فصل 15

مجموعه: کتاب های متوسط / کتاب: 2001 - اودیسه فضایی / فصل 15

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فصل 15

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PART THREE

BETWEEN PLANETS

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Discovery

The ship was still only thirty days from Earth, but sometimes David Bowman could hardly believe that he had ever really lived there. His life now was in the closed little world of Discovery. When he spoke to Frank Poole about this, he found that Frank had the same feelings. But this sense of separation was easy enough to understand. In the fifty years since men had first gone into space, there had never been a mission quite like this. Discovery was going past Mars and Jupiter, all the way to Saturn. And she would never return.

For Discovery it would be a one-way trip - but her crew had no intention of dying. If all went well, they would be back on Earth within seven years. For five of these years they would be in hibernation, while they waited for rescue by Discovery II - which had not yet been built.

It was a calculated risk, like all voyages into the unknown. But experiments had proved that human hibernation was perfectly safe, and it had opened up new possibilities in space travel.

The three other members of the crew, all scientists who would not be needed until the ship reached Saturn, would sleep through the whole flight there. In this way, a lot of food and other materials would be saved. Also, they would be fresh and rested after the ten-month voyage.

Then the ship would orbit Saturn, giving them a hundred days to map and study a world eighty times the area of Earth, and surrounded by fifteen known moons - one of them as large as the planet Mercury. They would radio their discoveries back to Earth, so even if the explorers never returned, these would not be lost.

Sometimes Bowman envied Whitehead. Kaminski and Hunter, his three unconscious colleagues. They were free from all problems and all responsibility. Until they reached Saturn, the outside world did not exist.

But that world was watching them while they slept. In the Control Room there were five small screens. The last two, marked POOLE and BOWMAN, were plain and lifeless. Their time would not come until a year from now. The others were covered with small green lights which showed that everything was well with the three sleepers. They also had a set of moving lines showing heartbeat, breathing and brain activity. This last line hardly moved at all. If any consciousness remained, it was beyond the reach of instruments.

Bowman knew this from personal experience. Before he was chosen for this mission, his reactions to hibernation had been tested. When all the instruments were in place on his body, he had seen a pattern of moving lights for a few seconds.

Then they had disappeared, and darkness had come. He never felt the drugs take effect, or the first touch of cold as his body temperature was reduced to a few degrees above freezing…

When he woke up, it seemed that he had hardly closed his eyes. But he knew that was wrong. Somehow he was sure that years had passed.

Had the mission been completed? Had they already reached Saturn, finished their work and gone into hibernation? Was Discovery II here to take them home?

He opened his eyes, but there was little to see. Warm air was blowing across him, and quiet music came from a speaker behind his head. It was slowly growing louder and louder…

Then a relaxed, friendly voice - he knew it came from a computer - spoke to him.

‘Hello, Dave. Do not get up or attempt any violent movements. Do not try to speak.’

He did not want to get up. He was happy knowing that the rescue ship had come and that soon he would be seeing other human beings.

Some time later, another voice spoke to him. This time it was human. It was also familiar.

‘Hello, Dave. You’re fine. You can talk now. Do you know where you are?’

He thought about this, and had to admit to himself that he was not really sure. He shook his head.

‘Don’t worry, Dave. This is Frank Poole. Everything’s fine. We’re going to open the door now and pull you out.’

Soft lights came on, and then all his memories returned to him, and he knew exactly where he was.

Though he had come back from the furthest borders îf sleep, and the nearest borders of death, he had been gone only week. The mission was still more than a year in the future. He was still in the crew trainer at the Houston Space Flight Center.

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