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Star Chaser

Nia beane

Journal Entry: Day 6205
Sander Chase


     Today was a regular day at NASA. My friends always laugh at me when I say that because working alongside actual rocket scientists isn’t “normal.” I guess that’s true. Why have I always been the one to deviate from the norm? I’ve been working there for several years now, but my friends still cannot fully grasp the idea that the NASA sticker on my personal laptop signifies my place of work rather than an aesthetic embellishment. Since I was young, I’ve loved anything that has to do with space and the heavens. Adorned with glow-in-the-dark stars, NASA posters, and constellation maps, my room demonstrated that.
     I’ve always liked journaling as well. Wait, that’s a lie. I wasn’t too fond of it when I was younger. However, in 4th grade, the boy that I liked was showing me his journal and I was in love - with both him and the journal. It was beautiful to see drawings and ideas laid upon crisp pages bound together with a string - the embodiment of wonder and magnificence. Sadly, he stopped journaling just less than a year later, but I didn’t. I continued converting my thoughts to entries, spending days on my misshapen bed scribbling down secrets and momentos.
     “God, Sander, your best friend is a collection of papers. I personally wouldn’t want to have a dull, inanimate object as my closest friend,” my brother remarked one day right after barging into my room.  

     “Well, mister socializer, at least I don’t have a crack head as a comrade. Jared’s a bad influence and you know it. Inanimate objects can’t target your family and put them in danger. You know that they fully enforced the death penalty,” I replied, referencing Jared, his closest friend who was also an active gang member and chainsmoker. Unfortunately, he did get into trouble bad enough that the state gave him a lethal injection. The late 21st century does not play around with delinquents. 

     Calls from my brother’s school weren’t uncommon. Jared’s death threw him into a spiral of mental health issues and troublemaking. My friends speculate that the reason he killed himself was because he committed a serious crime and knew that without escaping, he would have to face death by execution. I don’t know what to believe, but whenever I walk into his room, I feel solace that he is in a better place and a pang of guilt for not reaching out to him more. Although we were never close, I dedicate my work to him.

Journal Entry: Day 6311
Sander Chase


     My name is Sander Chase, traveler 0357 of Star Mission X71. Why am I even telling you my name if it’s at the top of this page and you already know it? I got my number today, maybe that’s why. Anyway, today marks 24 years since Jester Collins found an Alcubierre drive in Alaska while on an individual research trip. The melting ice led the piece of technology to be exposed. With the drive, faster-than-light interplanetary travel is made possible. I work under Harold Smith, the leading scientist of the SCP (Star Chaser Project), the project focused on making it possible for a group of 10,000 people to leave Earth and settle on a planet far away with qualities similar enough to Earth for humans to survive on and inhabit. Some guy named Stephen Hawking was one of the first people advocating for it, but it wasn’t until about 26 years ago when Harold really initiated the idea of using the drive to carry a mass amount of people to a foreign planet to give the human race a second shot at life. 

     Just five years after the drive was discovered, a group of astronauts, scientists, and researchers went to Nurasia, the planet found to be best suited for human life. Everyone was stunned at how fast the antimatter fuel was made. Operating secretly, labs sponsored by billionaires produced many nanograms of antimatter. Once the discovery of the drive was announced, tens of labs reached out offering the antimatter, for a hefty price of course. After that, the project was underway. The travellers arrived on Nurasia 11 years after their departure and sent us numerous reports. Results of conducted tests, reports on living conditions, and personal comments flooded our system and still do. Fortunately, they also assisted us with finding a way to shorten the trip duration. We are doing all we can to expedite the trip because we don’t know how much longer our world can hold up.
    We are so close to launching Star Mission X71 so that the ten-ship fleet of 10,000 carefully-selected people each can reach Nurasia. Having ten ships headed for Nurasia gives us our best chance. After all, do you ever plant just one seed if you want to reap a healthy plant? I honestly think that we will succeed, but there are so many things that could go wrong. As a non-religious person, I’m not going to pray or anything, but I really hope that all goes well. I have worked so hard on this. 

     I had recently finished university at the California Institute of Technology and a year-long MIT program when I first became directly involved with Harold Smith and his work. In school, I studied space science and climate studies. Since I ranked number one in my grade and won numerous awards and research grants, I was guaranteed a spot on the Mission, not as a traveller to be put in cryosleep, but as an active member of the crew responsible for communicating to the other ships and contact team on Earth as well as monitoring all functions of the spacecraft.
    The SCP was created because our negative effects on the environment are leading to Earth’s demise, not leaving much time. Climate change got the worst of us. Extreme temperatures, savage winds, torrential rain, among other disastrous events occur almost every day in different parts of the world. The sea level rise from 2020 to now is 6.7 meters, which is tragic. Daily disasters continue to take away our natural resources and fertile land. Extreme flooding and water-related “natural” disasters have wiped out most of India and the rest of Southern Asia.
     I was more involved with climate activism as a young girl. I did the usual - attended rallies, posted on social media, and signed petitions. My climate advocacy phase eventually passed. After Day of Plenty, most climate activists, such as I, averted our attention and time to scientific work instead of activism. The Day of Plenty was the point of no return. Climate scientists were right - if we didn’t do enough, Earth would suffer. All they got wrong was the year. It was hopeless. Climate activists could no longer work to prevent disaster, they could only slow it down or decrease its intensity. The constant fires in California and earthquakes in Indonesia didn’t care about that. What have we done to our home?


Journal Entry: Day 6584
Sander Chase


     We are slipping on our suits for the big voyage. Carson, my work partner, and I both bite our nails until our cuticles look wretched.

     “Ya nervous?” she asks me.
     “Yep, but I’m ready. Man, have we worked hard for this. How’re you feeling?” I reply. 

     “Not gonna lie; I’m nervous. Seven years is a long time, Sand.”
     “Yeah. What’s funny is that everyone else will look as young as they did when they boarded. Not us, though. We will look seven years older. You know, I always dreamed of going into space, but not for this purpose. God, if only we had cared about our planet. ”

     “If only.” Pitter-patter, pitter patter. The traveller crew members traverse the cockpit and control room, making final preparations. The ground crew prepares for takeoff. I can just imagine the amount of noise pollution caused by this whole process.
    “T-minus 10 minutes.” Will we succeed?
    “T-minus 5 minutes.” Will this really work?
    “T-minus 3 minutes.” I’ll never see my family again.


Journal Entry: Day 6591
Sander Chase
Out of this World


     Although I've been in many simulators and have dedicated half of my life working in this field, the experience of being in space is more than I could have ever imagined. It makes me feel like part of something bigger. Stars twinkle and debris flies by as I take in the wonder of our universe. We are so small, yet capable of doing so much damage. I taste something salty. How did I not even realize that I was crying? After crying my heart out in Mom’s arms several months ago, knowing that I’d never see her again, I thought I had no tears left to cry. I guess your tear ducts can always muster up tears if it has a good enough reason to. There is no doubt that they have a good reason at this moment. My planet, our world, my family - now out of eyesight. We can’t mess this up. We have a chance to rebuild humanity. Perhaps, we can learn to collaborate and take care of what matters most to us.

     Seven years of this could break me. Sure, I didn’t have mental health issues back on Earth, but I had no reason to have any. The thoughts and memories surging into my head are too much to bear.
     The months leading up to the trip were the hardest. I never really wanted to leave, but I felt like I owed it to the world to be part of our second chance. Besides, when the winds started getting worse and the food scarcity became more unbearable, the idea of a new start sounded more favorable.
     It’s 10:00 p.m. My shift is over. I weakly high five Carson on my way to my bunk. 


Journal Entry: Day 8664
Sander Chase


     Everything was going well up until three days ago. It all started when we got disconnected with Star Chaser 03. The other eight ships reported that they had lost connection with 03 as well. We knew something was wrong, but what could it be? Was the drive malfunctioning? Had they been hit by an unknown danger? If the problem was due to an error in programming or calculations, would the same thing happen to us? All we knew was that the journey would have to be continued, with or without them.

     Harold said that he was fine after hearing the news, but he clearly wasn’t. The incessant trembling in his hands demonstrated that. I couldn’t blame him. We did so much to ensure the safety of the ships. Yes, we were rushed because the effects of climate change seemed to increase exponentially and we didn’t want it to become too late to leave, but we did so much cross-checking.

     I wish I was more resilient, but I’m not. It’s a good thing that we bought antidepressants. Thankfully, Carson willingly took my shifts. Maybe it’s because she heard me crying around midnight.


Journal Entry: Day 8816
Sander Chase
Are we there yet?


    Messages and reports flood our system daily. We hear back from those on Earth, Star Chaser ships, and the initial space crew in Nurasia. The contact team on Earth let us know that the world population has officially dropped below one billion people. China is underwater. Germany with its 140-degree weather is basically uninhabitable. The UN now officially recognizes only 38 countries. There are hundreds of events recorded - from fallen dams to impactful hurricanes. It’s unfortunate that Star Chaser 07, 10, and 01 are the only ships still running. Wait, I didn’t write down what had happened to the other ships. I must have been feeling so down that I forgot to write full journal entries. Okay, let me write down what happened. 

     It was just 5 months ago when Star Chaser 03 left our radar. We wanted to believe that it was coincidental, but knew that it was most likely not. Just two weeks later, everyone also lost touch with Star Chaser 02. Throughout the course of several months, we somehow lost connection with all of the other ships except 10 and 01. Carson thinks it might have been a miscalculation in direction values, but we have no way of testing that theory. Besides, even if we identify the problem, what has been done has been done; we cannot go back.

     Every day, we check over everything to try and find mistakes in our programming, but we cannot find anything out of the ordinary. It’s hard to see so many years worth of work go down the drain. As far as we know, we sent 7,000 of the world’s smartest, healthiest people out on trillion-dollar equipment to complete a suicide mission.

     We only have a few months left; we need to reach our destination. 


Journal Entry: Day 9162
Sander Chase


     We are mere days away from landing. The crew on Nurasia has everything ready for us. They have been preparing for years with the things they brought on their expedition. The three ships will have so many more resources to enjoy because we have to split everything three ways instead of ten ways. Cacti and some other plants can grow there, supposedly. Harold said that our landing might be less than smooth and more like crashing, so we should try to keep everything in order as much as we can. I know that my mind was supposed to think about necessities, but I thought about my journal. What will happen if it leaves my hands? I must keep it close to me.


~My Diary: Property of Killia Sandy Quinn~
June 15th, 2234


     Today was eventful. Let me tell you why. It was Cindi’s birthday party at The Commons. We played so many games. Wait. That’s boring stuff. Let me tell you what the coolest part of my day was. I found a really old journal under some rocks and dirt while I was walking around Green Space 37. I couldn’t barely make out the words in the entries, but the writing was still legible. Sander Chase was the name of its owner. She must have been a traveler because she talks about Star Chasers all the time. She kept questioning their success. I wonder if she was satisfied with what we’ve created. She has to be; Nurasia is amazing.

     I took the book home. It’s funny that I found this journal today, just two months before the next Star Mission to Earth.

Nia Beane is a rising senior at Episcopal High School, VA.

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