In the wee hours of a Saturday morning, February 6, 1971, I lay in bed alongside my snoring father and quietly wept because I wasn’t staring at the moon.
Apollo 14 astronauts Alan Shepard and Ed Mitchell had landed their lunar module in the Fra Mauro region early the previous morning. Being a school day, I missed their first moonwalk but hoped to catch their second one live and, for the first time, in color. Unfortunately, that would happen in the middle of the night. I was staying with my dad at his parents’ house, as his brother’s family was visiting—and, regrettably, sleeping in the TV room. But Dad agreed to set his alarm clock for 1 a.m. and take me into the room, where we’d huddle around the television, audio low, to watch the moonwalk. But he slept through the alarm, as well as my attempts to wake him. I cried myself back to sleep. (He apologized profusely the next morning.)
Some of my earliest memories involve space exploration, both real (Apollo 7 was the first mission I recall following on the news) and fiction (Lost In Space is the first TV show I remember watching). The moon in particular fascinated me. It still does. I’m quick to look up at it on an early morning run, or aim my small telescope at it and see the lunar mountain peaks catch the rising sun just beyond the terminator.
And I still wonder what it was like for those moonwalkers—Shepard and Mitchell, Armstrong and Aldrin, and the other eight men—to amble through the regolith, to see the blackness of space where hung the Earth in vibrant blue, to feel gravity tug at them with one-sixth its strength back home.
Radiance gave me the chance to do it in my head, and on the printed page.
Granted, most of the tale happens inside Modos, a massive, dome-topped city buried in lunar soil, where dwellers see a holographic blue sky or a faked starry night. But I do take one of the characters out for an unexpected (and nearly deadly) stroll in the lunar dawn. And in doing so, my mind reflected on the color video I eventually saw of Apollo 14’s EVA, along with film of the subsequent moon missions.
By the time Radiance saw print, I began to doubt the timing of my story. In 2010, it was hard to imagine we’d have such a strong presence on the moon by the end of the century. But along came the Artemis program, which could have Americans back on the moon as soon as 2028. Modos suddenly doesn’t seem quite so out of reach.
If you happen to glance up at the moon and wonder where Modos may reside one day, look at the charcoal, circular area to the upper left of the moon’s center. That’s Mare Imbrium. Check out the map below to see where Modos will be located, with Mount Pico and the Montes Alpes to the northeast and Archimedes to the southeast. Quite the vista Lateinos will have!