We were scheduled to intercept and land on comet/asteroid Schmendrick 12. The trip would only be three months but it was scheduled from September to January and I was damned if I was going to miss Christmas. Marvin felt the same way about Hannukah and Alex mouthed his desires about Kwanzaa. So, there we were in a crowded spaceship, firmly intent on making the holidays joyous in space!
We were quite limited in what we could bring aboard, but because of the extended journey, NASA had allowed more personal items. As soon as we were beyond earth’s gravity and weightless, we began unpacking and the first item was the two-foot plastic tree which was specially made for the flight and exhibited realistic pine needles and a small stand. This was the only green object in the cockpit and I attached it to the flight console directly in front, using two straps. I guess the designers had not counted on zero gravity and shortly after its placement several of the pine needles dislodged and floated around the cabin. I retrieved them but one found its way into the electronics console and I couldn’t reach it. However, being inert plastic and tiny, I didn’t expect any problems.
We had several small ornaments to hang on the tree and within two hours the little Christmas Tree gave off a homey feeling of warmth and holiday spirit. This changed the entire tenor of the trip and what had been described as a tedious journey was now becoming an enjoyable experience.
Marvin had a blow-up candelabra for Hannukah and enough small battery operated candles to complete the entire eight day celebration, He had the skull-cap yarmulke and the tallis scarf to go along with what he called the “whole megillah”, or the complete celebration. We were each going to celebrate all three fetes so there were three yarmulkas, three Tallises and I had brought three little crosses for the others to wear around their necks. Actually, it looked cute to see Marvin with a cross around his neck.
Alex brought an inflatable Kwanzaa Candle set and a couple books which I had never seen or even heard of; we were going to study the Nguzo Saba or seven Principles, learn some Swahili and even try to bake a small Kwanza cake in our microwave oven; he even had African Kente dolls, a man and woman, to put next to the wooden Kinara, the name he gave to the candle older.
This was going to be a holiday in space like no other!
Two days later I did my duty by telling the story of the birth of Jesus even though they were both well acquainted with it and Marvin followed with the story of Hannukah, and the candles that lasted eight days. We were not prepared for the diatribe that Alex presented and I was actually quite astounded by the history, principles and symbols which he presented, the Nguzo Saba. I even got to memorize them during the first few days of travel.
Umoja-Unity in family, race and nation
So, there we were, Christian, Jew and African American Baptist alone in the space ship racing towards our meeting with the comet which orbits every sixteen hundred twenty-seven years. The asteroid was discovered three hundred years ago by Adrianus Schmendrick and in the last few years, scientific studies had determined that its surface was made almost entirely of gold. We were hoping to collect several thousand pounds of the gold, enough to reimburse NASA for the program as well as accomplishing the landing and departure from a comet.
Everything went well for the first two weeks, relaxing and celebrating our holidays, communicating with families at home and completing scientific studies designed for the trip.
The problems began on day 16 when we noticed flashing lights as we began to approach the asteroid, illuminations we had never seen before and which the laboratories on earth had never described. And shortly after this discovery we were surprised to find ourselves completely captured in some type of tractor beam from the asteroid itself, as if drawn into its sphere intentionally.
We knew that this large asteroid, almost 1100 miles in diameter had a gravitational pull but the extent and nature of the pull was way out of proportion to what we were finding. When we were within 350,000 miles of it, we were more concerned because we were no longer in control of our ship and the mission control managers were very worried and puzzled. The feelings of joy and security were soon replaced by concern and fear as we realized that the trip was out of our control and that there might be some extra-terrestrial guidance and supervision of the spaceship. We were essentially powerless and prayers for Christmas, Hannukah and Kwanza soon turned to prayers for survival and understanding.
The space ship was otherwise functioning perfectly with no problems in food, oxygenation or vital controls. We were being guided steadily toward the asteroid much as we had planned, albeit much more steadily and exact than we could have done by ourselves. On day thirty-one we found ourselves orbiting the glittering yellow sphere, and unable to deploy any landing craft, were completely under the control of the force from the asteroid itself.
We communicated our situation with NASA control and they informed us that there was no scientifically explainable cause for the traction on our spacecraft and they would keep us informed. Two days later our craft began slowly descending toward the glittering yellow surface which had an almost fluttering appearance as if a gentle wind was blowing over a thin sheet of aluminum or tissue paper. As we came closer to landing, I could hear a gentle humming sound which pervaded the ship and although it was unaccounted for and bizarre, there was a relaxing and calming effect of the sound which had neither pitch nor tenor, an otherworldly noise-sensation which I had never before experienced. It was as if something or someone was telling us to relax and not be afraid. I tried to relay this information to NASA control but discovered communication with earth had ceased. We were alone with this strange force, a potentially lethal ending to our journey and yet I had no sense of fear or foreboding. We all sat transfixed by the shining gold closing in on our window as we descended gently toward the smooth surface of this asteroid.
As I glanced through the window there was definitely a pulsating movement of the entire surface, gentle but steady, almost in tandem with my own respirations, and I glared, wide-eyed at the massive horizon extending hundreds of miles in every direction. We were, I concluded, observing a living thing, a sensate mass with apparently enough power and cognition to understand our journey, our objectives and the need to maintain life-sustaining behavior. We were never threatened or at any time felt in danger for or lives.
Some unexplainable gentle force had captured us and was carrying us down into an unknown something and for some strange reason I had no fear and no doubt that all was going to be okay.
Now you might think that as astronauts we would be worried for our survival, but I can tell you that was not the case. Something inside my brain seemed to assure me that I was becoming part of a “wholeness”, some ethereal being was involving me in a reality and an existence greater than I had ever contemplated or known. I know. I know. This sounds crazy and impossible, but I am relating to you exactly what happened.
I was surrounded by my two fellow travelers and I felt as if we had melded into a single person, with single thoughts, and had I not visualized their bodies next to me I would have sworn we were one body with all three enclosed. This was becoming crazier and crazier and then the spaceship stopped moving and I realized that we had ceased our descent and were magically hovering inches above the glistening golden surface without touching the ground, yet seemingly stable and completely stopped. At first, I wasn’t sure what to do, without contact with NASA control; I looked to the other two men and could see they were as confused as I was.
“Get in your suits,” I said. “We’re getting out and finding out what is going on here. If you don’t want to, I’ll understand, but I can’t just stay here.”
All of us prepared and when ready I opened the hatch and stepped outside. My feet would not touch the golden ground and I was standing on “nothing” but a filmy interface, like standing on a cloud, yet knowing that there was nothing there to hold my weight . When I moved my legs, I did go forward as if floating above the ground and within a few steps felt as if something was holding me, lifting me as I made my way from the ship. My fellow travelers were next to me and we moved without speaking, totally overcome by the sound and a sense of peacefulness I have never before experienced. There was a sense that “everything was okay”, a tranquility beyond description and I felt elated and relaxed. I looked beyond the landing site and the outer space seemed undulating like a living thing and I felt part of it as if this were an extension of my body.
I bent over and touched the shining surface of the asteroid and discovered that there was nothing there. My gloved hand went right through the shining layer into nothing and the other men followed suit, then glancing at one another with puzzled looks.
Suddenly the three of us were thrown together and seemed to meld into one body as it were, and I was aware that I was all three men in one. For that split second everything in my life and understanding disappeared and I was conscious of a feeling of love and belonging I never knew before. Then as suddenly as this transformation had occurred, we were back in our own bodies and were rapidly moving back to the ship, carried by some force into the cockpit and the doors were sealed.
I removed my suit and was able to breathe and function normally.
I looked at the other two and they were as puzzled as I was and yet we had been transformed emotionally and spiritually. Then I looked into the cockpit and realized that the Christmas tree, Hannukah Menorah and Kwanza decorations had disappeared and in place of them, floating in the weightless cabin was a small round golden ball. I reached out to touch it, but it had no volume or real presence. The others did the same with the same results.
I sat back onto the floor with the other two and then the round sphere began moving, writing words in the space around it and in a few moments we could read the message. All it said was.
WE ARE ALL ONE
And then the golden ball disappeared, our holiday decorations and ornaments re-appeared and there was a crackling sound on the radio as the connection with space control resumed.
“Mission Control, here. Can you read me?”
“Yes,” I responded. “I can read you. We are okay. We are returning to earth. We will have a report when the mission is completed.”
“Were you successful?”
I smiled at the other two men and said. “We were more successful than you can ever understand. Over and out.”
The spacecraft was lifted into orbit and we were able to power up and without difficultly move away from the asteroid, watching it blaze away with its golden aura, knowing deep inside that somehow we had touched infinity, immortality and universal love.