You use the same excuse every time. Can’t you fabricate something that sounds more plausible? Something like a traffic jam or you missing the train…”
“But it’s the truth. I’m going to decline such activities and nominate Old Wang in the future. I won’t be participating in them ever again.” Tang Yue felt rather helpless. “How was your defense.”
Mai Dong walked ahead of him and turned around as she back stepped. Cocking her head, she revealed a brilliant smile as her ponytail hung down.
“What do you think?
“Of course, it was unanimous. I’m a genius. From today, you will have to address me as Dr. Mai!”
“It’s Doctor!” the girl corrected him.
“Alright, Dr. Lass.”
Tang Yue walked on the pavement as young adults came and went across campus. He had dressed simply and didn’t stand out. Even though he was an astronaut for the Mars Landing Project, he really wasn’t someone everyone knew. May was the season of plant growth and the magnolia flowers planted on the side of the road were in full bloom. There was even a strong floral fragrance in the wind. Mai Dong walked in front of him as her ponytail swayed about.
The girl’s footsteps suddenly paused as she hung the foot she was about to place forward in midair.
“I nearly stepped on it.” Mai Dong pointed down at her feet.
There was a tiny pale-yellow flower growing out from the cracks of the road tiles.
Having spent a few hundred sols on the space station alone, Mai Dong had the plants in the incubator accompanying her. This made her have deep feelings for plants. This lady often said to Tang Yue that if she hadn’t joined the Mars Landing Project, she would have dedicated her life to a career dealing with environmental conservation and the protection of endangered animals.
Perhaps everyone that had gone to space had a deep sense of the beauty of Earth and how fragile it was.
The girl carefully circled around the plant. “Did Mr. Cat contact you?”
“It?” Tang Yue grinned. “Do you even call that contacting me?”
Tomcat had become more garrulous than ever. It would use the public mailbox of the Mars Landing Project to send all kinds of spam to Tang Yue. Most of it was meaningless chatter. “Tang Yue, have you married Miss Mai Dong?” “Tang Yue, why haven’t you married Miss Mai Dong?” “Tang Yue, I’ve thought of a name for your future child. Tang Mai.” “What do you think of Tang Mai?” “Is little Tang Mai born?” “Why isn’t she born?” “What? You aren’t married yet?”
“Is Mr. Cat returning to Earth soon?”
Tang Yue nodded. “After this mission, it will officially retire. It will return to Earth on Orion III and then lead the retiree life that it has been looking forward to.”
“Will it retire in China?”
Tang Yue pondered for a moment as he stroked his chin. “It’s hard to say. It has given me the apartment in Tongzhou District, so where will it stay?”
The large screen on the streetside was reporting the afternoon news. The female reporter was bundled tightly with only her eyes exposed. Behind her was a clean room of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. The white Tianzhou 40 cargo spacecraft was being constructed. It was a brand new second-generation Mars cargo spacecraft.
“The fifteenth landing missions are beginning the recruitment. Tang Yue, are you planning on joining?”
“Of course,” Tang Yue said. “The moment I left Mars, I had made up my mind that there would be a day when I’d return again.”
Mai Dong held his hand as she looked at the faint scar on it. No one knew what Tang Yue had experienced. No one on Earth knew what happened. Likewise for Mai Dong. Even Tomcat had no idea. There was only one thing with great certainty—he had won the battle alone.
Every time Mai Dong asked what happened after the space station crashed or what happened after he left Mars, Tang Yue would sweep the matter under the rug in a vague manner.
He would say how it hurt to look back and that those memories were painful, hoping that no further questions would be asked as it would only cause him a mental breakdown.
“Even though so much happened?” The girl hugged him gently, placing her head on his chest.
Tang Yue ruffled her hair and kissed the girl on the forehead, saying softly, “Don’t be bound by the past. That way, we can go further. That’s what you taught me.”
Mai Dong lowered her head and fell silent for a few seconds. Then, she took a step back and looked up at him.
“What about you, Lass? Will you still go?” Tang Yue asked.
Mai Dong locked her gaze with his for a long while as the breeze blew her fine hair. She suddenly smiled and skipped about, tightly wrapping her arms around Tang Yue’s.
“I’ll go wherever you go.”